Surviving Borgia’s poisons

I’d had an out of time experience in a noble palace near the Jewish ghetto in Rome: lost every link with real life I’ve been involved, against my will, by the ghosts of that ancient residence: I had strolled about its narrow passages till it came daybreak, when I felt on me a burden heavier then the moment  when I had entered there.

                                    Dante Gabriele Rossetti : Lucrezia Borgia

The walls of this palace, Lucrezia Borgia’s mansion , are still stained with the memory of the blood,  the poisons, the madness that had dominated for centuries the souls of the people who lived there, possessing them without making a distinction on its belonging…. Taking them to live during the nightime the same brutal actions that had marked that noble family.
During the Sixties it was rent by a shady  individual whose name was Pierluigi Torri, a man so much rich as upstart, loomed out from nowhere on the roman scene he used to invite the city  late-night revellers at long convivial… pleasure parties till dawn!
I’d met him in Cortina a year before during the Christmas ’70 when, together with Franco Rapetti, we’d met him at Hotel Posta’s hall.

Hotel Posta

We spent every afternoon gambling with card, playing Singapore, I say us because I was considered the mascot, the porte bohneur and it was enough I sat by the side of Franco at the card-table because the card supported him and luck turned her back on the other players, among which was also that gloomy individual. Every pore of his skin exhaled wickedness when he asked Franco to have me sent away from the table with the justification that, upon him, I brought him bad luck…he was loosing because I was there…And I, instead of covering up with coldness that statement, succeeded in answering: “If there is somebody who brings bad luck that one are certainly you… aren’t you maybe this morning on the ski run where felt the snowslide?” …awful boutade of bad taste, I admit it! I think that  he decided that impudent girl had to pay since that moment for the offence he had received…He stressed it casting me a whitering look full of grim omens.
The real situation of his bad luck at cards was much more simple: beside being Franco’s mascot I was, above all the virgin hand that shuffled…and in setting the packs of cards I succeeded in inserting what in slang are called  “salami”,  three hands in our favour…the game was rigged, not the luck!!!

Furious for his incessant losses he drove round Cortina with a  Rolls Royce that didn’t match with the snowy landscape, with those narrow roads covered with snow…he didn’t succeeded in sending me away from the card-table but, he promised it to me, the story hadn’t come to an end, it was only postponed…
One evening of an year after in Rome,  going out from the Number-one he invited us to his house to drink a little champagne.

                   Borgia’s palace at the Jewish ghetto in Rome

I went into the gloomy Borgia palace fearful, there was an atmosphere of hidden injustice and I felt a strong sensation of cool flutter on my body. Two details to interpret as presages that would have made me to decline that invitation…but we were not alone, besides Franco there were some english models very sexy, Pilar Crespi’s boy-friend, Stella Pende and other indomitable late-night revellers… I went in… fortified by the company.

        Ceiling painted by Pinturicchio

Sitting in the white drawing room I was admiring the frescoes of the ceilings in that medieval residence…I heard the noise of the champagne’s cork jump away, the goblets filled and he offering me one….I couldn’t know what an explosive mixture was in that glass,  how the landlord, not seen, had slipped a powder into it…After the mutual toast he asked me to take him to Franco that in the meanwhile had disappeared, I stood up and followed him along a narrow and low corridor, a sort of escape route, a secret passage that run all along the house to end before a small ajar door… ” Now look” told me pushing me forward, and  leaving the door ajar  it was offering to my look the perspective of a big double bed with Franco laying over it, I couldn’t see his face but guessed his body and a blonde woman’s one… I stood as enchanted by that wonderful model dressed in sham leopard coat that with sexy moving, so feminine to be nearly feline, rode him bustling on his body, excited him rubbing herself  against him, unbottoned his trousers, wringing from him sighs of pleasure…Pierluigi was holding me for the shoulders:  “Nice, isn’t it?…wait a moment, I come back with the others”…. I felt my head dim while I remained with my eyes riveted on  that door to admire fascinated that love game. Then something made me move, I turned back leaving Franco at his pleasure and  met Pilar’s boyfriend who first had obeyed the invite of the landlord coming towards me… he resembled for me a charming Lancelot,  he took my hand and together laughing went up the stairs to end in a room without windows, dark.

                                                     Love  meets Lancelot

I felt myself inebriated, I wanted to kiss my young mate …there was a big bed in the centre of the room but I don’t know, I don’t remember anymore, I recall nor the outlines neither the particulars of that place…I only know that we began to touch each other and the caresses in a meanwhile made so that I was his…to wake up from that torpor… just in time to realize on the end of the corridor a voice the was inciting “let’s find them…they must have gone somewhere”, then our room’s door was opening wide and all the guests were witnesses of our bodies too hastily undressed by desire… we were still held on tightly one another…The fury of the landlord was great…he couldn’t arrive on time to hurt me…. I had been faster …I had saved me in that boy’s arms making love in a natural way even if very natural was not …as we had been drove by other substances that would have been really limited to define liberating!


