Princess Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso (1808-1871) lived an adventurous life in the limelight. She was beautiful, extremely intelligent and original in her artistic taste. Heiress to one of the greatest fortunes of Italy, she was deeply involved in the Italian unification movement headed by Mazzini.
In the early 1830s, separated from her philandering husband and pursued by the Austrian police, she escaped to France, where she became a close friend of General Lafayette. She established a very successful salon in Paris. It attracted Italian patriots, exiles, intellectuals, writers, artists and musicians. Rossini was an old family friend, Bellini was her protégé and Liszt fell in love with her.
She organized the famous piano duel between Liszt and Thalberg, and in 1837 she commissioned the Hexameron - a collaborative piano piece by the well-known composer-performers Liszt, Thalberg, Chopin, Pixis, Czerny and Herz - to be presented at a benefit concert for the poor.
In 1849, during the brief life of the Roman Republic, she directed the Roman hospitals (before Florence Nightingale!). With the defeat of the Roman Republic, Belgiojoso, penniless, embarked on an eight-year long exile to “the Orient” with her daughter. She established a farm in Turkey, traveled to Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, and wrote novels.
In 1856 she returned to Italy and resumed her campaigning for Italian unification (1861). She spent her last years writing at her residences in Milan and Lake Como.
~by Irene Zanini Cordi