Home World Outrage at plot to rename pretty city's £4bn airport after controversial leader

Outrage at plot to rename pretty city's £4bn airport after controversial leader


Plans to rename one of Italy’s busiest airports after one of the country’s most controversial leaders has sparked outrage.

Transport Minister Matteo Salvini has been facing widespread backlash after announcing he would back a proposal to rename Milan Malpensa airport after the late Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr Salvini said he would approve a decision made by the Italian civil aviation authority ENAC to change the airport’s name “in memory of my friend Silvio”. 

The comments were met with criticism from Milan mayor Beppe Sala who slammed the proposal as “crazy”. 

Mr Sala accused Enac of bowing to pressure from rightwing politicians as he insisted the motion to rename was passed without consulting the company in charge of operating Milan’s airports, SEA.

He had previously blocked an earlier attempt to rename Milan’s second-biggest airport, Linate, after the former Italian Prime Minister.

More than 35,000 people have since signed a petition urging Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to oppose the move.

Ms Meloni and Mr Salvini’s parties, Brothers of Italy and The League, are part of the ruling coalition alongside Forza Italia, the party Berlusconi created in 1994 before he first ran for election.

Ordinarily, there is a 10-year waiting period to name a place after someone who has died. Berlusconi only died in June 2023.

The media tycoon turned politician led Italy’s longest government since the country became a Republic in 1946, serving as Prime Minister for a total of 3,291 across four terms.

Opponents to the decision insisted Milan Malpensa, the second-largest airport in Italy in terms of passengers served after Rome Fiumicino, should be renamed after “a figure who embodies values of honesty, integrity and community service.”

Green and Left Alliance MP Marco Grimaldi argued there are several more illustrious Milan-born figures Mr Salvini could pick, including author Alessandro Manzoni, dancer Carla Fracci or composer Giuseppe Verdi.

Mr Grimaldi said: “Who knows if Minister Salvini is aware that Rome’s Fiumicino airport is named after Leonardo da Vinci, Venice’s after Marco Polo, and Genoa’s after Christopher Columbus.

“Then there’s Sandro Pertini for Turin airport, Catullus for Verona, Marconi for Bologna, Galileo for Pisa and last but not least Falcone and Borsellino for Palermo.

“I for one would be ashamed to take a flight from Falcone and Borsellino airport and land at Silvio Berlusconi airport.”

Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were two Sicilian judges involved in Italy’s largest Mafia trials in history, the so-called Maxi Processo. They were both killed by the Mafia in the summer of 1992.

Among the many controversies that characterise Berlusconi’s life were multiple allegations of links to organised crime, mostly stemming from his decision to hire Vittorio Mangano, a man previously charged with Mafia association, as gardener and stable man at his Villa Arcore near Milan.

Berlusconi was introduced to Mangano by close friend Marcello Dell’Utri, who handed a nine-year prison sentence for “external association to the Mafia.”

Several Mafia turncoats accused Berlusconi of having close relations with the Mafia but multiple investigations failed to return a charge against the former Prime Minister.

In his will, Berlusconi left Dell’Utri over £25 million. He described the bequest as an “act of love” and rejected claims the former Prime Minister attempted to “buy my silence” with the money.

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