Enrichetta Di Lorenzo


If the Risorgimento were a love story, it would be the story of Enrichetta Di Lorenzo and Carlo Pisacane. Dacia Maraini states that historians recount the heroic efforts of men during the Risorgimento but write very little about the women who were by their side.[1]  The story of Enrichetta Di Lorenzo is one of a courageous woman, one who for the love of Carlo Pisacane lost everything (adulterous women had no rights then), even her children. They shared an emotional passion but also a common political ideal: both wanted an Italian Republic, free from foreign oppressors. They were willing to endure the scandal of their love affair, imprisonment, extreme poverty and violent death for these ideals.

Enrichetta Di Lorenzo was born on June 5, 1820, in Orta di Atella (Casserta) to a noble family. She married Dioniso Lazzari, a rich merchant, at age 18 and against her will. It proved to be a very unhappy marriage despite the fact that she had three children by him. Carlo Pisacane had known Enrichetta since he was twelve years old and had fallen in love with her then. In 1846 they declared their love for one another and in 1847 they decided to secretly leave Naples for England to remove Enrichetta from a brutal husband and to denounce the hypocrisy and pettiness of the institution of bourgeoisie marriage. This was the beginning of their adventurous travels abroad under false names to avoid persecution for crimes of adultery by the Bourbon authorities. Carlo, an officer in the Bourbon military, was also accused of desertion. In their transfers they came into contact with other Italian exiles and soon began to acquire a political conscience, based on the ideals of liberty and national independence from foreign oppressors. They were followed by a request of extradition and escaped to Paris but were found and arrested. In prison and in squalid conditions, Enrichetta, pregnant with Carlo’s child, has a miscarriage. On May 8, 1847 the couple was released from prison. In cultural gatherings in Paris they met with other Italian exiles and Enrichetta was welcomed with much admiration. She also met Henri Dumas, Victor Hugo but most importantly, George Sand (pseudonym of Amantine Lucile Duphin), novelist and author of political texts. Sand’s thought that: “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved”, is most likely responsible for the maturation in Enrichetta of the resoluteness of an emancipated woman. This steadfastness sustained her in difficult moments and helped her endure the growing nostalgia for her three children left back in Naples.

At the outbreak of the first war of independence in 1848, Carlo returned to Lombardy to fight against the Austrians and was seriously wounded at Salò.  Enrichetta immediately reached him to assist in his care. When the Roman Republic was declared in 1849 they went to Rome where they both played important roles: Carlo as Chief of Staff to General Rosselli and Enrichetta as an organizer (along with Cristina Trivulzio di Belgioioso, Margaret Fuller and others) for the care and assistance of the wounded in organizing public healthcare and ambulance service. After the fall of the Roman Republic, Enrichetta was able to obtain the liberation of Carlo thanks to the care given also to French soldiers during the battle of Porta San Pancrazio.  In 1852, after a brief period of crisis a daughter, Silvia, was born. In 1855 Carlo approached Mazzini with a project to rise up a revolt in the south after the populist rebellions in Sicily and Calabria. They were planning the campaign of Sapri. Enrichetta was the only woman in June 1857 to participate in the summit with Mazzini, Cosenz,[2] Pilo[3] and Nicotera.[4] The plan seemed like a suicide mission to her but Carlo was convinced that the south was ready for the “social revolution” and that it would be a decisive action. Unfortunately, Enrichetta was right and Carlo on June 28, 1857 committed  suicide after the revolt failed. Enrichetta paid the price for her choices even after the death of Carlo. She was forced to live in Torino, guarded by the Savoy police, subjected to violent searches, scorned by the press and humiliated.

Enrichetta almost certainly met Garibaldi in Genoa when he arrived in 1858 and in 1860 he assigned an annuity to Silvia, Enrichetta and Carlo’s daughter. She could finally return to Naples but shortly before dying in 1871 [“she wanted to return to Rome, even if she was in poor health, to our Rome, the city for which she had so fiercely fought”] as Felice Cavallotti wrote on her tomb. Giuseppe Mazzini did not leave anything written about his differences of opinion with Carlo Pisacane. However he did leave a sentimental homage: [The only ray of hope for he who searches for a country but does not have one, he was accompanied by a love born in 1830, unhappy but nonetheless devoted for 17 years and openly reciprocated with a rare and happy fidelity from that time and until the last days. From 1847 onward the woman of his heart followed him and caressed him with the supreme caress of his uncertain life].

