( dpa ) - Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's mother Rosa, from whom he has often said he inherited the drive and ambition propelling his business and political career, died Sunday. She was 97.
"Mamma Rosa," as she was referred to by Berlusconi, had been ill for some time and died in her Milan home early Sunday afternoon.
Berlusconi - who currently leads Italy's centre-right opposition - along with his younger brother Paolo and sister Maria Antonietta were at their mother's bedside when she died, news reports said.
Romano Prodi, who recently resigned as centre-left prime minister and is expected to be replaced by Berlusconi in the next election expressed "sentiments of nearness and human solidarity" to his political rival on his mother's death.
Born in 1911 in Milan, Italy's industrial and financial capital, Rosa Bossi - who as Berlusconi's critics liked to point out, shared the same first name with dictator Benito Mussolini's mother - worked as a secretary and married Luigi Berlusconi a bank employee.
By the time Rosa's husband died in 1989, her eldest son Silvio, after making a fortune in real estate, had already become owner of Italy's largest private television network, top-flight football club AC Milan, and one of the country's richest people.
In one of her last public outings, Rosa together with her son visited a polling booth to cast their ballots in the April 2006 elections which saw defeat for Berlusconi after serving five years as premier, the longest stint in Italy's post-World War II era.
Responding to criticism of Berlusconi's wealth and conflict-of-interest issues she said in a 2006 television interview she was puzzled by the perceived animosity against her billionaire son.
"Maybe it's because he is rich? But how can he enjoy his wealth" because he was always working, she asked.
She also pointed out that Berlusconi had also refurbished, at his own expense, the bathrooms of the official residence of Italian premiers, Palazzo Chigi, in Rome.
AC Milan announced Sunday that its players would observe a minute of silence before their scheduled Serie A match during which players would and wear black-armbands in honour of the club owner's mother.