The Italian Almanac

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Monica Bellucci

Italian News / Europe - January 20

France has consolidated its longstanding passion for Italian actress Monica Bellucci by awarding her one of its top honours for art and literature. The Italian star, voted the world's most beautiful woman by the French last year, received the Croix de Chevalier medal from Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy at an official ceremony in Paris. It was reportedly the actress herself who asked to receive the honour from Sarkozy.

The interior minister, criticised by several French actors and film directors over the November riots in Parisian suburbs, apparently welcomed the chance to show he is on good terms with the entertainment world. "There's a secret link between the Quai des Orfevres and and the acting world," he quipped, referring to the headquarters of Paris police, made famous by the Maigret detective books and a string of films.

Bellucci is extremely popular in France, where many of her films have been made, and for years she was better known there than in her native Italy. She is married to French actor Vincent Cassel. In 2005 she earned an important accolade in French culture by being given a place alongside Albert Einstein and Elvis Presley in the nation's most famous waxwork museum, the Musée Grevin.