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Saturday, August 1, 1998 Published at 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK


Blair family's Tuscany break

Family snap: Romano Prodi met the Blairs at the airpor

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family have arrived in Italy for the start of their summer holidays.

Italian Premier Romano Prodi and his wife Flavia were at Bologna airport to welcome Mr Blair, his wife Cherie and their children Euan, Nicky and Kathryn.

Mr Blair told Italian reporters he spends his holidays in Italy for "the culture, the food, the sun and because of your prime minister."

But he also revealed a more romantic reason - it was the "marvellous country" - that he proposed to Cherie.

The two leaders and their wives embraced warmly on the tarmac before heading for lunch at the appropriately named Castle of the Reds, or Castello dei Rossi, in nearby Sasso Marconi.

From there it was on to the Tuscany hills where the Blairs have hired the wing of the Villa Cusona, near San Gimignano.

The Renaissance-style palace is owned by Prince Girolamo Guicciardino Strozzi, who will welcome them with a dinner this evening.

The Blair family will be protected by about 50 Italian police officers as well as British security agents during their two-week stay.

Neighbours in San Gimignano include Mr Blair's predecessor Neil Kinnock who has a holiday home in the medieval town.

Mr Kinnock, now European Transport Commissioner, and wife Glenys, a member of the European Parliament, are reportedly arriving next week.

The Blairs will spend two weeks in Tuscany wine country, nicknamed 'Chiantishire' because of its popularity with well-off British holidaymakers.

From there they head off for a week in France, where they are expected to stay in Saint-Martin d'Oyde, a village near Toulouse.

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