Mussolini’s Sex Life
by Joseph Tyson III
Mussolini achieved notoriety as Italy’s head of state for twenty-one years. By marshaling Fascist gangs, he overthrew Prime Minister Luigi Facta in October, 1922. To quell widespread rioting, Mussolini requested and received emergency powers from the Chamber of Deputies. He repaid members of parliament by abolishing representative government and establishing a one-party police state.
Adopting the grandiose title “Il Duce” (“The Leader,”) Mussolini centralized Italy in order to increase his political power. He fired most town mayors and appointed Fascist stooges in their places. Mussolini shut down all opposition newspapers, and established a 100,000 man secret police force, which persecuted liberals. Critics of his regime often met with fatal “accidents.”
Despite his criminality, Mussolini implemented a populist program that improved Italy’s condition between 1922 and 1934. The trains ran on time. His expenditures on defense and public works reduced unemployment and increased Italy’s gross national product. He forced unions and management to cooperate. Thousands of jobless men were hired to build roads, public housing, hydroelectric plants, hospitals, and modern sewage systems. His regime upgraded public transportation by purchasing new trolley and railroad cars. Mussolini enacted national health insurance, retirement pensions, an eight hour work day, child welfare laws, and maternity leaves. Fascism subsidized free outdoor movies, art exhibits, and sporting events.
Though pudgy and only five feet, two inches tall, Mussolini had a gargantuan sex drive. As a sixteen year old in 1899 he had his first sexual experience with an obese, middle-aged prostitute. Three years later, while working as an elementary school teacher in Predappio, he took as his mistress the wife of a soldier stationed abroad. Two young women brought paternity suits against him between 1908 and 1910 in Forli, where he worked as a wine shop clerk and part-time socialist agitator. Benito’s girlfriend Rachele Guidi delivered their daughter Edda in December, 1910. After Rachele became pregnant again in 1915, he married her. Although they ultimately had five children, that didn’t impede his career as a serial adulterer.
Senior diplomatic officials knew about Mussolini’s compulsive womanizing. During a naval conference with Britain in December, 1922 aides had to restrain him from trying to seduce a female reporter in his London hotel room. Wags in the foreign service dubbed him Italy’s “Erection-in-Chief.”
From 1922 to 1943, Mussolini lived like a sultan with palace, bachelor pad, country estate, private plane, yacht, and garage full of cars. Promiscuous sex became his all-consuming passion and “imperial” prerogative. He rationalized his hobby as a sexual predator by declaring that no superman of his attainments should be confined to one woman. His valet, Quinto Navarra, reported that Mussolini had women delivered to his office for sex almost daily. Some of those encounters were rapes, with unsuspecting girls being fondled, dragged to a couch, ravished, then abruptly ushered out without so much as a cup of coffee. He sometimes just unzipped his fly to have intercourse, without bothering to take off his uniform or shoes. Such less-than-romantic “trysts” generally occurred in the afternoon-- on sofas, against a wall, or on the floor.
Mussolini maintained secret files which classified ladies as “known” or “new,” and evaluated each one’s allure according to an obscure rating system devised by himself, which took into account anatomy, facial beauty, personality, sexiness, etc. He paid more attention to fan letters from “groupies” than government correspondence. He designated a special police detail to investigate female admirers, and grant private audiences to those who caught his fancy. Duce boasted that, during the early years of his reign, he typically engaged in coition three times per day. He claimed to have had fourteen concubines at one period, plus innumerable casual sex partners. Among the regulars were Romidla Ruspi, Alice De Fonseca Pallottelli, Margherita Sarfatti, Giulia Brambilla Carminati, Magda Fontagnes, Angela Curti-Cucciati, Comelia Tanzi, and Clara (“Claretta”) Petacci. Mussolini bragged that several women seduced him, including Princess Marie de Savoia, wife of Crown Prince Umberto.
Mussolini preached the health benefits of orgasm. Clara Petacci recorded one of his sex-education sermons in her diary.
“Orgasm is good for you; it sharpens your thoughts, …
widens your horizons; it helps your brain, makes it
vivid and brilliant.”
