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"Silvio Berlusconi wipes holiday home off face of Google Earth : Italian PM's Roman holiday spot hidden from internet searches

Fighting for his political life after the disappearance of his parliamentary majority, Silvio Berlusconi has decided not to stray too far from Rome for his holidays this year.

Being one of the world's richest men, his "staycation" is rather more upmarket than those enjoyed by other crisis-hit Italians, as he has decided to rent the 15th-century Castello di Tor Crescenza in the Grottarosa district of northern Rome.

And it emerged at the weekend that he has pulled off a stunt that further embellishes his reputation as the grand illusionist of European politics. Italy's prime minister appears to have made the entire castle, complete with ramparts and towers, vanish from the face of the earth.

Google Earth, that is.

According to the Rome council's tourist information web site, the address is Via Casale della Crescenza 1. But a search on Google Maps today pointed to a large green blank.

A click on the link from the Rome council's page to the castle's own website threw up a warning: "Directory listing denied. The virtual directory does not allow contents to be listed."

A spokesman for the prime minister could not be reached for comment. But there is bound to be speculation that the reason for the abrupt disappearance of his summer residence has less to do with national security than the activities of Italy's paparazzi.

Last autumn, he was embarrassed by the publication in a Spanish newspaper and magazine of photographs showing unidentified topless women (and an entirely naked prime minister of the Czech republic) lounging around Villa Certosa, his sprawling villa estate on the Sardinian Costa Esmeralda.

As the newspaper Corriere della Sera noted, both Villa Certosa, which was officially declared a "maximum security" location, and his private residence in Rome, Palazzo Grazioli, can be viewed using Google Earth.

Palazzo Grazioli has also acquired uncomfortable connotations for Italy's flamboyant prime minister since two prostitutes said they shared his bed there after parties involving up to 15 women and rather fewer men.

Berlusconi was last week confronted with an uncertain political future when a group of MPs loyal to his former ally, Gianfranco Fini, decided to set up a parliamentary group of their own in both chambers of the legislature."