Childhood & Early Life
Luigi Di Maio was born on July 6, 1986 in Pomigliano d'Arco, near Naples, the second-largest municipality in Italy, to Antonio, a building contractor, and his wife, a teacher of Italian and Latin. His father was the leader of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) and had unsuccessfully tried to enter the city council three times in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2004, he graduated from the classical lyceum Vittorio Imbriani and then enrolled into the Faculty of engineering at Federico II University of Naples, only to change subject to jurisprudence later. He never completed his college graduation, but was one of the founders of students' unions at both faculties.
He received his registration as apprentice journalist in 2007, but has never held a professional position. He worked as a webmaster and as a steward at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples for a brief period of time.
The eldest of three sons, he holds 50% share in his father’s construction company, Ardima srl, which he founded with his sister Rosalba, an architect. However, the company is managed by his father, a building contractor, and Luigi has no functional roles there.
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Career in Politics
In 2007, Luigi Di Maio was appointed faculty adviser and President of the Student Council. The same year, along with others, he founded the political group ‘Friends of Beppe Grillo’ in support of the irreverent populist comedian, Beppe Grillo, who denounced cronyism in Italian politics.
Two year later, in October 2009, when Beppe Grillo founded the anti-establishment party ‘Five Star Movement’ (M5S), he was one of its avid supporters. He introduced himself to the city council in 2010 but managed to get only 59 votes.
In the 2013 elections, the party got widespread support from disillusioned voters, bagging nearly 9 million votes and shaking up the political landscape in Italy. That year, at the age of 26-and-a-half-year, he was elected into the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament, becoming the youngest Vice President to be ever elected into the lower house of Italy's Parliament.
The party grew rapidly with its unorthodox approach of using the internet and social media sites to track voter sentiment to reach a wider audience quickly. However, the party, which is known for holding online primaries, has been criticized for promoting favorable candidates via false primaries with little actual option.
In December 2016, the populist movement opposed Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s push for sweeping constitutional reforms. A majority of Italian voters voted against the legislative revisions in a referendum, forcing Renzi to accept defeat and resign, thereby bringing down the government.
In 2017, Beppe Grillo announced his intention to begin campaign for the 2018 election, but also clarified that he would not run for the position of the Prime Minister himself. This immediately made Luigi Di Maio the front-runner candidate for the position of Prime Minister for the Five Star Party.
It was subsequently revealed that other leading members of the M5S, such as Alessandro Di Battista and Roberto Fico, will not run for office. Luigi’s opponents for the controversial online primary were Senator Elena Fattori and a bunch of unknown city councilors.
He was eventually elected Prime Ministerial candidate and Political Head of the M5S in September 2017, after winning the primacies with over 82% votes. However, other political parties, such as the Democratic Party, Lega Nord and Forza Italia, all criticized the primaries as 'false' ballot.
Luigi Di Maio proved that Grillo made the right choice by putting faith in him when he earned a shock victory in the 2018 Italian election. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement led by Di Maio became the party with the largest number of votes, bagging nearly one-third of total votes.
Despite their huge win, the party failed to reach the 40% majority mark, which left Di Maio no choice but look for coalition options, despite the fact that this was against the party's policies. However, Forza Italia and Fratelli d'Italia announced support for Lega leader Matteo Salvini, which cut short his dreams of becoming the Prime Minister.
Personal Life & Legacy
Luigi Di Maio became involved in a relationship with communication consultant Silvia Virgulti, who is ten years elder to him, in 2014, after she was selected by Grillo to serve as a television coach for politicians. She had bagged the role by impressing him with her article on the analysis of the errors of posture of some parliamentarians in front of the cameras on the talk shows.
As the two developed a relationship during those courses held in Rome, she also began to serve as his adviser sometimes. He publicly showed affection for her by reading out her message to him before taking on the senate floor, which also earned him criticism.
In November 2017, Di Maio, mentioned during a press conference that they had already separated a month ago, but have remained on excellent terms. He added that while they had a close bond, they were unable to spend time with each other due to busy schedule, which caused them to separate amicably, but they wish each other well.
Luigi Di Maio had been under investigation for alleged defamation after Marika Cassimatis, a former mayor candidate of the M5S in Genoa, filed a police report on July 12, 2017. M5S founder Beppe Grillo and deputy Alessandro Di Battista were also accused of defamation after they changed the rules to allow candidates under investigation to run for president, which particularly helped Di Maio.
He had previously criticized the privilege of parliamentary immunity and had pledged never to avail himself of it. However, after he was accused by journalist Elena Polidori of defamation on July 28, 2017, he made a U-turn and took advantage of the privilege.