Gina Lollobrigida with Spanish singer Raphael at Marbella's Don Pepe hotel / SUR

Gina Lollobrigida’s love affair with Spain and the Costa del Sol

The Italian actress, who died at the age of 95 this week, became a star of Marbella's glittering nightlife scene in the 1960s, a town where she also began writing a book about bullfighting

Francisco Griñán
FRANCISCO GRIÑÁN Málaga

Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, who has died at the age of 95, was a regular visitor to the Costa del Sol during the 1960s. However, her first trip to Spain took her to Mallorca, but as soon as she arrived, she was hounded by the press about her recent divorce, so she immediately looked for a change of location.

It was Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe, who had introduced the Costa del Sol to the aristocracy of the time, who told her about his Marbella Club hotel and the actress wasted no time in making a reservation.

She first visited in the summer of 1965 and then in the following years, returned not only in summer but also in spring and autumn. Gina Lollobrigida was not only a goddess of the big screen, but enjoyed celebrity status in Spain and in particular on the Costa del Sol. The diva had a luxury villa at her disposal and was invited to all the biggest parties.

Bullfighting

The actress of Solomon and Sheba (1959) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956) fame became a regular at Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe’s resort and would visit on breaks during filming in Spain. During the filming of Cervantes (1966), the press would turn up at Malaga Airport, where they were sure to get photos and a few words from the film star.

Salvador Dalí and Gina Lollobrigida at a party after the premiere of the musical Sonrisas y Lágrimas / ARCHIVE IMAGE.

In 1969, she had a traffic accident and fractured her knee while driving her Rolls Royce in Italy, but it was Marbella where she came to recover.

From the Pirate's party institutionalised by Hohenlohe to concerts by great artists including Raphael in the gardens of the Hotel Don Pepe, as well as nights at La Pagoda Gitana, Lollobrigida’s love life was always of great intrigue for the press. However, the Italian actress would simply tell them that her only love was her son, Milko.

Lollobrigida developed a passion for bullfighting during her stays in Marbella and was a regular at the province’s bullrings to watch her favourite bullfighters in action, including El Cordobés, Ordóñez and Miguelín. She even began to write a book on the subject with her own photos of the bullfighters. "I am enthusiastic about it", the actress said in an interview with SUR in 1968.