Sophia Loren is, of course, the award-winning actress with a career spanning more than three-quarters of a century. Born in Italy in 1934, Loren spent her formative years living in poverty in a country ravaged by World War II — and she was determined to change the hand that fate had seemingly dealt her, her mother, and her sister.
It was an uphill battle: She told The Guardian in 2020 that her mother, Romilda Villani, had been hesitant. “She was against new things,” Loren explained. “She thought I would never be successful, and that was wrong, she was wrong. Later, she started to believe that I could maybe be somebody. But it was always a big maybe. To her, the life that I wanted, it was all a dream. And she didn’t believe in dreams.”
When Loren broke into movies, it wasn’t long before she was known not only as a versatile actress and singer, but as one of the most beautiful women in the world — a long way from a childhood where she was once described by an acquaintance (via Biography) as “the ugliest child I ever saw in my life.”
Loren has continued acting well into the 21st century: In 2020, she starred in “The Life Ahead,” playing a former sex worker in a film directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti. That’s true love of the craft: According to CelebrityNetWorth, Loren has assets in the neighborhood of $150 million. How did she get there? It was a long road.
Sophia Loren grew up in poverty
Some people are born into wealth, handed a fortune before they’re even able to walk. That wasn’t the case with Sophia Loren, and she’s described her childhood in war-torn Italy in heartbreaking terms (via The Indian Express): “Hunger was the major theme of my childhood. My mother was begging for food for us. She’d bring us back a potato, a fistful of rice.”
Loren was born in a charity hospital in Rome, says Vogue, and according to Italy Segreta, she ultimately grew up in the little town of Pozzuoli. It was there that she, her mother, sister (pictured, with Loren), and her extended family lived in a small flat, sleeping nine to a bedroom: Loren, Time says, shared a bed with an aunt and two grandparents. Always a quiet child, she was often ridiculed for her figure and given a nickname based on it: Stecchetto, or Little Stick.
Things started to change when she was 14, and she started to develop into an adult. It was then that she started entering — and winning — beauty pageants, and got her first job modeling for magazines called fumetti, which were essentially live-action comic books. All the while, she visited the town’s movie houses. She had once taken shelter there during the bombing raids of World War II, they also exposed her to something just as valuable as safety — a vision for her future. Then, in 1950, she took the money she won from a beauty pageant and headed to Rome to become a star.
Her break into acting was spectacular
Sophia Loren tends not to give too many interviews, so when Vanity Fair scored one with her in 2012, it was an extensive piece where she talked about how she credited her mother with nurturing her career from the first time she won a beauty contest. It was called Queen of the Sea and Her 12 Princesses, and Loren was one of the 12. It came with $35, a few rolls of wallpaper, and a ticket to Rome: From there on out, Romilda Villani dedicated her life to her daughter’s career.
Sofia Scicolone became Sofia Lazzaro, and finally, Sophia Loren. This was also about the time she entered another beauty contest and caught the eye of a movie producer who invited her to take a screen test. That would prove fortuitous for a few reasons. That producer was Carlo Ponti, who already had 20 films under his belt by the time he met Loren. He’d also discovered, promoted, and made actresses famous before, and when he met Loren, he knew he’d found the next big thing in Italian film. He would go on to have some 169 film credits, mostly as a producer, and build an empire of his own (via IMDb).
That’s relevant to Loren’s own fortunes because after a difficult beginning to their relationship — which was complicated by his marriage, children, and Catholic Italy’s views on divorce — they would marry and remain an entertainment world power couple for more than 50 years, until his death in 2007.
Sophia Loren was paid well for her 1957 film with Cary Grant
Sophia Loren spent much of her life supporting her mother and sister, once describing them (via Vanity Fair): “I was the head of the family, the husband, going out to work every day, my mother was the wife, and my sister … was the child.”
For her first real film role, she wasn’t the first choice. When the original actress refused to have her voice dubbed for the adaptation of a famous opera, Loren stepped in: “I couldn’t afford to be so proud.” It was the start of a career that went very far, very quickly, and according to The Irish Examiner, her early earnings allowed her to do several important things. She moved herself, her mother, and her sister into their own apartment, and — since their father had refused to allow Loren’s sister to use his last name — Loren paid him to give her sister a last name and a sense of respectability and pride that also allowed her to go to school.
