Born in 1808 in one of the oldest and wealthiest families of the Lombard aristocracy, the Trivulzio family, orphaned of her father, at sixteen married against the will of the family the most admired noble in Milan: Emilio Barbiano di Belgioioso Este. A playboy. Cristina was unable to redeem him, and at the age of twenty she separated. She became a carbonara, fought for Italy’s independence from Austria, financed revolts, fled abroad, the Austrians blocked her heritage. So she ended up in Paris in poverty: to support herself she worked as a seamstress, then translations and portraits, she lived in an attic. “She was adopted by the Marquis of Lafayette, the hero of the two revolutions, the American and the French, who fell platonically in love with her at the age of seventy,” says Vercesi. He got up, part of his money was released from Austria. For about ten years, until 1840, the French intelligentsia and exiles from all over Europe gathered in his living room. He made Heine, De Musset, Liszt and Balzac fall in love. She moved at ease in those environments, keeping suitors at bay and above all having her say in politics. He didn’t just finance newspapers and riots, he directed them.
He pleaded the Italian cause to the future Napoleon III long before Castiglione, and without ending up in bed. He absorbed the ideas of the socialists Fourier and Saint-Simon, then supplanted by Marx, wrote books on Catholic dogma and Giambattista Vico. Carlo Cattaneo called her “the first woman of Italy”. He returned to Italy, transformed his castle of Locate into a model estate, with canteens and doctors for the peasants. He participated in the Five Days of Milan, and then in the Roman Republic of 1849 where, well before the Nightinghale, he organized a hospital for the wounded, enlisting noblewomen and prostitutes as nurses. In the 1950s another adventurous exile, this time in Turkey, where he founded a farm and gave work to Italian exiles. Journalist, he wrote reportages going on horseback to Jerusalem. He finally returned to united Italy during the last decade of his life. But no politician attended his funeral in 1871.