In a country that is iconic for its exuberant luxury, including high-end Milanese fashion, traditional cuisine and Tuscan wine, it’s perhaps not surprising that Italy is also home to some of the world’s wealthiest people.
Many of the names on this list have had to work hard to reach the top, however. As you will see, these billionaires and business tycoons come from all types of backgrounds, having found success in industries as diverse as confectionery, eyewear and designer goods.
So, if you’re wondering who has amassed the biggest fortune, then read on — here are the 10 richest Italians according to Forbes.
10. Miuccia Prada
Net worth: $4 billion
Forbes rank: #728 (tie)
Miuccia Bianchi Prada is a businesswoman and world-renowned fashion designer. She’s the head designer of the well-known brand Prada, as well as the founder of a subsidiary clothing company called Miu Miu.
She is the youngest granddaughter of Mario Prada, and took over the luxury brand in 1978. Since then, she’s also acquired other high-profile brands like Jil Sander and Helmut Lang. In 2002, meanwhile, she opened her own contemporary art museum.
Prada was surrounded by controversy in 2014 when she was put under investigation by Milan prosecutors due to alleged tax avoidance, which resulted in her paying over €400 million ($412 million) in 2016.
9. Patrizio Bertelli
Net worth: $4 billion
Forbes rank: #728 (tie)
Prada’s husband Patrizio Bertelli is the CEO of Prada and a billionaire businessman to boot. He began his career at the age of 21, when he created the leather goods company Sir Robert, which became the base of his entrepreneurial growth. He met Prada in the 1970s, and what started as a professional relationship soon blossomed into a romantic one, as they later married.
Bertelli created a new business model within Prada by bringing all internal processes together so they could have full control of the production line and quality standards, which led to rapid expansion of the company through the 1980s and 1990s.
Bertelli was also involved in the 2014 tax controversy.
8. Augusto and Giorgio Perfetti
Net worth: $4.1 billion
Forbes rank: #709
As the co-owners of confectionary giants Perfetti Van Melle, brothers Augusto and Giorgio Perfetti are responsible for providing the world with a number of renowned products; Mentos, Fruittella and Chupa Chups (acquired in 2006) are all now produced under the Perfetti Van Melle umbrella.
Following the acquisition of Perfetti Van Melle’s shareholdings in 2001, the company has established itself as the third largest confectionery manufacturer in the world, after Mondelez International and Mars, Inc. The two brothers — who are both notoriously media-shy — now live in Switzerland and maintain no involvement in the day-to-day running of the business.
7. Piero Ferrari
Net worth: $4.2 billion
Forbes rank: #687
Piero Lardi Ferrari, the second and only living heir of Enzo Ferrari, owns a 10.23% share of the Ferrari company and serves as its vice chairman.
He began his career as an informal translator for his father but was officially hired in the early 1970s as a technical supervisor. In 1974, he moved to the Formula One team as a co-organizer, where he assisted the sporting directors.
Ferrari is also the chairman of HPE COXA, which he founded in 1998. The aim of this venture was to create high-end engineering services and high-precision manufacturing of niche prototypes.
6. Giuseppe De’Longhi and family
Net worth: $4.4 billion
Forbes rank: #654
Caffeine aficionados will probably be familiar with De’Longhi coffee machines, of which Giuseppe — president of parent company De’Longhi SpA — is in charge.
Although the company, founded in Treviso in 1902, originally made its fortune producing heaters, air conditioners and home appliances, it is in 1990 that they became a household name producing the high-quality coffee machines with which the family name is now synonymous.
Under De’Lognhi’s charge, the company has struck successful distribution and manufacturing deals with other market giants, such as Kenwood and Braun, while the family line looks safe; son Fabio is the company’s current CEO.
5. Massimiliana Landini Aleotti and family
Net worth: $5.4 billion
Forbes rank: #490
As the widow of pharmaceuticals magnate Alberto Aleotti, Massimiliana Aleotti — along with their children Lucia and Alberto Giovanni — inherited control of the influential Menarini Group in 2014, while she retains overall ownership.
