Michela Murgia, an acclaimed novelist, intellectual, and civil rights campaigner, passed away at the age of 51, leaving behind a legacy as a symbol of freedom and feminism in Italy. Murgia gained prominence nearly two decades ago with her first novel about her experience working in a call center, which was later adapted into a popular film. She was known for her outspoken criticism of Italy’s rightward shift and her advocacy for acceptance of nontraditional family structures in a predominantly conservative nation.
Before her death, Murgia expressed her wish to have an open funeral, which was attended by hundreds of people from different walks of life. Mourners gathered outside the Basilica of Santa Maria in Montesanto, known as “the church of the artists,” in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo to pay their respects to a woman who had inspired them through her novels and public debates. Many in the crowd carried rainbow flags or copies of her books, highlighting Murgia’s advocacy for LGBTQ rights.
Even those who disagreed with Murgia’s views, such as Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, offered tributes, recognizing her as a woman who fought for her ideas. Murgia had frequently criticized the current government’s policies, which she believed resembled a “fascist regime.”
In July, Murgia married Lorenzo Terenzi, an actor and director, just days after revealing her stage-four kidney cancer diagnosis. The marriage ensured that her will would be respected under Italian law, as her blood relatives would have otherwise inherited her property and made decisions about her unpublished works and legacy.
Murgia’s concept of family went beyond traditional notions, as she believed in a “queer family” that included chosen individuals and friends. She explored this idea in her writings, challenging the dominant paradigm of heterosexuality.
Murgia’s funeral was a testament to her impact, with bells ringing and applause erupting as her coffin emerged from the church. The crowd sang “Bella Ciao,” a song associated with the resistance movement during World War II, as a sign of respect. Though not everyone agreed with her views, Murgia’s cry for freedom and love resonated with many, especially the younger generation.
Murgia’s final book, “Tre Ciotole” (Three Bowls), incorporated stories about illness and was seen as both a literary and political statement. She urged others not to wait for a tragedy like cancer to live life to the fullest.
Michela Murgia’s legacy as a fearless advocate for civil rights, freedom, and feminism lives on. She challenged societal norms, fought against right-wing politics, and inspired countless individuals through her words and actions. Her presence will be deeply missed, but her influence will continue to shape the future.