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October 30, 2009

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First lady's childhood home hits the market

IF you've always wanted to live like an Italian heiress, supermodel, pop star and wife of a European head of state, there's a castle on the market in Turin that might be worth a look.

The historic home in the Italian hills where French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy spent her early childhood is staking a "for sale" sign once again, just months after a Saudi billionaire bought the palatial property for US$25 million.

Castello di Castagneto Po is in the hills northeast of Turin where Bruni-Sarkozy - a former model and now singer who married French President Nicolas Sarkozy last year - lived before the family relocated to Paris in the early 1970s as guerrilla groups struck fear among Italy's elite. It was sold by the family earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia's billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is listed by Forbes as one of the world's wealthiest men, is now selling the castle, never having moved in, for about 19 million euros (US$28 million).

1,000 years old

Christie's Great Estates, a subsidiary of the art auction house, is slated to announce the listing in coming days.

Bruni's father, Italian industrialist Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, bought the 40-room castle, which dates back nearly 1,000 years, in 1952 and had it extensively restored and lavishly appointed.

Tedeschi died in 1996. Bruni-Sarkozy, her mother and her sister first sold the castle's contents at auction and then the house itself.

"We had finished with Castagneto Po. Nobody went there any more," said Bruni's mother Marisa Bruni Tedeschi at the time.

The castle is surrounded by 70 hectares replete with vegetable gardens, orchards, flowering terraces, ancient greenhouses, a caretaker's house and a farm building.

The castle, destroyed in 1705 following two centuries of French army invasions, was rebuilt in neo-Gothic style and completed in 1835.

"The grandeur of Castle Castagneto Po is unrivaled in Northern Italy," said Giancarlo Bracco, founder of Christie's Great Estates' Italian affiliate ImmobilSarda srl, which is handling the sale.

Its imposing facade conjures images of fairy tale princesses - or real-life Italian supermodel-pop star-first ladies.


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