Lunch with Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren

Audrey Hepburn visits Sophia Loren and her husband, producer Carlo Ponti in Switzerland.

Audrey Hepburn visits Sophia Loren and her husband, producer Carlo Ponti in Switzerland.

During Christmas 1957, Sophia Loren and her husband Carlo Ponti rented a villa in Switzerland. Their neighbors were Audrey Hepburn and her husband actor Mel Ferrer.

One day, while Mel was away for work, Audrey invited us to lunch. To get to their house we had to walk along a trail surrounded on both sides by the peaceful, silent snow. It was like being in a fairy tale. The chalet was very beautiful, luminous, all decorated in white, set on a hill overlooking the lake. Audrey was dressed in white too, as was the table, on which she’d placed a few flowers and lots of candles. It was the height of elegance.

Sophia Loren, 1955 “The church is opposed to cloning, but an exception might be made in the case of Sophia Loren.” —Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State

Sophia Loren, 1955

“This place is enchanting,” I said. And she answered lightly: “I need solitude and beauty…”

We chatted amicably, talking about movies, friends we had in common. We took a tour of the house. Then we sat down at the table. In came the appetizer, or so I thought upon seeing it. A leaf of lettuce, a curl of fresh cheese topped by a smidgen of raspberry compote. In the plate next to it, a crisp roll, bite size. The conversation was pleasant, the raspberry compote even more so, but when the help came back to take our plates away, Audrey got up from the table and with one of her airy, delicate, perfect smiles, she said:

“I ate too much.”

Our lunch was over.

Diplomatically, I said: “It was so much, and all so delicious!”

I was dying of hunger, and as soon as we got home I made myself a sandwich.

From Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

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12 Comments

  1. Esther
    Posted July 24, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry but that rather ruins my opinion of Ms. Hepburn. It is one thing to have issues with food, but it really is quite self absorbed and narcissistic to serve a piece of lettuce to guests invited for lunch. But Sophia’s comment ‘everything was so wonderful’ was hilarious.

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    • kishke
      Posted July 24, 2015 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      No doubt wherever the shade of Hepburn resides, it is pained by the loss of your regard.

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      • Miranda Rose Smith
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 1:55 am | Permalink

        No. It’s pained by Sophia Loren telling the world about it. Hepburn should have provided more for her guests.

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        • kishke
          Posted July 27, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

          I have no doubt that the shade of Loren, wherever it resides, could not give a damn about your opinion of her.

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  2. dahozho
    Posted July 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always loved Audrey’s poise and style. Knowing about her early years from her son’s biography of her, however, I do not find this story funny. She starved, essentially, during the war years, and it took a serious toll on her system. I don’t believe she was ever able to really eat ‘normally’ again, both for physical and psychological reasons (Karen may have a different perspective, just imo). Charade is still one of my favorite movies.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted July 23, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Dahozho:

      Thanks so much for your comment. I read the same book and agree that Audrey probably had some issues with food. It’s interesting, but Loren and Hepburn both starved during the war. But their relationship to food was entirely different. I also think that simple biology has a great deal to do with how and what people eat.

      In any case, a belated mazal tov to you and yours! We look forward to flying to your hometown and eating lots and lots of food (at least I will, Karen, not so much) at the chuppah.

      I like “Charade”. But I love “How to Steal a Million (1966)” Her chemistry with Peter O’Toole is amazing.

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      • Miranda Rose Smith
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:24 am | Permalink

        What about PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES?

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  3. kishke
    Posted July 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Very funny story.

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted July 23, 2015 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Kishke:

      I laughed out loud when I read this anecdote.

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  4. Bill Brandt
    Posted July 23, 2015 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Well, Audrey was skinny – to the point of almost emaciation! Was it here? probably – I saw a photo of Sophia with the caption quoting her that she owed her figure to spaghetti

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    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted July 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Bill:

      Yes, I posted the spaghetti quote in a past Friday Photos. Food is an important character in Loren’s memoir. She even published a cook book. During the war, she, her mother and sister, were close to starvation on several occasions.

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      • Miranda Rose Smith
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:00 am | Permalink

        Pearl Bailey, may she rest in peace, also published a cookbook. Audrey Hepburn should have provided more for her guests, but Sophia Loren shouldn’t have complained, in a biography the whole world would read, about the inadequate meal.

        Today is the fast of the 9th of Av. I wish all the religious Jew, on this website, who are fasting today, an easy one.

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