ROME—In many ways, the real story of Patrizia Reggiani, played by Lady Gaga in House of Gucci, begins where the film ends. The once grande dame of Milan high society turned murderess spent 18 years in San Vittore prison—which was once occupied by German Nazis—which she preferred to call “San Vittore residence.” In various interviews after her incarceration, she referred to her time there as both “relaxing” and “horrible,” during which she “slept a lot.”
But a prison guard who worked in the women’s wing when she was there says it wasn’t always easy for the diva. She enjoyed certain privileges, including being allowed to keep an emotional support ferret named Bambi in her cell. The animal sadly died when another prisoner sat on it about halfway through her sentence. She spent her recreational time getting sun in the prison yard as if it were a private beach club she was accustomed to. The guard, who is not authorized to speak due to privacy issues, told The Daily Beast that she used her fame—and infamy—to get other inmates to do things for her and to bribe certain guards. “She was Lady Gucci in prison, too,” she said. “She never let anyone forget who she was.”
Her cell was filled with plants and photos and she had expensive linens brought in for her single cot. In 2016, she told The Guardian that she preferred not to talk about it: “It’s all a bad dream to me.”
In 2011, she was offered work release parole but declined, telling the parole board, “I’ve never worked a day in my life; I’m certainly not going to start now.” Years earlier, when her husband Maurizio Gucci was still alive, she told reporters, “It’s better to cry in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.”
When she was offered a second chance for work release in 2013, she took it. During her search for a job, she called Gucci headquarters to see if she could work as a consultant. “They need me,” she told la Repubblica newspaper at the time. “I still feel like a Gucci—in fact, the most Gucci of them all.”
She ended up finding work at a high-end costume jewelry shop called Bozart, which undoubtedly knew it could capitalize on her infamy. In 2014, they let her debut a collection of evening bags which she designed under the name Gucci. She previewed the collection, which she called Rainbow Tales—named for her self-described rebirth like a rainbow after a storm—to mixed reviews at Milan Fashion Week.
She attended the event with her colorful macaw parrot Bo perched on her shoulder. “Her work has always been bags and she couldn’t wait to be visible again, but this for her is a debut because before she was ‘the wife of’ while now she is happy to do something of her own,” Bozart co-owner Alessandra Brunero said at the time. “The result is a conceptual mix between Bozart’s experience and Patrizia’s.” She eventually became a co-stylist with Maurizio Mana, Bozart’s other owner.
Paola Franchi, who was Gucci’s lover at the time he was murdered—for the record, they met after he and Patrizia had split, not during the marriage as the film implies—has fared far better in many ways. She founded an association to help young people find psychiatric care called L’amico Charly in 2001 and wrote a book in 2010 called The Broken Love, in which she lambasts Reggiani between tales of the high life in Portofino and Saint-Tropez. Through her agent, she declined an interview for this article.
Pina Auriemma, the sorceress who was convicted of arranging the hit on Gucci for Reggiani, was released from prison in 2010 and calls herself the “former friend” of Lady Gucci. In an interview after her release, she called Reggiani dangerous. She only gives interviews for a fee and declined to speak with The Daily beast. She did tell an Italian television journalist that she was not actually a sorceress. “There was a misunderstanding when I was arrested. I do not remember who associated me with magic,” she said, then blamed Reggiani for it. “It is true that Reggiani and I were friends, but I was not her lady-in-waiting, also because the lady-in-waiting is paid and she never paid me.”
Auriemma hopes to never see Reggiani again, she said. “She is a very dangerous woman. Do I want to tell her something? I want to tell her that I have no grudge against her. My mistake was to know her, to hang out with her. I paid dearly.”
She was also disappointed not to be consulted for House of Gucci. “Unfortunately they are making a film, my dream was to be forgotten,” she said in a TV interview when House of Gucci was being filmed. “After serving my sentence to the end, I thought I no longer had these sufferings. One cannot forget that there was a person killed, it is a very painful thing.”
Today, Reggiani’s lawyers say she is unable to give interviews though she did express her disappointment with Lady Gaga for not reaching out to meet her personally.