Loren starred in “Aida” in 1953, and after a handful of European films, she was cast in “The Pride and the Passion,” which also starred Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. She already commanded a respectable salary of $200,000 — adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of about $2 million.
She married a wildly successful producer
While exact numbers are difficult to come by, it’s safe to say that Sophia Loren’s fortunes only increased with her marriage to the Italian film producer Carlo Ponti. When he passed away in 2007, The Hollywood Reporter described his wealth as consisting of “a fortune considerably greater than that of his wife,” while leaving that up to the imagination.
Still, what do we know? Loren and Ponti met when she was just 15 years old, but didn’t marry until much later — for the first time in 1957. That was annulled because of complicated divorce laws that saw them getting French citizenship in order for Ponti to divorce his first wife, which he did. Then, they married officially in 1966, had two children together, and stayed together until his death. Ponti, says The Washington Post, had a pretty prolific career. He was involved with more than 100 movies — including big-budget pictures like “War and Peace” and “Doctor Zhivago” — and along with early partner Dino De Laurentiis, he bankrolled scores of films from the French New Wave genre.
His death came after he was admitted to a hospital in Geneva, Switzerland, where they reportedly had owned several homes. His official cause of death was described simply as a lung ailment, and it was announced that the funeral would be private. His obituary quoted him in 2002, saying of his career, his life, and his promotion of Loren’s film career: “I have done everything for love of Sophia. I have always believed in her.”
Her Geneva apartment is filled with treasures
When The Hollywood Reporter announced the death of Sophia Loren’s husband, Carlo Ponti, they mentioned that at the time, they owned several homes in Switzerland. When Vanity Fair interviewed Loren in 2012, they noted that she had spent most of the previous 43 years in Geneva, and when they got a look at her apartment in the city’s Vieille Ville, it’s really no wonder.
Just a stone’s throw from the Musee d’Art et d’Historie, it looked like it could have been an extension of the museum itself. Walls were lined with tapestries and paintings, everything was gold and burgundy, and all the furniture was antique.
The section of the city Loren’s apartment is in is right in the center — and let’s talk housing prices. RealAdvisor says that anyone who’s interested in moving to Geneva better have a massive bank account: 80% of the apartments for sale in this particular area come with a price tag between $915k all the way up to a cool $5.3 million.
The most beautiful house in the world
Of all the properties owned by Sophia Loren and her husband, there’s one in particular that deserves a closer look. That’s the 18-acre, 16th-century villa just a few miles outside of Rome. Located in Marino, it’s the sort of place that doesn’t just have riding stables and an orchard — it does — but it also has things like an aqueduct and a waterfall.
Vanity Fair says that Loren and Ponti bought the villa in 1960, and did around $2 million in renovations to make it home. According to LIFE, those renovations took a few years to complete, and although Loren said that the days she spent living in the 50-room mansion were nothing short of picture-perfect, she sold the villa at the time of her husband’s death. She explained: “Life gets very hard when you lose someone so important to you, and you don’t need to be surrounded by the memories all the time, which are so strong and hit you in the most unexpected moments. … The more I go on without him, the more I miss him.”
Italia Living says that Ponti had promised Loren the “most beautiful house in the world,” and that was the Marino home. Prior to that, though, he was living in another villa about 10 minutes from Rome’s Colosseum. Technically two separate villas on one property, the 14,000 square-foot mansion went up for sale in 2019, for the completely reasonable sum of around $22 million.
Sophia Loren has had a shocking amount of jewelry
While it’s impossible to tell what treasures Sophia Loren has among her undoubtedly vast jewelry collection, there are some things we do know — she’s had a shocking amount stolen. According to Tatler, one theft happened in England in 1960. Loren was filming “The Millionairess” when she left the cottage she was staying in and headed to the airport to meet her husband. When she returned, she found that most of her jewelry was gone — including several sets of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. The total value was around $250,000 and adjusted for inflation, that’s about $2.4 million. The case was never solved.
Then, in 1970, The New York Times reported that four armed men had broken into Loren’s hotel room in Central Park South. This time, she was there: “I was shaking. They came into the bedroom, you know, while I was asleep.” This time, they made off with jewelry worth around $700,000 — or a little over $5 million, when adjusted for inflation. While some of it was on loan from a high-end jeweler, about $500,000 of it was her own — and it wasn’t insured. Loren said that she hadn’t been able to find anyone to insure the gems because of the previous robbery.
