18 December 2018

Mara Carfagna - politician

Former glamour model now important voice in Italian parliament


Mara Carfagna has defied detractors to  become a powerful politician
Mara Carfagna has defied detractors to
become a powerful politician
The politician Mara Carfagna, a one-time glamour model and TV hostess who is now vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian parliament, was born on this day in 1975 in Salerno.

Originally named Maria Rosaria Carfagna, she left high school to study dance at the school of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, obtaining a diploma before going on to study acting and the piano.

In 1997 she won a beauty contest as Miss 1997 and participated in the finals of Miss Italia. She had her first experience in television as one of the co-presenters during the 1997-98 season of the Rai variety show, Domenica In, with Fabrizio Frizzi.

Carfagna found herself in demand as a model and posed for some magazine and calendar shoots, but at the same time was studying law at the University of Salerno, graduating with honours in 2001.

More television work came her ways as a glamourous co-presenter of the Mediaset show La domenica del villaggio alongside Davide Mengacci, moving on to present another entertainment show Piazza grande together with Giancarlo Magalli.

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi made Mara Carfagna a minister
Former premier Silvio Berlusconi
made Mara Carfagna a minister
At the same time she was developing a career in politics. She began to take an interest in women’s rights issues and in 2004 joined Forza Italia, the party led by the then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In 2006 she was nominated as a candidate in Campania and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. She soon attracted the attention of Berlusconi, who was also owner of the Mediaset TV channels for which she worked, who made a tongue-in-cheek but demeaning suggestion that his party should practise the ancient law of primae noctis, which allowed feudal lords to select any female subject of his choice for his sexual gratification.

Carfagna ignored the comment and gained a reputation as a hard-working parliamentarian.  Berlusconi lost his position as prime minister at the 2006 election but won it back two years later.

When the controversial leader named Carfagna in his new cabinet as Minister for Equal Opportunity, she attracted a new wave of publicity.

The magazine Maxim, for whom she had appeared as a cover model, ran some of her pictures again, ranking her at No 1 in a feature entitled “World’s hottest politicians.”

Carfagna (right) greets former president Giorgio Napolitano
on the occasion of International Women's Day in 2009
It was also recalled that a year before winning back power, Berlusconi had said of Carfagna: "If I was not already married I would have married her immediately".  The comment led Berlusconi's wife, Veronica Lario, to demand an apology, although Carfagna dismissed it as "gallant and harmless."

As a minister, she has been an outspoken campaigner in a number of areas, from the level of crime in her home city of Salerno to the management of waste disposal in Campania, as well as prostitution, homophobia and violence against women.

In 2008, a few months after taking office, she attracted some ironic comments from political writers and opposition politicians when she proposed a law making street prostitution a crime, with fines for both clients and prostitutes, over and above existing laws forbidding the exploitation of prostitutes by pimps. The bill was her first major initiative as a minister.

Carfagna has clashed with Italy's controversial deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini
Carfagna has clashed with Italy's controversial
deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini
Her remarks condemning “women who sell their bodies for money” was seized upon in particular by the Italian Committee for the Rights of Prostitutes, who claimed to represent an estimated 70,000 prostitutes working in the country.  But Catholic charities praised her.

In 2009 she became the first political promoter of the law against stalking, later included in the penal code thanks to the Maroni decree.

Also in 2009 she launched the first campaign against homophobia and against violence based on sexual orientation to be carried out by an Italian government.

Carfagna has continued to build her reputation as a politician determined to bring about change and in March this year was elected vice president of the Chamber of Deputies as a reflection of the respect she has gained.  Recently, she has been an outspoken critic of Italy's controversial current deputy prime minister, the Lega politician Matteo Salvini.

Via Botteghelle, typical of the narrow streets to be found in Salerno's historic old town
Via Botteghelle, typical of the narrow streets
to be found in Salerno's historic old town
Travel tip:

Salerno, situated some 55km (34 miles) south of Naples with a population of about 133,000, is a city with a reputation as an industrial port and is often overlooked by visitors to Campania, who tend to flock to Naples, Sorrento, the Amalfi coast and the Cilento. Yet it has an attractive waterfront and a quaint old town, at the heart of which is the Duomo, originally built in the 11th century, which houses in its crypt is the tomb of one of the twelve apostles of Christ, Saint Matthew the Evangelist. It is also a good base for excursions both to the Amalfi coast, just a few kilometres to the north, and the Cilento, which can be found at the southern end of the Gulf of Salerno. Hotels are also cheaper than at the more fashionable resorts.

Hotels in Salerno by TripAdvisor

Amalfi occupies a spectacularly beautiful setting on the  Campania coast between Naples and Salerno
Amalfi occupies a spectacularly beautiful setting on the
Campania coast between Naples and Salerno
Travel tip:

Amalfi, just 25km (16 miles) along the coast from Salerno, occupies a dramatic natural setting at the foot of steep cliffs along the stretch of spectacular Campania coastline that takes its name from the town and is one of Italy’s best-known tourist attractions. The town itself attracts huge numbers of visitors each year.  Its ninth-century Duomo dominates the town's central piazza, sitting at the top of a wide flight of steps. The cloister (Chiostro del Paradiso) and museum close by house sculptures, mosaics and other relics.  Radiating away from the cathedral, narrow streets offer many souvenir shops and cafes for visitors.  Amalfi is accessible by bus from Sorrento and Salerno and there are boat services that run along the coast.

Amalfi hotels from Hotels.com

More reading:

Silvio Berlusconi - the entrepreneur who became Italy's most controversial prime minister

How Irene Pavetti swapped political office for television

The political campaigner Emma Bonino

Also on this day:

1737: The death of violin maker Antonio Stradivari

1957: The death of entrepreneur Camillo Castiglioni

1966: The birth of record-breaking goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca


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