Turmoil in the Eternal City

It was a stressful summer for some of Rome’s most venerable institutions. Donald Trump barnstormed the Vatican—where one member of the Pope’s entourage succinctly labeled him “a complete cafone” [buffoon]—in a cloud of hair spray. “He goes through a can every other day!” marveled another source, leading local hairdresser Massimo Topo, who was called in to style for Ivanka and Melania. At City Hall—the Palazzo Senatorio, built in the 12th century atop the Capitoline Hill—the first female mayor in Rome’s 2,800-year history, Virginia Raggi, who took office in June 2016 promising major, much-needed reforms, became embattled as one of her closest aides faced corruption charges, while the city’s public transportation and sanitation departments deteriorated alarmingly. Then there were the struggles of two enduring Roman icons: Gina Lollobrigida, who turned 90 in July, and the Order of Malta, which in February 2013 celebrated its 900th birthday.

For Lollobrigida, the screen legend once known as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” troubles began brewing around 2013, by which time Andrea Piazzolla became the actress’s manager and the object of her adoration; concurrently, she launched a legal battle to prove that she had previously been tricked, in 2010, into a “fake marriage” by Javier Rigau y Rafols, her former Spanish boyfriend, who is 34 years her junior. This March, her estranged only child, Milko Skofic, 60, accused Piazzolla, 30, of swindling a good chunk of Lollobrigida’s estimated $50 million fortune and isolating her from her family and friends; at the same time, she lost her lawsuit against Rigau.

A few years ago, I spent a day at Lollobrigida’s secluded villa, on the Via Appia Antica, interviewing her for this magazine (“Twilight of the Goddess,” February 2015). The encounter was an Italian version of Sunset Boulevard, as the screen star, resplendent in emeralds, made a dramatic entrance, descending a grand staircase while, outside in the driveway, the wavy-haired Piazzolla, wearing a snug polo shirt and tight jeans, showed off his $72,500 Ducati motorcycle. “Andrea is the best person I have ever found in my life until now,” she said. How long would the honeymoon last?, I then wondered.

“It’s been years of nightmares,” Skofic told me by phone from Montpellier, France, where he lives and works. “I never cared about money. I am just trying to protect my mother from herself,” he said. “We are…

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