Loren has been connected to owning some serious bling, including a number of pieces by Bulgari. Everyone has their favorites, so what’s hers? Reportedly, that’s a piece that her husband gave her for her birthday — a gold necklace containing 48 Burmese rubies.
She and her husband had a massive art collection
Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti invested heavily in art, and while exact values are difficult to find, the bits and pieces of information that are out there are pretty impressive.
In 1977, Loren was heading from their Roman villa to their apartment in Paris. She was bringing some of the collection with her when she was stopped, and the paintings were seized amid accusations that Ponti had smuggled around $10 million out of Italy. (Vanity Fair says that their villa in Marino was also seized, but everything was returned to them in 1990.) The paintings Loren had been taking to Paris were valued at a whopping $6.7 million, and even included a Picasso. The Orlando Sentinel puts the number of paintings in their collection at around 230, and adds that they also owned works by Renoir, Dali, Matisse, and Canaletto.
That wasn’t what their collection was most known for, though: According to ARTnews, their collection also contained 10 paintings by Francis Bacon. Some have come up for auction: In 2007, Loren sold Bacon’s Study for Portrait II for about $16.5 million (via Beaumont Nathan), and in 2022, Christie’s auctioned off a Magritte for just over $7 million.
Sophia Loren has been wildly successful with ad and beauty campaigns
It’s no secret that Sophia Loren has been considered one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen, but that beauty wasn’t always recognized. In her memoir, she wrote that after the first photo shoot she attended, she was told that she was “impossible to photograph,” and was told that she needed to get some serious plastic surgery done. She refused, later writing (via The Irish Examiner), “I didn’t want a small, turned up nose. I knew perfectly well my beauty was the result of a lot of irregularities all blended together in one face, my face.”
It’s not entirely surprising, then, that Campaign has labeled her “an infinite influencer,” and most recently, she’s lent her glamorous stardom to Dolce & Gabbana. According to iItaly, the partnership kicked off in 2016 with a lipstick designed with her in mind, and marketed alongside her signature.
She has also been the face of other Italian brands, like GCDS. In 2019, she starred in a campaign for streetwear that saw the fashion company joining forces with Barilla pasta, and it’s kind of appropriate as Loren once famously said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.”
She’s made a foray into the culinary world
That photo with Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield needs no introduction, because it’s the one that introduced the side-eye to the world. According to what Loren told Entertainment Weekly, that cool European glance was because she was afraid for the state of the dinner table should Mansfield spill out of her dress.
That — coupled with the fact that she is Italian, after all — makes it not entirely surprising that she’s embarked on some foodie adventures and investments. In 2021, Forbes Italy reported that she had partnered with an established company to open her own pizza chain in Florence. It’s called Sophia Loren Original Italian Food, and it’ll be serving up not just pizza, but pastries and wine, too. Will it go global? Fingers crossed!
Loren’s restaurant endeavor came long after her two cookbooks, filled with gorgeous, candid photos of Loren in the kitchen. When The Kitchn spoke with her in 2019, though, she gave a brilliant answer to an inquiry about what she would prepare as a favorite romantic meal: “Nothing.” Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!
Sophia Loren has had a shockingly long career
When it comes to Sophia Loren’s considerable fortune, the bottom line is simply that she had a long, successful career and worked incredibly hard for decades. Her enduring popularity hasn’t been only about her beauty, either — it was relatively early in her career that she won an Oscar for a foreign language film, 1960’s “Two Women,” and she would go on to play tough, gritty characters. As she explained to the Independent: “In my career, I’ve always tried to play women with a strong character. … I was lucky enough to receive for myself roles that were good for my appearance, and were good for my inside.”
Her salary for “Aida” was one million lire — or around $500. By 1957, her salary had risen to $200,000 (via The Irish Examiner), and as of 2020, she had a whopping 98 acting credits to her name (via IMDb), spread out over a career that lasted from the time she was an inexperienced 16-year-old to “The Life Ahead,” in which the 86-year-old Loren played a former sex worker and Holocaust survivor who mentors a boy she catches trying to steal from her.
Her success allowed her to do something that ended up being most important to her — taking a step back from films during the 1980s. “I said to myself, ‘I want to enjoy my children, I want to stay with them, because after all, I had them, they are beautiful.’ And so I put a stop to everything, and without knowing, I was out of cinema for a long time.”