Once upon a time, Cesare Badoglio, who puts his age at “between 80 and 99,” was the spirit whisperer for some of the brightest talents in Italian fashion.
At his popular weekend events in Milan at the Hotel Verdi, Mr. Badoglio — tarot reader, astrologer, fortune teller — threw cards for Franco Moschino and Gianni and Donatella Versace, among others.
He was a constant psychic adviser to Enrico Coveri, the color-loving Italian designer, whose whirlwind success Mr. Badoglio claims he predicted — and even kindled — thanks to a vision of sequins that then became the Coveri signature. The designer was so convinced of Mr. Badoglio’s powers that he tried (and failed) to convince the card reader to join his business. Sadly, he died in 1990 at just 38 years old.
“You can’t predict everything,” Mr. Badoglio said recently, his eyes wet.
Though the Italian fashion world may have become marginally less superstitious since then, some style insiders still seek Mr. Badoglio’s predictions.
“To feel that there’s something positive on the horizon reassures me and calms me down,” said Tania Piccioli, who works in handbag manufacturing and is a devotee.
Mr. Badoglio often tells his clients in the fashion industry to visit the Vienna cemetery where Princess Sissi, the glamorous 19th-century empress of Austria, is buried. There, they can invoke the benevolence of the princess, who in the afterlife has, he says, made a habit of supporting modern designers. “I’ve been speaking to dead people since I was a child,” Mr. Badoglio shrugged.
On the future of fashion, he predicts, perhaps more belligerently than credibly, that jeans — a trend for decades — will soon disappear in favor of elegant gowns and evening wear.
Mr. Badoglio wears his white hair to chin length (“Long hair is lucky when the weather is hot”) and favors striped shirts with zigzag sweaters or plaid blazers to fit in with the decorative riot of his Florence studio. The apartment was given to him by a client from one of the local aristocratic families, he said, and is adorned with flowered wallpapers, dust-encrusted devotionals of saints and a Warhol-style portrait of himself.
In his pocket, there are always cards: a now ragged deck with heraldic iconography inspired, like all tarot decks, by the Renaissance princes, seraphic cherubs and other imagery drawn from hand-painted Italian playing cards of the 15th century.
Mr. Badoglio’s tarot studios in Florence and nearby Prato are papered with shots of him next to the celebrities who’ve turned to his cards for guidance, including Sophia Loren, Paris Hilton, Cher, Lenny Kravitz, Sting, Liza Minnelli, Prince Albert and the Dalai Lama (who laughed his way through the reading, Mr. Badoglio said).
Mr. Badoglio, who wrote horoscopes for the Italian newspaper La Nazione and the gossip magazine Chi, also aided Federico Fellini, in whose service he beseeched cemetery-dwelling spirits to bless the set of “Satyricon.”
When Franco Zeffirelli hit a creative roadblock while shooting “The Taming of the Shrew” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Mr. Badoglio said he discovered a curse on the director by sleeping in the bedroom of the movie’s stars. Mr. Badoglio then spent three months entreating his cemetery spirits to undo the malediction, until Mr. Zeffirelli was able to begin filming again.
At a recent reading in his Florence studio, Mr. Badoglio threw tarot cards onto the desk and said: “Luck is the most important thing in this world.”
“Luck, luck again, work, travel for work, good news, well-being, longevity,” he said of this reporter’s future, indicating each medieval illustration on his tattered cards with the florid gestures of a conjurer performing a magic trick.
Mr. Badoglio’s cards seem to continually forecast good luck, which may spur skepticism, even in those who come to him for a reading. According to his version of events, a two-hour reading in Florence with the card of fortune on the table failed to convince Patrizia Reggiani, the ex-wife of Maurizio Gucci who was desperate to hold onto the fashion scion’s fortune as he planned to remarry, that she should follow his advice to have faith that she would retain her wealth.
Ms. Reggiani did have another fortune teller close to her, however: her good friend, Pina Auriemma, who later confessed to arranging the murder of Mr. Gucci and ended up in prison along with Ms. Reggiani, a real-life crime drama portrayed in the upcoming film “House of Gucci.” It’s based on the book by Sara Gay Forden, who says that Ms. Reggiani turned to fortune tellers to guide her, to put hexes on Mr. Gucci, and to try to sway events in her own favor.
“Why did Patrizia believe some things and not others?” Mr. Badoglio said. “In my cards, I have faith.”