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No Italian wedding soup for the new envoy, thanks

Antonella Cinque, Italian Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata and their twins, Giulio and Nina. (Courtesy of the Italian Embassy)

Italy's new ambassador to the U.S., Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant'Agata, Wednesday presented his credentials to President Obama accompanied by longtime girlfriend Antonella Cinque.

That Cinque is not his wife would have caused a fuss just a few years ago. Now, not so much. "I can tell you that I'm excited and pleased to have my family with me," Terzi told us.

The 63-year-old diplomat (formerly Italy's rep to the U.N., ambassador to Israel, a foreign minister in Rome) and Cinque, an attorney and former head of Italy's FDA, have been together for several years, own a $2 million home in New York, and have 19-month-old twins (a boy, Giulio, and girl, Nina). Cinque, 48, was married once before; Terzi declined to discuss his marital status due to "ongoing legal procedures."

Diplomatic protocol still notes who is married and who is not; Carla Bruni wasn't officially welcome in some countries before her wedding to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But things are changing rapidly: Although married couples still dominate Washington's Embassy Row, bachelors and their companions have become more common -- Germany's Wolfgang Ischinger and the Netherlands's Boudewijn van Eenennaam both had live-in girlfriends and eventually tied the knot. (It was the Bush years, after all.) France's current envoy, Pierre Vimont, was separated from his wife when he arrived two years ago and entertains with his Parisian paramour at official embassy events.

"I believe it is an evolution all over the world," said Terzi, who arrived in Washington last month. "It has not been an issue in my country for many, many years."

Another barrier is about to drop at Villa Firenze, the Italian's elegant D.C. home. The ambassador vetoed Cinque's request for a swing set on the lawn -- not appropriate for a formal residence, he thought. But ..... that was before she spotted Malia and Sasha's playset on the White House South Lawn. Guess who just won that argument?

By The Reliable Source  |  November 5, 2009; 1:02 AM ET
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