Silvio Berlusconi entered an old people's home outside Milan this morning to begin community service as part of a one-year sentence for tax fraud.

The 77-year-old had a four-year jail sentence, handed down last August, commuted into an obligation to spend four hours a week for a year at a centre for the elderly.

The billionaire media tycoon and former Italian prime minister arrived in the morning in a black car with darkened windows, wearing his trademark dark suit.

Ignoring around 200 Italian and foreign journalists, Berlusconi left bodyguards outside as he entered the Sacra Famiglia centre, a sprawling structure caring for the elderly and mentally ill.

The obligation to do community service does not bar Berlusconi, who was expelled from Italy's Senate after the conviction, from campaigning for his Forza Italia party ahead of European Parliament elections this month.

Opinion polls suggest Forza Italia could command just short of 20% of the vote, making it Italy's third largest party after the centre-left Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Sabatina Carlone, a Berlusconi supporter who came with her husband and 18-month nephew in a show of support, said: "We came because we are in love with him as a leader. This is not justice, it's a mockery. The president should have pardoned him."

After completing the first six months of community service, Berlusconi's sentence of one year of community service will automatically be reduced to ten-and-a-half months.