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ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi urges Italians to vacation in their own homeland of "skies, sun and sea" in a new television advertisement aimed at boosting an economy struggling to emerge from recession.
It comes weeks after Berlusconi's government unveiled an unpopular 25-billion euro austerity budget that has sparked protests and helped push his popularity ratings to new lows.
The 30-second "Magic Italy" advertisement created by the tourism ministry intersperses shots of picturesque seas, sunsets and bridges with images of famous monuments and artistic gems.
"What you're seeing is your Italy, a unique country of skies, sun, sea, but also of history, culture and art," Berlusconi narrates over the images. "It's an extraordinary country, which you have yet to discover. Use your vacation, to know Italy better, your magic Italy."
This is the first time an Italian prime minister has lent his voice to an institutional advertisement and is aimed at boosting the economy at a time of spending cutbacks, Tourism Minister Vittoria Brambilla told a Wednesday news conference.
Italians are expected to spend about 14 billion euros on vacations abroad this year and diverting even a small slice of that spending back home would help, she said.
Berlusconi in the past has urged Italians to keep spending and shopping to help Italy's economy, which suffered its post-war recession in 2008 and 2009.
Writing by Deepa Babington; Editing by Jon Boyle