Imperial Venus

Imperial Venus
Interviews
28September2011
Domenico Savini

Zenaide Giunta, descendant of the beautiful Paolina Bonaparte

11 09 19 Castello di Magrano OK

In June 1825 Paolina Bonaparte, universally considered the “Venus” of the Napoleonic Empire, died in Florence. After the defeat of Waterloo, almost all Napoleon’s other brothers and sisters spent the years of exile in the Tuscan capital. The future Napoleon III lived for several years in Palazzo Gianfigliazzi on Lungarno Corsini. The beautiful Paolina adored these places: she had villas and residences in Bagni di Lucca, Lucca and Viareggio, as well as Palazzo Borghese in Via Ghibellina in Florence. On the island of Elba, where she had followed her famous brother in exile, there are numerous memories connected with the “Imperial Venus”: legend even tells that a rock in the gulf of Procchio, the “Paolina rock”, is the one she used to dive into the sea from, an authentic forerunner of sea bathing. The start of the success of Viareggio as a tourist destination is due to the fact that the beautiful princess had her summer residence there.
Among the descendants of the Bonaparte family in Italy, the countess Zenaide Giunta is the one who comes closest to her famous ancestor in terms of beauty and charm. The Giunta family originates from Florence; Zenaide’s grandmother was the granddaughter of Giulia Bonaparte. The lovely name Zenaide also derives from the imperial family. It seems that Joseph, the emperor’s elder brother, had in his youth been in love with a Russian princess, Zenaide Wolkonskji and subsequently named his first daughter after her in memory of this amour.
Zenaide Giunta now divides her time between Rome and Perugia, where she manages the family relais de charme resort, “Le torri di Bagnara”. In Tuscany, the Giunta family still own a splendid property in Cortona.
Zenaide, what links you most to the Bonaparte family?
Many family memories: for example, a bust representing the mother of Napoleon, while other objects were donated by my father to the Napoleonic museum in Rome. Then, if we want to talk about a historic and affectionate link, I can say that I belong to many Bonapartist associations in France and in Spain. In Spain I could even be a pretender to the throne, since I am a direct line and first-born descendant of Joseph, who had been elected King of that great nation by his brother.
Do you see your ancestry as a burden?
I wouldn’t say so. At most it’s a responsibility. Being called Zenaide is actually more difficult, since it’s an uncommon and unusual name. I don’t feel the burden of the Bonapartist tradition; on the contrary, it’s a stimulus. I’m proud of being descended from Napoleon, and even more so from the beautiful Paolina, the “Imperial Venus”.

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