In a surprising contrast to his political past and personal credo, Silvio Berlusconi has had Italy's first transgender lawmaker, an ex-Communist Party member, over to dinner to discuss gay rights.
LGBT activist Vladimr Luxuria was invited to the disgraced billionaire's luxury Arcore villa by his girlfriend, Francesca Pascale, who has recently taken up - with some success - the challenge of persuading the 78-year-old politician to back plans to legally recognise homosexual unions.
The dinner was held in the same premises where Milan prosecutors alleged the former Prime Minister held his risqué bung bunga parties.
Berlusconi was seen smiling flanked by Luxuria and Pascale in a group selfie tweeted by the 49-year-old gay rights activist at the end of the meeting.
Luxuria's visit to Arcore raised many eyebrows, as the conservative Berlusconi had in the past publicly opposed gay marriage and is known to have made numerous homophobic remarks.
Ahead of the meeting, Luxuria said she was ready to talk to any politician to advance gay rights. "My only doubt is the dress," she said about the dinner.
Also a television personality, Luxuria served as MP with Italy's Communist Party from 2006 to 2008.
Berlusconi who, when he was facing accusations of having sex with an underage prostitute in 2010, infamously said "it's better to like beautiful girls than to be gay", seems to have softened his stance on LGBT couples since he started dating 29-year-old Pascale.
The former showgirl, who last year threatened to sue a Bulgarian actress for claiming that she is a lesbian, has recently signed up to Italy's main gay rights organization, Arcigay. She has been described by Luxuria as a "passionary" of gay rights.
Thanks to her influence, Berlusconi surprised Italy when he lauded the campaigning for gay rights "as a fight that in a truly modern and democratic country should be everyone's responsibility," in a an interview in June.
"As a liberal, I believe that through a broad and in-depth debate we can reach a reasonable objective for justice and civilization," he told Repubblica newspaper.