Enrichetta Di Lorenzo was an exceptional woman, who for the love of her man and her ideals, renounced all she held most dear: her children. She participated in the Risorgimento alongside her man so that all children could live in a united Italy, free from foreign oppressors.

We include three letters written by Enrichetta di Lorenzo:

1. Letter to her Mother written on May 18, 1847.

2. Letter to her Mother written on October 28, 1847

3. Letter to the Monitore Romano, an official newspaper. This letter was  written to praise the people of Trastevere for their dedication and help to the wounded in the battle of Porta San Pancrazio in 1849.

[1] Maraini, D. Enrichetta Di Lorenzo: l’adultera fedele. Intervista a Dacia Maraini. http://www.nulladinuovo.it/b/?p=783, Retrieved  Oct. 20, 2013

[2] Enrico Cosenz was a General in the King’s army who fought under Garibaldi and later became a Senator in the new Italian State.

[3]  Rosolino Pilo was an Italian Patriot who enthusiastically joined Carlo Pisacane in the campaign of guerilla warefare that was to be launched at Sapri.

[4] Giovanni Nicotera was an Italian Patriot who joined Giuseppe Mazzini’s movement of Giovine Italia (“Young Italy”) and was among the combatants at Naples in May 1848. In 1857, he took part to the expedition to Sapri, led by Pisacane, but was wounded and captured soon after landing.

Letter of Enrichetta Di Lorenzo to her Mother (May 18, 1847) – English Translation

My Dear Mother,

I’m writing to you for the fourth time, even if I haven’t had any answer from you, only to let you know that I am still alive, something that would marvel you if you knew what troubles I have been exposed to, but the love and the hope to be reunited with my Charles have triumphed. I was in prison for ten days in the prison of “public women” in Paris in a small room with a bed that who knows what kind of woman had used it before me, your daughter, and that you would have certainly disdained to give to one of your servants, a board and a very elegant chair were my furniture. I thought I would lose my poor eyes for the crying I did, but not for the deprivation and the discomfort, only because of the separation from my Charles. We believed that our love could not have grown any more, but we were deceived, now that we are reunited, and for always, it is no longer love, but rapture. The imbeciles who persecuted me thought they would weaken my resolution with their cruelty, but they only made it more firm. I can hardly believe that You, Mother of mine, had a part in all the evil that was done to me, but also why  haven’t you even written to tell me how my dear and beloved children and you yourself are? And if that would have been inconvenient for you, why not secretly call the good Virginia or also the dear Amalia and have them write a few lines to reassure me about you?  But unfortunately you have been too cruel, so much so that I am sure that you think that being united for one year with the man one loves, compensates for whatever suffering one is subjected to afterwards.

We cannot execute our plan to go to America, since we lack the financial means, and also because of my state, since I am three months pregnant. I’m sure that if you could see me now you would have a hard time recognizing me, my physical and moral suffering have caused me to lose weight, but recently my reunion with my dear Charles makes me feel better. Charles had predicted our arrest in Paris, but I stubbornly believing it to be a false premonition, chose to return there in order to be able to receive your news and that of my children, that in the space of three months I have only received two times. I am sure, that if you do not see fit to reply to me even this time, but I can’t rid myself of this sweet hope, that I will only give up by dying, something that I certainly desire, but that I will do the impossible not to concede that to you since now that I have tasted the happiness of living with the man who adores me so much and who I love , my life is too dear and I can only die of too much happiness, if I could add the good fortune of being close to you and my too dear children.

If you finally tire of being so cruel, you can address your letter to me under the name of Enrichetta Di Lorenzo since here everyone knows me, and instead of condemning me they admire me. Thinking of the past, you cannot believe the shame and the contempt I have for myself, and for all the women who embrace in their arms a man without feeling that which I feel for Charles; denying Nature’s sentiments is like being a prostitute; the only idea that consoles me is to think that these sentiments were hidden from me and it would be normal if my dear sisters knew them before they married, to prevent one day a veil falling from before their eyes, so they would not be exposed to such unhappiness if they will ever be able to feel these sentiments.

