Clara Petacci
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Clara Petacci
Image: Archivio Centrale Beni Culturali,

One of the residents of Villa Ruhland was also an Italian actress Clara Petracci, who, at a very young age, fell in love with Mussolini. She was married to Riccardo Federici, a lieutenant of Italian Air force at the time.

She met Mussolini for the first time in 1932 when his car momentarily pulled over next to her. From that moment she wrote letters to the dictator and even managed to be granted an audience. Clara eventually became Mussolini’s mistress. After engaging in an affair with Petacci, Mussolini sent her husband on a mission to the Far East. Later on, she filed for divorce which was granted in 1936. Petacci was given an apartment in Palazzo di Venezia so that Duce had easy access to his lover. However, after several years, her jealousy and possessiveness drove Mussolini to find ways to get rid of her by going as far as forbidding her access to the palace in 1943. One of the reasons for such measures were also rumours about the high costs of her lavish lifestyle, which put the leader in a bad light.

After his removal from power, Mussolini and his lover were arrested. She was later released and rejoined the fascist leader after he had been successfully retrieved by German special troops and set up the Republic of Salo in the north of the country.

The dictator did not wish to be in a relationship with the former lover and in the last weeks of the war offered her a safe passage to Spain, the offer she declined. She followed Mussolini in an attempt to escape capture. The dictator was eventually arrested and executed. Clara requested to be with her lover and lost her life on the 29th of April in the town of Giulino di Mezzegra.

Even though Mussolini saw other women at the time, and was actually still married to his wife Rachele, Petacci remained faithful till the end of her life and their relationship was the longest in the dictator’s life.

Petacci’s diaries, personally passed to countess Rina Cervis, were dug out from the countess’s garden in 1950 and were kept secret for the reasons of national security until they were published 70 years later.