Odious Woman #1: Born on September 20, 1934 in Rome, Sophia Loren was -- what people used to call -- an illegitimate child. When her father refused to marry Loren's aspiring actress mother, Sophia moved to the port town of Pozzuoli to live with her grandmother. That was during WWII when bomb after bomb rained down from the sky and Sophia was once struck by shrapnel in the chin. After the war, Sophia's grandmother opened a pub where Loren waited tables until, at the age of fourteen, she entered a beauty contest in Naples. The judges selected her as a finalist and from there, she left to Rome to begin a film career.
Soon she met Italian film producer & director, Carlo Ponti, who fell deeply in love with her. He helped launch her career, which was to span over a half-century. Trouble was, Carlo was married and in the Italy of the 1950's divorce wasn't recognized. So Ponti obtained a divorce in Mexico and then married Loren. But when they returned to Italy, the Catholic Church denounced their marriage. The Italian government issued a warrant out for both of them, accusing Ponti of bigamy and Loren of concubinage. Their legal problems in Italy mounted until in 1965-6 Ponti, his first wife, and Loren became French citizens and settled both the divorce and marriage for good. Ponti and Loren thereafter had two children -- Carlo Jr. (1968) and Edoardo (1973).
Sophia remained faithful to short and stubby Carlo until the end of his life (in 2007) even as attractive men stumbled all over her. Cary Grant fell so deeply in love with her that he proposed marriage several times during the late 1950's. In spite of Loren's refusals, Grant split with his significant other in order to continue his attempts to win Sophia's heart. Then, during and after filming The Millionairess (1960) where Loren co-starred with Peter Sellers, he split with his first wife due to his love for Loren, which she insisted she reciprocated platonically only.
Sophia is best known for winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her film, Two Women. But she never forgot her hometown, filming three movies set in Naples: Neapolitan Carousel (1954), L'oro di Napoli (1954), and It Started In Naples (1960). The latter film co-starred Clark Gable and aptly portrayed the strong cultural differences between Italians and Americans.
Sophia Loren continues to have an affinity for Naples, being an ardent fan of S.S.C. Napoli. In 2007 she promised that if the soccer club won enough games to be promoted to Serie A, she would do a striptease. That year, S.S.C. Napoli achieved this goal. Today, fans still wait and ask: Will Sophia strut her stuff?
The Sophia Nooks of Naples: Three wonderful places pay tribute to Sophia Lauren today. The first is the port town of Pozzuoli where Sophia grew up during WWII. Roaming around here is a delight.
The second is La Bersagliera restaurant along the harbor of downtown Naples. The restaurant was frequented by Sophia Loren (as well as Salvador Dali) and has photos of her inside.
The third is a fantastic dining experience on the Amalfi Coast called Donna Sophia Ristorante. We drove along sheer cliffs overlooking the sea until we came to Sorrento. We then turned onto a road so small that the walls had a thin aqueduct-like line scooped out from either side to let the belly of cars get through. What's more, this narrow road was a two-way street, so we needed to honk our horn often to let those driving in the opposite direction know we were headed their way. We turned onto a dead-end road with overhanging lemon trees. A parking lot was off to one side. We'd made it to what looked like a secluded private home. Inside was a fantastic restaurant with incredible ambience and a menu to match.
Today, instead of a recipe, I display pictures of the meal. We had the Salt Encrusted Fish. The waiter cleaned the fish for us at our table and naturally, the dish turned out buttery.