Farewell, too dear and cruel Mother, I beg you to give one hundred kisses from me to my dear Manina, my Peppino e my Eugenio, I hope they always enjoy good health, I greet all, I embrace all who accept my kisses and kissing one thousand times your dear hands with all my heart even though you reject me, I say I am

Your affectionate and respectful daughter.  18 May – Paris – Rue de Londres

Enrichetta di Lorenzo

Letter of Enrichetta Di Lorenzo to her Mother (May 18, 1847)  (In Italian)

Cara Madre mia, vi scrivo per la quarta volta quantunque senza veruna risposta, solo per farvi conoscere che vivo ancora, cosa che vi meraviglierebbe se conosceste i mali cui sono stata esposta, ma l’amore e la speranza di essere di nuovo riunita al mio Charles, hanno trionfato.

Sono stata dieci giorni nella prigione di tutte le donne pubbliche di Parigi in una piccola cameretta con un letto che chi sa quale donna aveva usato prima di me vostra figlia, e che voi avreste al certo sdegnata di dare ad un vostro famiglio, una tavoletta, ed una sedia molto elegante formavano il mio mobilio, i miei poveri occhi credevo perderli per il continuo piangere, ma non mai per la privazione ed i disagi, solo per la separazione dal mio Charles. Credevamo che il nostro amore non avesse potuto crescere, ma molto c’ingannavamo, giacché ora che siamo riuniti, e per sempre, non è più amore, ma delirio. Credevano gl’imbecilli miei persecutori d’indebolire la mia risoluzione con le loro crudeltà ma essi non hanno fatto che renderlo sempre più fermo. Io stento molto a credere che abbiate potuto Voi, Madre mia, aver parte a tutti i mali che mi sono stati fatti, ma pure perché non mi avreste voi scritto non fosse che per dirmi come stavano i miei cari ed amati figli e voi? E se ciò vi avesse recato incomodo, perché non chiamare segretamente la buona Virginia o pure la cara Amalia a farmi scrivere qualche rigo per tranquillizzarmi sul vostro conto? Ma disgraziatamente siete stata troppo crudele, tanto più che io son sicura che pensate che il passare un anno uniti all’uomo che si ama, compensa qualunque soffrire cui si potrebbe stare soggetta in seguito.

Non potemmo mettere in esecuzione la nostra andata in America, mancandocene i mezzi finanziarli, ed anche per il mio soffrire, essendo incinta di tre mesi. Son sicura che se ora mi vedeste fatichereste a conoscermi, tanto le mie sofferenze fisiche e morali mi hanno dimagrita, da qualche giorno la mia riunione col caro Charles mio, mi fa incominciare a migliorare. Charles aveva preveduto il nostro arresto a Parigi, ma io bestialmente, credendo che fosse un falso presentimento, scelsi ritornarvi per potere più facilmente avere vostre nuove e quelle dei figli miei, che nello spazio di tre mesi non ho avuto che solo due volte. Sono sicura, che non vi degnerete rispondere neanche questa volta ma pure non posso dispensarmi d’aver sempre questa dolce speranza, che perderò solo morendo, cosa al certo desiderata molto, ma che io farò il possibile per non accordarvi giacché ora che ho gustata la felicità di vivere con l’uomo che tanto mi adora, e che io tanto amo, la vita mi è troppo cara e [jaederei] solo morire per la troppa felicità, se si aggiungesse la fortuna della vostra vicinanza e quella dei troppo cari figli miei.

Se finalmente vi stanchereste di essere così crudele, potete dirigermi la vostra lettera sotto il mio nome Enrichetta Di Lorenzo giacché qui tutti mi conoscono, ed invece di condannarmi mi ammirano. Pensando al passato, non potete credere la vergogna ed il disprezzo che concepisco per me stessa, e per tutte le donne che stringono fra le loro braccia un uomo senza sentire ciò che io sento per Charles, è un prostituirsi il mentire i sentimenti della Natura; la sola idea che mi consola è il pensare che questi sentimenti mi erano occulti, e sarebbe regolare che le mie care sorelle li conoscessero prima di andare a marito, per evitare che se un giorno le cada il velo davanti agli occhi, non siano esposte a tanta infelicità, se saranno mai capace di sentire.

