February 6, 2009 / 10:36 AM / 10 years ago

How do I love thee? Ask the butler

MILAN (Reuters Life!) - This Valentine’s Day, forget roses — get your true love a butler.

The newly formed Butlers’ Association of Italy is running a Valentine’s special from Saturday to February 15, with 20 Cupid’s helpers in dapper morning suits and white gloves.

At 500 euros ($640.5) for 24 hours of personal service, renting of one of these professionals undeniably costs more than a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

But consider that you’re paying for someone like Mehdi Ben Hadj Mohamed, 33, whose hospitality pedigree runs from his father’s posh hotel in Tunisia to England where he says his uncle is a butler to Queen Elizabeth II.

“I love it when I serve someone and they are pleased and smile,” he said, pausing from his work as head butler at the Palazzo Vecchietti, a Florentine luxury hotel in a 15th-century palace.

“In our culture, we say that he who serves the people is himself the lord.”

The butlers offer services from caring for kids, pets and gardens to booking a helicopter to an exotic port for a romantic sailboat getaway. They can be chefs, personal shoppers, events planners or directors of the house.

Or they can conjure up last-minute concert tickets and restaurant reservations.

“They can do anything that is legal and respects the law,” said Elisa Dal Bosco, vice president of the butlers’ association. “This is very important.”

Ben Hadj Mohamed, who can charm in English, French, Arabic, Italian, and German plus a smattering of Dutch and Swedish, recalled a previous Valentine from his butler days in Milan.

He flew to Philadelphia to pack a couple’s bags and flew back to await their arrival. Meanwhile, he planned the perfect candle-lit dinner and procured the perfect romantic present, discreetly described as “something to wear.”

The butlers’ association started this year to promote the profession. It has about 100 participants from the hospitality business, a third or so are butlers. Seven veteran butlers in the Valentine’s special are women.

So far, eight people have signed up to pay for the service. Cupid might squirm to know they all rented Valentine butlers for the closest possible loved one — themselves.

“The real luxury now, I think, is to dedicate time to oneself,” Dal Bosco said, “and the best way to dedicate time to oneself is to have a butler.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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