A grim-looking Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi waved weakly to photographers Thursday as he left a Milan hospital with his face covered in bandages four days after an attack by a mentally ill man at a political rally.
A large bandage covered part of the left side of Berlusconi's face including his nose, which was broken when the man hurled a souvenir statue of Milan's cathedral into the premier's face.
Berlusconi, 73, also broke two teeth in the attack.
Berlusconi took a few steps out of the San Raffaele Hospital before getting into one of several cars in a waiting motorcade.
News reports said the motorcade was headed to Arcore, the media mogul's villa on the outskirts of Milan, and some of Berlusconi's staff had assembled there. TV crews and reporters were amassed there, but hours after he left the hospital, Berlusconi hadn't shown up at home and his whereabouts remained a mystery.
Heading to posh clinic
A Swiss media report quoted the mayor of the southern Swiss town of Gravesano as saying Berlusconi was expected at a posh clinic in the town.
The mayor and the premier's spokesman did not immediately return calls and a member of the premier's staff declined to comment on the destination.
The Swiss clinic would not comment on the report in the Le Matin tabloid.
The attacker, identified as Massimo Tartaglia, is in a Milan prison.
Berlusconi said in a statement released by his office that he would go on "with more strength and determination than before."
"I will remember two things about these days: the hatred of a few and the love of many, many Italians," the statement said.
Berlusconi, who is fending off a sex scandal and legal troubles, had previously lamented that he was the target of a "climate of hatred." His injuries stirred public sympathy but groups praising Tartaglia mushroomed on Facebook after the attack.
On Wednesday, a judge rejected a bid by Tartaglia's lawyers to have him transferred from jail to a psychiatric hospital.
Known for his seemingly boundless energy, Berlusconi was ordered by his doctors to cancel or reduce public appearances through the Christmas season.
A Cabinet meeting in Rome was held without the premier's presence. Berlusconi was also skipping the last days of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.