Addio, troppo cara e crudele Madre, date, ve ne supplico, cento baci da parte mia alla mia cara Manina, al mio Peppino, e ad Eugenio mio, spero che essi godano sempre buona salute, saluto tutti, abbraccio chi accetta i miei baci, e baciando a voi mille volte le care mani, abbracciandovi con tutto il cuore quantunque da voi respinta, mi dico

Vostra figlia aff.ma e rispettosa,

Enrichetta di Lorenzo

18 Mai – Paris – Rue de Londres, N. 40

Letter of Enrichetta di Lorenzo to her Mother (28 October, 1847) (In Italian)

From Marsiglia

 Cara Madre,

Sono rimasta meravigliata ed inorridita di ciò che si pretende a me; mi condannate per avere io lasciato i miei figli che hanno un nome, una fortuna, delle persone che possono prenderne cura come la loro madre istessa, e poi mi si propone, anzi si esige, che io abbandoni il caro figlio dell’amore a cui sono per dare la luce, e che non avrà né nome, né fortuna, per cui ha più diritto all’amore mio ed alle mie cure!

English Translation

Dear Mother,

I am amazed and horrified by that which you demand of me; you condemn me for having left my children who have a name, a fortune, people who can take care of them as their own mother could, and then you propose, rather demand, that I abandon my dear love child that I am about to deliver, and who will not have neither a name nor a fortune, for which he has more right to my love and my care!


The Monitore Romano was printed in Rome beginning on January 30, 1849 and continued until the fall of Rome to the French occupational forces. The newspaper “officialized” Mazzini’s thought which had been hitherto diffused by clandestine flyers. Attentive to the news regarding the new Roman Republic it gave scrupulous reporting of the main political arguments regarding the Italian States. A remarkable function of the newspaper was to incite Romans to collectively resist the French occupiers. The last issue published the Constitution of the Roman Republic, surprising for its novelty and modernity. Together with the Constitution, the last issue also gave a list of the dead and the wounded who had fought to defend the Republic. The French occupational forces silenced the Monitore romano together with all other Roman press.

Monitore Romano: officiale newspaper

Numero: n. 92

Italia, 1849

To the honorable Citizen Maria Galleffi[1] President of the “Casa secolare di Tor di Specchj.

If deserving of praise are the courageous men who alongside the first Infantry Regiment risked their lives, on the memorable day of April 30 against the disloyal foreigner, no less is due to those citizens of this soulful city who cooperated with their zeal and with their thoughtfulness for the relief of their soldiers: and among the many incidents which took place were those witnessed by the ambulance crew of the aforementioned first Regiment. The courageous soldiers were attacked at several locations, one of them being at Porta San Pancrazio[2], where live fire was felt during the hottest hours of the day. Many, many “Trasteverini”[3] came to the rearguard and to the outposts, demonstrating the most vivid desire to share the dangers with us, and to express sorrow for the fact that there were no more weapons to be distributed among them; so that, unarmed as they were, they established themselves among our lines so as to be ready to transport those courageous men who were dead or had been wounded on the battlefield. Realizing then that momentarily the troops had no wine to quench their thirst, they filled the need by instantly providing wine and bread; which comforted very much our tired soldiers, and who expressed their most heartfelt gratitude. The women encouraged their brothers and husbands to be ready to lend their support; and they themselves competed with them to assist us in any way. The aforesaid ambulance was itself defenseless in Piazza delle Fornaci near the Porta San Pancrazio, when the various wounded were delivered, and it seemed about to rain. The situation so moved the women of the nearby Conservatorio Pio, that they spontaneously opened their visiting room with three or four rooms furnished with beds and mattresses; and one would have said that all had been prepared much in advance: so much was the speed with which we found all that was needed. Therefore many of the wounded were cared for with the utmost ease, and those women helped with the nursing care, demonstrating in every action how charitable and sensitive the heart of that community was.

Praise therefore and eternal praise to the courageous sons and daughters of “Gianicolo”; praise to those Christian women who heed the first obligation of the Divine Teacher, that is to say assistance to those who suffer. May all this serve to incite anyone who may still be reluctant to praise the Eternal City.

For the Committee Enrichetta Pisacane


[1] Maria Maddalena Galeffi was the Mother Superior of the convent of the “Casa secolare di Tor Specchj”.

[2] The main French charge came in June 1849, from the west, at the highest point along the city walls, atop the Janiculum and south of St Peter’s. Garibaldi’s defense headquarters were there, in the Villa Corsini, just outside the Porta San Pancrazio on the vast estate of the Pamphili family.

The Janiculum, Rome

Porta San Pancrazio (yellow arrow)

[3] “Trasteverini” is the name given to the people who live in the Trastevere section of Rome. Trastevere is the 13th rione of Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber, south of Vatican City. Its name comes from the Latin trans Tiberim, meaning literally “beyond the Tiber”.


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