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Netflix’s new true crime docuseries Vatican Girl dives into the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi and follows her family’s 40-year search for answers.

Orlandi’s proximity to the Catholic Church’s seat of power is central to the mystery. And it has many wondering why the Orlandi family lived in Vatican City. 

‘Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi’ offers theories on what happened to the Italian teen

A photo of Emanuela Orlandi featured in the docuseries Vatican Girl
Emanuela Orlandi featured in Vatican Girl | Netflix via Youtube

Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi comes from the team behind Netflix’s Don’t F**k with Cats. The four-part documentary series features interviews with Emanuela’s siblings, Pietro, Natalina, Federica, and Maria Cristina, and her mother, Maria. It also includes testimony from several people connected to her case, including former law enforcement officials and journalists. 

Emanuela was 15 when she went missing after a music lesson in Rome. The last time she spoke to her family, she called to tell them she was approached by a man who asked her to sell Avon products. 

Following her disappearance, the Orlandi family received dozens of calls about her supposed whereabouts. One man claimed he was holding her hostage in exchange for the release of Mehmet Ali Ağca — the Turkish man that shot Pope John Paul II in 1981. Others alleged she changed her name to “Barbara” and had become an Avon representative. 

Some theorized she was kidnapped by people in the Vatican and later murdered. Others speculated the mafia took her. And some believe she ran away and is still alive somewhere. 

The Vatican hasn’t revealed any information about Orlandi’s disappearance. But Pope John Paul II did plead for her freedom in 1983. And Pietro noted that Pope Francis told him “Emanuela is in heaven” just weeks after he was elected in 2014.

So why did Emanuela Orlandi’s family live in Vatican City? 

As documented in Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, Emanuela’s disappearance took center stage in Italy because of her family’s connection to the Roman Catholic Church. Her family lived in a small apartment in Vatican City. The gated country inside Rome only houses about 500 citizens, including the Pope, high-ranking clergy, and special employees of the Church. 

Emanuela’s father, Ercole, reportedly worked as a clerk for the Prefecture of the Pontifical House — a body that helps run the Papal household. Details of his position weren’t revealed in the Netflix documentary. But Pietro did note that his family had been working for the Vatican for generations. 

“The Orlandi family has lived in the Vatican for 100 years and served seven Popes,” Pietro says. 

‘Vatican Girl’ reveals Emanuela Orlandi’s mom still lives in Vatican City

In Vatican Girl: The Disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, Pietro tours the Orlandi’s Vatican City apartment. He reveals how Emanuela’s room has been kept intact for all these years, including her bed, and the books and dolls at her bedside. 


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Emanuela’s father Ercole died in 2014. And it is unclear if any Orlandi family members currently work for the Vatican. Her mother Maria still lives in the flat and notes she’s kept a key in the door since Emanuela went missing.