Mussolini first met Clara, daughter of Vatican physician Dr. Francesco Petacci, on April 24, 1932 at Ostia, an upscale beach resort. With navy blue beret perched rakishlt on his bald dome, Mussolini sped past her family’s car in his fire-engine-red Alfa Romeo, probably en route to an assignation. In his rearview mirror he spied pretty “Claretta” leaning out her dad’s window, waving and crying out: “Duce! Duce!” Never one to pass up an opportunity to appraise a nubile female, Mussolini signaled her father to pull over behind him. He introduced himself to Dr. and Mrs. Petacci, Clara, and her fiancé, Air Force Lt. Ricardo Federici. Duce pretended to remember the adulatory poems Claretta had mailed him, and invited her to visit his palace. Madame Petacci accompanied her daughter on the first trip to Mussolini’s lair. Since the word “platonic” was not in his vocabulary, Mussolini’s relationship with her did not remain innocent for long. Following Clara’s divorce from Lt. Federici in 1936, she became Il Duce’s favorite. According to her tell-all diary, in the throes of passion “Benny” once whispered:
“I have a feverish desire for you …
Be afraid of my love. It’s like a …
tremendous… cyclone, overwhelming
everything. You must tremble.”
Pint-sized Mussolini liked Claretta to call him her “giant.” In her journal she graphically related a bedroom session with 55 year old “Moose.”
“We made love with such force that he bit my shoulder
… and left a mark… I hold him tightly. I kiss him
and we go at it with such fury that his screams seem
like those of a wounded beast. Then, exhausted, he falls onto
Despite his crush on Clara, Duce continued to copulate regularly with other women. One day she accused him of having sex with his old girlfriend Alice De Fonseca Pallotelli. He replied:
“All right, I did it. I hadn’t seen her since before
Christmas. I felt like having her company. I
don’t think I committed a crime. I spent twelve
minutes with her.”
Clara corrected him: “Twenty-four!”
Mussolini nervously responded:
“O.K., twenty-four then. So it was a quick thing.
Who the hell cares? After seventeen years
there’s no enthusiasm. It’s like taking my
Claretta and “Benny” built their relationship on mutual distrust. Between 1939 and 1943 she made him telephone her a half-dozen times per day to confirm his whereabouts and activities. Forgetting to contact Clara would trigger accusatory calls from her. To make sure she never cheated on him, Duce assigned platoons of investigators to spy on her.
Myriam Petacci characterized elder sister Clara as an independent, cultured, and talented lady. She drove her own car in an era when few Italian women did, wrote excellent poetry, played both violin and piano with virtuosity, and painted stunning landscapes. Duce mewed her up like a caged canary in Palazza Venezia. To relieve boredom she drank tea, read books, played music, spoke to friends and relatives by phone, listened to the radio, and wrote diary entries.
In July, 1940 Clara became pregnant by Mussolini. Two months later she almost died from a miscarriage. Distraught Duce cancelled all meetings and stayed by her side at the hospital. To save Claretta’s life doctors had to surgically remove her reproductive organs.
Like many couples Mussolini and Clara had their share of conflicts. In June, 1942 Duce intended to visit Africa in order to “galvanize the troops.” She forbade him to do anything so foolhardy. Her bitter reproofs stung his masculine pride. For several days he sulked and refused to see her. When Mussolini collapsed due to abdominal pains in May, 1943 he dismissed hysterical Clara and summoned wife Rachele to tend him. In June, 1943 pompous Duce rebuked Clara for (accurately) predicting that the Fascist Council would soon kick him out of office.
Mussolini must be given credit as a demagogic politician of ability for his feats of achieving dictatorial power in 1922, and managing to hold onto it for two decades. Unfortunately, he had no aptitude for foreign policy. The British and French regarded him as a buffoon, whose threats and promises were equally empty. Duce continually railed against Italy’s “enemies” in speeches. Though designed to rally the populace around him, such denunciations of peaceful trade partners failed to move most Italians, who had not forgotten World War I’s devastation.
On October 2, 1935 Il Duce launched his infamous Ethiopian Campaign. In violation of the Geneva Convention, Italy’s mechanized, numerically superior army slaughtered brave, but ill-equipped, Abyssinian tribesmen with mustard gas, exploding “dum-dum” bullets, and fighter planes. Utilizing the latest technology, Italian troops killed over 30,000 Ethiopians, while losing approximately 1,900 of their own men. Italy only succeeded in seizing Addis Ababa and its environs, leaving indigenous people in control of outlying areas. This senseless invasion of a third world country yielded no advantage to Italy. The League of Nations condemned Italian aggression, thus pushing Mussolini toward Hitler.
