Fans of the Italian screen legend Gina Lollobrigida shouted “goodbye, Queen of Rome” as they gathered for her funeral in the city while defending her against relatives embroiled in a bitter inheritance feud.
Lollobrigida, one of the most glamorous actors of Hollywood’s golden age, died on Monday at the age of 95.
There was a long applause outside Chiesa degli artisti in Piazza del Popolo on the arrival of Lollobrigida’s coffin, which was accompanied into the church by her estranged son, Milko Skofic, who took a seat in a front-row pew alongside her grandson, Dimitri, and her ex-husband, Francisco Javier Rigau.
“I love her because she was the best actress in the world and there is no equal,” said Francesco San Giovanni, who was holding a sign describing the late actor as “the honour and glory of all Italians” in the large crowd of supporters. “There will never be another Gina Lollobrigida,” he added.
Maria Teresa Battaglia, an actor who starred in a film by the late director Federico Fellini, said: “Gina was exceptional and achieved everything through her own hard work.” Referring to Lollobrigida once being dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world”, Battaglia said: “I never once saw her not looking beautiful.”
Maurizio Silvitella said Lollobrigida represented “the good of Italy”, while his wife, Miani, described her as “the absolute diva, even at the age of 95”.
Lollobrigida’s coffin left the church to music played by a brass band from the Bersaglieri, a unit of marksmen in the Italian army’s infantry corps, in a nod to La Bersagliera, the character she played in one of her most popular films.
Lollobrigida will be buried in Subiaco, a town in the mountains east of Rome where she was born. The daughter of a furniture maker, she did some modelling and entered beauty contests as a teenager before starring in European and international films in the 1950s and 60s, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Solomon and Sheba.
In the years before her death, Lollobrigida was embroiled in a legal battle against her son and grandson – Milko and Dimitri Skofic – who accused her assistant, Andrea Piazzolla, of stealing her wealth. Piazzolla, 34, worked with Lollobrigida for the past decade, also moving into her home with his partner.
In 2021, the Skofics won a legal battle that resulted in a supreme court judge ruling that Lollobrigida needed a legal guardian to protect her estate.
The relationship became even more fraught after Lollobrigida said she had written Piazzolla into her will. In her last public appearance on the Domenica in television show in November, she broke down in tears over the inheritance dispute, saying she felt “humiliated”. “I have the right to live and die in peace,” she added.
La Repubblica reported this week that Lollobrigida’s assets include property in Rome and Monaco as well as a countless jewels, artwork and antique furniture.
Related: Gina Lollobrigida obituary
Fans were surprised to see at the funeral Lollobrigida’s Spanish ex-husband, Rigau, with whom she has also had legal battles over the past decade. Rigau said he had helped her son and grandson to organise the funeral, claiming on Italian TV that he would not receive any of her inheritance as her wealth “had disappeared”.
Lollobrigida’s lawyer, Antonio Ingroia, told La Repubblica on Wednesday: “The feeling is that the majority of people at the funeral will be there for their own interest and not for their affection towards Gina Lollobrigida. I must say that the only one who really stood by her was [Andrea] Piazzolla.”
Fans gathered outside the church agreed. “Where there is money there is no love … only war,” said San Giovanni.