The family has not been without controversy, though. Lucia and Alberto Giovanni (installed as chairman and vice-chairman, respectively) were convicted of tax fraud and money laundering in 2016, receiving prison sentences of 10 and 7.5 years. However, in December 2018, the Court of Appeal in Florence overturned this verdict, clearing the siblings of any wrongdoing.
4. Silvio Berlusconi and family
Net worth: $7.1 billion
Forbes rank: #336
One of the most controversial and enigmatic characters in Italian and European politics, Silvio Berlusconi made his fortune through his media conglomerate Fininvest, before serving the first of his three terms as Prime Minister of Italy in 1994. Since then, “Il Cavaliere” (or “The Knight”) has been embroiled in numerous blackmail, corruption and tax fraud scandals, culminating in a (later rescinded) court order banning him from running for political office in 2014.
Despite ongoing accusations of a conflict of interest between his media and political careers, Berlusconi — in conjunction with his family — still retains control over his vast media empire. In 2017, meanwhile, he sold the AC Milan football club (of which he had retained ownership for 31 years) to a Chinese investment group for €740 million ($762 million).
3. Giorgio Armani
Net worth: $7.8 billion
Forbes rank: #296
Although his name is now a global byword for luxury and exuberance, Giorgio Armani’s early years couldn’t have been more different. Born into a working-class family, the fashion mogul spent time at medical school as well as in the army, before finding work as a window dresser in a Milan department store in 1957.
After building his reputation as a designer in the 1960s and 1970s, Armani finally founded his legendary eponymous label in 1975, turning it into a global powerhouse that now features over 60 stores in 37 countries. Since 2005, the brand has also diversified into luxury hotels, including a flagship hotel at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The King of Fashion, meanwhile, shows no signs of slowing down. He is still responsible for the day-to-day running of the company and is yet to name a successor for when he eventually steps down.
2. Leonardo Del Vecchio and family
Net worth: $27.3 billion
Forbes rank: #52
If most of the billionaires on this list were given a rather large helping hand by their parents, then consider the case of Leonardo Del Vecchio. Born into poverty in 1935, the eyewear magnate was sent to an orphanage at age 7, before apprenticing at a parts factory at age 14 to make ends meet.
Originally set on attending design school, Del Vecchio instead utilized his metalworking skills to start a spectacle-making business, creating the now-legendary Luxottica in 1967. Since then, the company has acquired some of the biggest eyewear companies in the world, including Ray-Ban, Oakley and Sunglass Hut, while they continue to make frames for designer brands such as Armani, Bulgari and Chanel.
Sadly, Leonardo passed away on June 27, 2022, aged 87, so the family is in discussions about the next steps to take.
1. Giovanni Ferrero
Net worth: $36.2 billion
Forbes rank: #36
Built entirely upon a secret cocoa-hazelnut recipe called Pasta Gianduja — or as the rest of the world now calls it: Nutella — the Ferrero empire is a global multibillion-dollar venture that is currently headed up by Giovanni Ferrero, the grandson of company founder Pietro.
Notoriously weary of industrial espionage (media are banned from entering the company’s production plants), Ferrero also produces the Kinder range of products, as well as Tic Tac mints. Under Ferrero’s astute leadership, the company has since added several Nestlé brands, as well as numerous confectionery brands in the North American market, to this impressive portfolio.
Ferrero himself is married with two children and currently resides in Brussels, Belgium. Since 2016, he has relinquished his position as Ferrero’s CEO and now oversees the company’s long-term strategy as executive chairman.
While many of the people on this list gained their significant wealth through the familial connections, there are also some who became a billionaire by working their way up to the top with hard work and determination, which goes to show that if you put the work in, you’ll reap the rewards.
If you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit in you, it’s worth taking inspiration from this list and seeing how you can adapt their strategies to benefit you. You never know: you could one day make a list just like this one and end up being a self-made billionaire!
Which of these Italian billionaires do you aspire to be? Let us know in the comments section below.
Originally published on January 26, 2015. Updated by Hayley Ramsey.