Another crisis diminished Mussolini’s international reputation in 1936. Civil war had erupted in Spain. To assist General Francisco Franco, he sent 70,000 troops, along with arms, ammunition, vehicles, aircraft, fuel, and medical supplies. That adventure put further strain on Italy’s overburdened economy. Italian Air Force pilots shocked world opinion by bombing population centers. Mussolini’s belligerence further alienated Britain and France. Aware of Duce’s worsening relations with democratic powers, Hitler lured him into sanctioning Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938.
After much vacillation, Mussolini decided to enter World War II on June 11, 1940. Like a vulture, he leapt on prostrate France. His “attack” near Nice, during the final phase of Germany’s overwhelming victory, stalled in the face of negligible resistance. Perhaps to make up for that poor showing, Duce attacked Greece. That operation collapsed when Greek conscripts counterattacked, and drove his retreating army into Albania. .
Mussolini’s pointless foray into Greece infuriated Hitler, who had to delay Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union in order to rescue his ally from a total fiasco. In April, 1941 the Germans quickly routed Greek forces, but left Italy’s unmotivated army to occupy Greece and put down guerilla uprisings..
To make matters worse, a 35,000 man British force soundly defeated General Rodolfo Graziani’s 300,000-strong Africa Corps in Libya. The English captured 113,000 prisoners, as well as 700 artillery pieces. That debacle forced Hitler to send several divisions to North Africa under the command of General Erwin Rommel. In spite the humiliating reverses he suffered in Greece and Africa, Mussolini declared war on the Soviet Union in July, 1941 and United States in December of that year. Duce informed horrified King Victor Emmanuel that he wanted to show solidarity with “invincible” Germany.
In 1942 Mussolini surreptitiously approached Allied intermediaries in Switzerland to see what peace terms they might offer. The German Intelligence Service (Abwehr) found out about his sneaky peace feeler. In the end it came to nothing because British and American agents considered Mussolini a pathological liar, and refused to parley with him. In February, 1943 Duce fired son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano as his chief diplomatic advisor in an ill-concealed effort to blame him for his own blunders. By this time Hitler viewed Italy as a liability. In German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s words, “the Allies’ greatest stroke of genius was to antagonize Mussolini into joining our side.”
On July 24, 1943 Mussolini’s own Fascist Council voted him out of office. They shipped their former dictator to La Maddalena Island and placed him under house arrest. Two months later Hitler dispatched a group of glider commandos to rescue him. After that daring feat’s success, the Germans set Mussolini up as figurehead of their Salo Republic, a move which sparked eighteen months of civil war. Italians now derided him as “the Gauleiter of Italy.”
Soon after Nazi Germany reinstated Duce as puppet ruler, Clara Petacci moved into his quarters at Villa Fiordalisio near Lake Garda. On October 24, 1944 a showdown occurred there between her and Rachele Mussolini. Mrs. M. decided to visit her errant hubby and confront his mistress. SS Lieutenant Franz Sproegel, who guarded Duce, furnished an account of this drama. When told that she could not see her husband, Rachele protested, and began climbing the compound’s fence. Hearing noise outside, Clara walked onto the veranda. Rachele pointed to her, saying: “there’s his whore… the most hated woman in Italy!” Clara exclaimed: “she’s mad, dangerous! Get her out of here!” Rachele countered: “No, I’m his wife. You get the hell out!” Clara insisted that she was Duce’s “spiritual support,” and his letters proved it. Rachele replied: “show me!” At that point harried Mussolini appeared. Claretta turned to him and requested permission to quote his letters.
“ ‘Is it really necessary?’ he stammered.
‘Indispensable!’ Well, all right,
but don’t make the situation worse.”
Clara fetched a stack of letters bound together with a pink ribbon, opened one, and began to read: “I need your words… Today I miss you.” Rachele interrupted: “is that truly his writing?” Then she lunged toward Clara, attempting to tear the paper out of her hand. Lt. Sproegel intercepted Rachele, and received deep fingernail scratches from her, which drew blood. He then hustled her out the front gate with help from another soldier. Over her shoulder Rachele gave Clara the evil eye and yelled a prescient remark: “you’ll end badly, bitch... They’ll drag you to Piazza Loreto!” (Milan’s public gallows.)
