In a Run-Down Roman Villa, a Princess From Texas Awaits Her Next Act

What the onetime romance novelist (“Conglomerate,” 1985) depicts as a great love story had a plot twist in 2015, when the prince’s second wife, Princess Ludmilla Boncompagni Ludovisi of St. Petersburg, Russia, began foreclosure proceedings on the villa, because her former husband had stopped paying her alimony.

That was no surprise, according to Prince Bante, one of the three sons from Prince Nicolò’s first marriage. He described his father as a drunk wastrel who chased women, squandered a fortune and sold off family treasures to pay for the minimum of essential renovations. He refers to his father’s widow as Ms. Carpenter, a “gold digger” who lives in the “peasant” quarters of the villa — and much, much worse.

Prince Bante said he and his brothers, who are also disputing the inheritance among themselves, became convinced that Princess Rita did not have their father’s best interests, or longevity, at heart, and that she let him drink himself to death in 2018. Princess Rita pointed to run-ins with the law by one brother and a fraud conviction against another. She called Prince Bante a “borderline personality” who once laid hands on her, an accusation he denies.

For the princess, the past few years have been a constant battle.

In December 2020, as she recovered at home from a fall that broke her kneecap and arm, the stepsons, joined by Italian Cultural Ministry officials, entered for a random inspection of the villa, which is an Italian cultural treasure. They found a leak and required that it be immediately repaired, prompting the princess, she said, to call the restaurateur Nello Balan, namesake of the Manhattan hot spot Nello’s, to whom she has been romantically linked. (“We’re very, very good friends,” she said coyly.)

She considers the inspection tantamount to a home invasion.

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