Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi Image Credit: AP

Milan: Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was discharged on Friday from a hospital in Milan, where he was admitted more than six weeks ago suffering from leukaemia and a lung infection.

The 86-year-old billionaire media mogul was driven away from the San Raffaele Hospital without making any comments to reporters outside.

Berlusconi was admitted on April 5 and spent the first week and a half in intensive care before being moved to a normal ward.

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Although he rarely appears in public, Berlusconi currently serves as a senator and as president of his right-wing Forza Italia party, a junior partner in Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's coalition government.

Meloni visited him in hospital on Sunday, saying afterwards he had been "in an excellent mood" and was still working "tirelessly".

"Go Silvio", she tweeted on Friday. "We are waiting for you in the field, to fight many battles together".

He has also been visited by his Forza Italia deputy, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, and coalition ally Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigration League party.

"Welcome home, Great Silvio," Salvini tweeted on Friday, while Tajani told Berlusconi on Twitter: "We're all happy you've returned home."

Dangerous pneumonia

The former premier had hoped to be discharged earlier this month in time for a Forza Italia convention in Milan but ended up making a closing statement via videolink from his hospital room.

Silvio Berlusconi waves as his car speeds past photographers and reporters without stopping to make remarks as he leaves the San Raffaele hospital, in Milan, Italy, Friday, May 19, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Smartly dressed and sitting behind a desk with his party's banner and the Italian flag behind him, he thanked members for their support, "which more than anything helped me overcome a very dangerous pneumonia".

Berlusconi was prime minister three times between 1994 and 2011 but dominated Italian public life for far longer, as a businessman and media magnate and through his ownership of the AC Milan football club.

His career was also dogged by scandal and legal woes, which for the past decade were focused on proceedings relating to his notorious "Bunga Bunga" sex parties.

His health has also been an increasing concern.

Berlusconi was in hospital for 11 days for Covid-related pneumonia in September 2020, after contracting the virus while on holiday in Sardinia. He described it as "perhaps the most difficult ordeal of my life".

After being admitted for treatment for a lung infection last month, doctors revealed that he had "chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia", a rare type of blood cancer.

The disease, which affects mainly older adults, starts in blood-forming cells of the bone marrow and goes on to invade the blood.

Berlusconi's cancer was in a "persistent chronic phase" and had not yet turned into "acute leukaemia", the doctors said.

In March, Berlusconi was admitted to the same Milan hospital where he spent four days.