As Anglo-American forces pushed northward through Italy, Mussolini and his German guards retreated. On April 26, 1945 anti-Fascist leader Orlando Marazza demanded that former autocrat Benito Mussolini unconditionally surrender within two hours. Instead, Duce put on a Luftwaffe uniform and headed north with his German convoy toward Switzerland.
Mussolini parted from weeping Clara on April, 26th and urged her not to follow him. Early in the morning of April 27, 1945 the procession of German armored vehicles transporting him stopped at a partisan roadblock. His Luftwaffe sergeant’s tunic with mismatched Italian general’s trousers did not fool laughing irregulars who pulled off Mussolini’s German helmet to expose his bald head. They arrested “Sergeant Duce,” and drove him to a farmhouse in Dongo. Clara and her brother Marcello had tailed Mussolini. Partisans took both into custody.
Anti-fascist officer Pier Luigi Bellini delle Stelle presumed Clara to be no more than a gold-digging courtesan. That impression changed after meeting her. She refused to leave Mussolini, even though it became clear he’d be executed. Bellini warned Clara that misplaced loyalty to the old “sugar daddy” would get her killed. She said:
“How can I make you believe that I was with him all
those years simply because I loved him? The only time
I lived was when I was with him… My life will be
nothing once he’s dead. That’s all I’m asking: to die
Bellini conveyed her to Belvio, where Mussolini had been taken. She greeted him:
“ ‘Good evening, Excellency.’
(He replied), ‘Good evening, Signora.
Why are you here?’ ‘Because I want
to be.’ “
They made an odd couple: sixty-one year old Mussolini, reeking of B.O., looked like a derelict-- clad in a baggy uniform, his head bandaged, dark stubble on his face. Glamorous thirty-three year old Claretta was perfumed, made-up, and fashionably-attired in silk dress, fur wrap, and high heels.
At 4 P.M. on April 28th,” guerilla leader Walter Audisio burst in and announced that he’d arrived to “save” Duce. The disgraced tyrant— not deceived by this ruse—trudged dejectedly in the rain to a waiting Fiat, which headed toward Lake Como. “Benny” and Claretta held hands. The car suddenly stopped in a small village, Giulino di Mezzegra. Mussolini’s captors ordered him to get out and stand up against the iron gate of Villa Belmonte, a local estate. Fearing the worst, Clara clung to him. Audisio snarled that he’d shoot her if she didn’t let go of Mussolini. He whipped out an automatic weapon and pointed it at them. Clara rushed at him in an attempt to knock his gun away. He shot her, then turned toward Mussolini and fired two bursts. Nine rounds struck him, four in the heart.
Partisans transported the corpses of Mussolini and Clara Petacci fifty miles south to Dongo, a suburb of Milan. At an Esso gas station on Piazza Loreto a barbarous mob abused their bodies till sunset. Someone placed a stick in Mussolini’s hands to resemble a scepter. Screaming curses, people kicked and spat upon the dead. Some threw garbage at them and pummeled them with clubs. One woman pulled out a revolver and fired five bullets into Mussolini.
To provide spectators with a better view of the deceased pair, guerillas hung them upside down on a canopy above the gasoline pumps. Later added to this horrible tableau were the corpses of Culture Minister Allesandro Pavolini, Minister of Interior Paolo Zerbino, and three other cabinet officials. When night fell, partisans cut down all victims and dumped them onto Piazza Loreto. To the embarrassment of Italy’s new government, Mussolini’s cadaver went missing for months. Police finally located a chest containing his mutilated remains at Centosa diPavia monastery. Yet it was not released to next of kin for another twelve years. On September 1, 1957 Mussolini’s family at last buried his bones in San Casciano Cemetery, 160 miles north of Rome.
A NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Howard Tyson, a native of Germantown, graduated from LaSalle University in 1969 with a B.A. in Philosophy. He has worked in the insurance industry since 1972, and still lives in the Philadelphia area. He has written six non-fiction books: Penn's Luminous City, Madam Blavatsky Revisited, Hitler's Mentor, The Surreal Reich, World War II Leaders, and Fifty-Seven Years of Russian Madness.