                                 Cesare Borgia’s portrait : Galleria Uffizi Florence

What mattered it was having escaped the plots planned by that man who, another Borgia,  wanted to change things fitting  them to his nature, to his desires, to his thirst for revenge…even if it hadn’t been nice to be found naked wrapped up only in a hug… discovered and jeered at by the group of people that he had taken with him to realize his bullying plan at least by halves. Actually… it wouldn’t be easy explaining to the friends what had happened, it was a hurt less painful than what it could have been but it hurt. Lost my friendship with the nice and sweet Pilar…she would have never forgiven our childish elopment in that room without outlets, helped by our senses that, unnaturally stimulated, had made us join  as two animals  driven only by desire to satisfy a sensuality transgressing any reasoning. I ask myself what could have happened if the group had found me still in that narrow corridor, motionless, nearly hypnotized by the charm driver by that erotic view…I don’t know and I don’t want to know the following steps of this plan style Borgia set in that dreary roman palace which spirit  elated of injustice  still fluttered in the air and was maybe more present then ourselves… only the chance had been above it and had permitted the change of course of that story…grasped immediately by us it had made two youngs meet saving them from the lasciviousness whom they were doomed. The day after I’d have been on everyone’s lips and as I wasn’t the author of that adventure but only the seventeen-year old protagonist I had no cards to play, I was a victim and victims, you know, in public opinion’s mind are guiltier then real  offenders for the only fault to have been involved…moreover the fact to be brought up alone with my mother lacking of the other educational pole had spurred in me an extraordinary sense of insecurity  that in this difficult situation wouldn’t have really helped me …but by now the games are made and my life should restart shifting the residual mud. I forgot the incident banishing it in an obscure corner of my conscience until being able to exorcize it today forever … in this tale of  few lines.

” The easy life ”

I started again my life and during a warm morning of the beginning of summer in the 1971 I had a great opportunity: I had to meet, on the set of the movie “I the name of Italian people” the director Dino Risi, the author of the movie  “The easy life” and “A difficult life” who was looking for a girl that was to play the role of Silvana Lazzorini, the young lover of Vittorio Gassman.

                          Waring a gardenia and I couldn’t care  less

I arrived wearing a pair of mind-boggling hot pants, tanned, red varnished nails, a gardenia in the jacket’s buttonhole, acting as if I couldn’t care less…I was really perfect for the role and … it was mine! The day after it was to shoot the scene of the morgue, I was laying naked on the marble table covered till under my small brests only by a white sheet.

                                               A  picture from the set

My blue eyes should remain wide opened and fixed in the rigour of death bringing to perfection the charm of that shot, the voice of the director was ovelapping everything: I liked his little snob peculiar pet phrase, his French R not completely expressed, the checked laughter with which he ended any phrase of his transmitting gaiety to everybody present and relaxing the possible anxieties.
On the set we were working in harmony thanks to the charm sheding from his director, only responsible.
I don’t know how and with what words but soon, very soon we found ourselves together at our first date: he came to call for me in Via di Novella at quarter Salario with his red Mercedes Coupèe, always tanned with that nice white curly head of fifty-year-old man, and clear ideas about how to spend our time!  During the afternoons spent in the garçonniere, behind via Cassia at Poggio delle Rose, I was educated  on love techniques imparted by a person so more grown-up than me whom charm I couldn’t deny my favours to. I didn’t do so to open me  a way in my job but because I felt an irresistible attraction for that man that could be my father and by whom I liked to be loved… so my disinterested love little by little made him fall in love.

         A break during shooting: V.Gassman,U.Tognazzi and the producer Amati

But I was free… too free for my young age and I succeeded in loving without never bind myself. After having cancelled a date of ours one day he passed under my house to see with whom I spent my new time…It remained engraved forever last image of our “story”: the red Mercedes that climbed up the road again, his face darkened, his white thick hair that was moving away from my life… while I was getting on my new love’s car….Great passion,… great heart…great Dino.

Dino Risi recent portrait

There are thousand ways of loving but you feel tenderness of emotions when it is encircling you, when it overwhelms any reasoning… so much I think one can love indeed. I had been protagonist of the love of a great person for a tiny creature of nature, a little mermaid so strong to be always herself…maybe this had enchanted him above all else.


So had happened to the couturier Oleg Cassini by that time sixty years old when he had met the beautiful Nadia ex dancer…he should have become enchanted by all that natural harmony of shapes that shed from her feminine sculptured body, by her architectural  bottom…
At that time they lived their love story at the centre of Rome in Torlonia Palace, before the Hotel Inghilterra and the atelier of the fashion designer Valentino. I liked very much going around with them, sharing with Nadia that innate ability to be naturally sexy,  she was so witty with that American accent mingling with her broken italian.

Oleg Cassini

It was not to be surprised if Oleg had wanted her to be his wife, nearly to give value to that senile madness that had the shape and the substance of the most correct thing made in all his life. It didn’t last forever but every moment  granted him total happyness filling every space with pure beauty, every action with life. What a best present for an aesthete having at his side such a wonder, such a freshness of heart full of style, charm, sound madness. It matters what you have done but above all what you are doing, that must be equal to the total amount of all the acquired knowledge and Oleg had succeded in gathering all the feminine glamour, imposed to thousand top models during the fashion shows, in a personal catwalk of life moments all worn by Nadia, unique  interpreter of his ideal world.

Nadia and her charme

The ideal…   How many times had already broken my ideal against ignorance and wickedness of the world. When I was sixteen I didn’t owned many articles of clothing,  I wore always the same things and among these I liked better a pair of beige leather trousers with fringes on the knees bought in Paris by New Man. One friday my “friend” Stella Pende asked me to borrow them to give me them back on sunday evening …without fringes! She had cut them away because she liked the trousers more without: the ideal of a friendship flopped down meanly before such a embezzlement.
Still now I’m chasing up such a pair of trouser …but without success: impossible to find them! Did she want to deprive myself of an instrument of my personal charm or more simply had she fitted them to her personality abusing selfishly all my rights? Didn’t she understand their beauty or did she realize it and decided to deprive me of it? A thing was sure …he couldn’t be my friend anymore…

Copyright © Ely Galleani Blog. All rights reserved.

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