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Italians bid farewell to a polarizing figure with grandeur at state funeral

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Via Silvio Berlusconi/Twitter)

Tens of thousands of Italians gathered in Milan on Wednesday to pay their respects to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul and three-time premier who dominated Italian politics for decades. The crowd was somber as they paid homage to a man known for his charisma, but whose legacy was marked by controversy and divisiveness. A state funeral and national day of mourning were declared in his honor, a rare tribute accorded to a few extraordinary figures in Italy’s history.

As the mourners filed past the coffin, they recalled Berlusconi’s many deeds, both worthy and questionable. Some remembered his role in shaping Italy’s economy, boosting its growth and stability, while others noted his polarizing effect on the country. His detractors criticized his authoritarian style, his corruption scandals, and his controversial policies, particularly on issues like immigration and the environment. His supporters, on the other hand, praised his leadership, his economic vision, and his unwavering commitment to Italy’s interests.

Berlusconi’s life was a testament to his remarkable entrepreneurial spirit and his ability to shape public opinion through his extensive media holdings. As the founder of Mediaset, Italy’s largest private broadcaster, he wielded significant influence over the country’s media terrain. His presence in politics was just as significant, with a tenure that spanned almost two decades. Three times he served as premier, leaving his mark on the country’s government, politics, and institutions.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Via Silvio Berlusconi/Twitter)

Despite his flaws, Berlusconi remained a towering figure in Italian politics, and his funeral was a reflection of his enduring impact. As the country came to a standstill, his fans and foes alike acknowledged his role in shaping Italy’s recent history. In paying their respects, they confront the complexities of his legacy, grappling with the contradictions between his accomplishments and his failures.

As the funeral procession wound its way through the streets of Milan, the sounds of mournful chants and the rustling of funeral processionaries filled the air. The city’s solemn atmosphere was punctuated by flashes of color, as dignitaries in formal attire mixed with ordinary citizens, all united in their tribute to a man whose life would never be easily forgotten. Berlusconi’s state funeral and national day of mourning served as a poignant reminder of the highs and lows of his remarkable journey, a journey that left an indelible mark on Italy’s politics, economy, and society.

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