In 1905, Giovanni Guglielmi uprooted his family and moved south to Taranto in order to advance his career in the field of biological research. In 1906 Giovanni contracted malaria—the disease he was studying. As he lay dying, Gabriella kept vigil while his two sons received their last counsel from their father, “Love your mother and above all, love your country.” Both young men carried this maxim with them to their dying days. Giovanni’s death was a terrific blow to the family: the loss of the patriarch and the family breadwinner. As a result of her husband’s passing, Gabriella was forced to support herself and her children on a small widow’s pension and the modest savings that she and Giovanni had ac-cumulated by the time of his death. Rodolfo grieved for his father, but the loss did not change his wild behavior. His school grades suffered and his restless behavior tried his mother’s already tested affection. He was soon packed off to the Collegio-Convitto per gli Orfani dei Sanitari Italiani, a boarding school for orphans of the medical professionals in Perugia, in the vain hope that he’d bow to the discipline meted out by the schoolmasters. While in attendance his strongest subject was history, but he also did well in civics, geography, and written Italian. Mathematics bored him, and he cut classes whenever he could. He loved sports, soccer in particular. Repeated disciplinary actions did not tame him, however, and he left before threats of expulsion were carried out. With his mother’s help, Rodolfo applied for naval training in Venice. In later life, Valentino bitterly recalled being rejected for the naval training school. He had, surprisingly, passed the written test, but failed the physical examination. This humiliation spurred him to a lifelong pursuit of physical fitness—in fact, his only real vice was chain-smoking. Rumors persist to this day regarding other troubles in Venice, especially those surrounding his attraction to the ladies. He was next sent to the Istituto di Agraria de Sant’Illario in Nervi, near Genoa. The institute boasted a technical curriculum that he found to his liking and more suited to his temperament. The quasi-military training included fencing, wrestling, and equestrian instruction, along with animal husbandry courses. He also nursed a romance with the school cook’s daughter, which he later alluded to with fondness in the magazine series The Story of My Trip Abroad later published in book form as My Private Diary. In 1912 he returned home to Taranto, a graduate at last—but with no prospect of a job. At age 17 Rodolfo was restless and unsettled, and quickly fell into unacceptable behavior. He spent less and less time in respectable circles and more time seeking friends from the stage, cafés, and other undesirable groups. Taranto was too small and too restrictive, he thought. What could he do? Desperately longing for adventure, he persuaded Gabriella to finance a trip to Paris—the dazzling French capital known for its fashionable women and bustling nightlife. In a biography ghostwritten by Herbert Howe and published in Photoplay in 1923, Valentino recalled: “I was a little vain in my social successes—until my money was gone. Then vanity was handed the truth. I pleaded for money from home, dashed away to Monte Carlo to retrieve my fortunes, and a few weeks later enacted that perennial tragedy, The Return of the Prodigal.” In My Private Diary, he said: “I came home feeling more stifled than ever. My experience in Paris had only whetted my appetite for foreign lands and other scenes. Even though they were scenes of trial—which God knows they were. I wanted to get away. There were no opportunities, no horizons.” He relapsed into his old ways upon returning to Taranto, and it did not take long for the family to send Rodolfo out on his own, to succeed or fail away from the family hearth. He later admitted that he helped the family arrive at this decision, “Before the decision was reached to send me on my desired way, I had plenty of time to prove to everyone concerned that something had better be done about me.” In December 1913, the young and adventurous Rodolfo Guglielmi sailed to America, toward an uncertain future.