this set of photos of Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti at their villa in Rome, taken in 1964 by Alfred Eisenstaedt, was one of the first stories i discovered in the Life Magazine archives way back when they first launched their digital collection in 2009. for some reason i never posted about it, and it has been sitting in a weird folder on one of my hard drives until i rediscovered recently.
19 year old Sofia Lazzaro met film producer Carlo Ponti in 1950, 22 years her senior, when he spotted her in the audience of a beauty contest. he invited her to his office for a screen test, where “the cameramen didn’t know what to make of her irregular features – her nose was too long, her hips too wide. She was advised to get a nose job and lose weight, but she refused.” what followed was a story of two lovers, scandalous divorces, illegal marriages, official condemnation from the Vatican, charges of bigamy and concubinage (!), exile from Italy and much more… you need to read the entire story in this Vanity Fair article.
In 1960, Carlo and Sophia began to restore a magnificent 16th-century villa in Marino, in the Alban Hills, 13 miles from Rome. Pete Hamill described it as “painted chalk red, and set among 18 acres of rolling lawns, manicured hedges, fig trees and waterfalls, with a riding stable, an aqueduct, a tennis court, an orchard and a pool.” They spent the equivalent of $2 million to restore it.