Nicole Minetti's possible candidacy:
The Italian prime minister has spent weeks denying reports that his party would stack its list of candidates with attractive young models or actresses.Pictures courtesy of UK Telegraph
But the 73-year-old premier was apparently unable to resist the charms of Nicole Minetti, a showgirl turned dental hygienist who he met when his teeth were being repaired after he was attacked by a man with a history of mental illness in Milan in December.
Despite the furore and the wrath of his wife caused by his attempts last year to promote a string of glamorous women as candidates for the European elections, Miss Minetti is reportedly now on a short list to run as a candidate for Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party in Lombardy, northern Italy.
A former dancer who has appeared on various TV variety shows, she graduated as a dental hygienist last November and within weeks was tending to the prime minister when he was treated in Milan's San Raffaele Hospital for two broken teeth and a smashed nose following the assault on Dec 13.
Hers will not be the only pretty face in the ranks of Mr Berlusconi's party as it seeks to consolidate its hold on power in the elections in 13 of Italy's 20 regions at the end of March.
Graziana Capone, a law graduate and model who has been dubbed "the Angelina Jolie of Puglia," the southern region from which she hails, was recently hired to help mould Mr Berlusconi's image on television, La Repubblica reported. She had also been touted as a possible candidate in the elections.
A smiling Mr Berlusconi was photographed this week as he presented four women who hope to be elected as regional governors, two of whom have cover girl looks: Monica Faenzi and Anna Maria Bernini.
His penchant for favouring brains over beauty earned him exasperated criticism from the main opposition party.
"Berlusconi chooses candidates more for their good looks than for their experience," said Anna Finocchiaro, the Senate leader of the Democratic Party. "He's filled parliament with beautiful girls, albeit competent, but they don't count for anything within the party."
But loyalists within the ranks of his party angrily hit back. Margherita Boniver, an MP, told Corriere della Sera: "I'm astonished. You only have to look at the CVs of our candidates to understand that they are people who are dedicated to politics," said Barbara Saltamartini, an MP who has responsibility for equal opportunities within the PDL, said that Miss Finocchiaro's remarks had shown "that she is an enemy of women".
The glamorous line-up invited comparisons with the row which broke out last year when Mr Berlusconi's party proposed fielding a bevy of actresses, models and reality television starlets as candidates for the European parliament elections in June.
His wife, Veronica Lario, branded the plan "shamelessly tacky" and a week later demanded a divorce after nearly 30 years of marriage.
In the end most of the women were ditched from the line-up and only one, Barbara Matera, 27, a television presenter, actress and former Miss Italy contender, was elected to Brussels.
She revealed that her role model was Mara Carfagna, the former men's magazine model who Mr Berlusconi made his equal opportunities minister when he returned to power in 2008.
Last week Mr Berlusconi caused another furore after joking that while Italy had succeeded in staunching the flow of Albanian illegal immigrants crossing the Adriatic, he would be prepared to make an exception for "beautiful girls".