An Italian socialite who is about to be released after 16 years in prison for ordering the murder of her husband, an heir to the Gucci empire, says the fashion house should now give her a job.

Patrizia Reggiani, known in Italy as "the black widow" or "Lady Gucci", was jailed in 1998 after being found guilty of paying a hit man 300,000 ($480,000) to murder her 46-year-old husband Maurizio Gucci.

He had been shot dead three years earlier on the steps of his office in Milan as he arrived for work. The gunman sped away in a green Renault.

The couple divorced in 1991 and Reggiani was said to be furious about the other women her former husband was seeing, and fearful that her daughters' inheritance would be put at risk if he remarried.


Her initial 29-year sentence, after a trial that transfixed Italy, was reduced to 26 years on appeal, which in turn has been further reduced for good behaviour.

For the past three years, she has been allowed out on day release to work in a jewellery shop in Milan, with her full release expected soon.

In recent weeks she has been photographed shopping in the city's upmarket boulevards with a blue and yellow macaw on her shoulder.

In her first interview since she was sent to prison, 65-year-old Reggiani, nicknamed by the Italian press "the Liz Taylor of designer labels", said she wanted to restart her life through work.

Her overriding ambition was to find a job with Gucci, she said - despite having been found guilty and serving time for ordering the assassination of one of the multimillionaire scions of the family.

"I dream of returning to Gucci. I still feel like a Gucci - in fact, the most Gucci of all," she told the daily paper La Repubblica.

"I have the qualifications. For years I went shopping around the world. I came from the world of jewels and it's to that world I want to return."

She claimed she had never intended to commission the murder of Gucci.


"It's true that speaking with certain people, I said in a rash outburst, 'I wish Maurizio would die'.

"But I never imagined the scenario would come true.

"Nor did I want it to. I never ordered the murder."

Her ex-husband had inherited 50 per cent of the family business after the death of his father in 1983.

But he spent his fortune with such abandon that he was forced to sell his shares to a Bahrain-based investment group, Investcorp, a decade later.

Famously extravagant, Reggiani used to spend the equivalent of thousands of euros a month on flowers and once said: "I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle."