In 1918, when Ada Prospero was just 15 years old, she fell in love with her neighbor in Turin, Piero Gobetti. A year older than she, he was tall, with dark curly hair, dazzling and intense, his smile enchanting. She was studying music and he was about to begin a law degree. They decided to learn Russian together (Ada was already fluent in English and French) and to read the same book whenever they were apart. Influenced by Benedetto Croce and Antonio Gramsci, Piero and Ada soon became active campaigners for political renewal. Through the publications Energie Nuove (New Energies) and Rivoluzione Liberale (Liberal Revolution), founded by Piero and edited by Ada, the couple became vocal critics of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party following its entrance into the government in 1922. Soon Mussolini’s Blackshirts were attacking Piero, repeatedly beating him to a pulp.
Ada and Piero were married in 1923. They had a son, Paolo. Their circle of friends included Natalia and Leone Ginzburg, Vittorio and Lisetta Foa, Primo Levi, and Levi’s sister, Anna Maria. By 1926, the Fascist beatings were taking a grave physical toll on Piero. He left Turin for Paris, Ada and Paolo to follow shortly. Piero died before they reached him. “For me, this love is not something in my life,” Ada had once written to her beloved. “It is my life, the air I breathe, the reason why I breathe.”