The Lavarello family was a distinguished Genoese family that could trace their descent back to the 14th century, but not to Byzantine nobility. Possibly on account of his mother having had an affair with a high-ranking member of the Catholic Church in Rome, Lavarello grew up in the Vatican instead of in Genoa. Throughout his life, Lavarello, in addition to his pretensions, attempted to pursue a career in painting, though he failed to gain any significant traction. He often looked for prestigious lines of descent, beyond his own Lavarello line, in order to enhance is social status. Lavarello's genealogical inventions were spurred not only be the questionable legitimacy of his own birth, but also by his experience during World War II. Because he was a student, Lavarello avoided being drafted into combat. Foreseeing the dangers posed to him by the threat of Nazi occupation, Lavarello returned to the Vatican as a refugee together with his mother in 1943. Given that there were many among the Italian nobility, critical to the fascist regime, already taking refuge in the Vatican, Lavarello's own lack of aristocratic titles spurred his inferiority complex. Lavarello only stayed in the Vatican for a few months, being expelled for "annoying" a young and handsome Swiss guard. After the liberation of Rome in June 1944, Lavarello began to refer to himself as a "marquis of Bourbon-Neapolitan origin".