She appeared on the covers of Italian, German, French, British and American magazines. She also took part in beauty contests. She began a promising acting career in the post-neorealist cinema of the 1950s.
She was noticed by film producer Franco Cristaldi, who paired her with Marcello Mastroianni in Piece of the Sky in 1959.
More important was her second film for him, Louisiana sfida (The Challenge), directed by Francesco Rosi, where she made a name for her powerful but sensitive performance as a Neapolitan girl, inspired by the real-life character of Pupetta Maresca. The film was well received at the 1958 Venice Film Festival.
Schiaffino was launched as the "Italian Hedy Lamarr". However, she would have been more appropriately introduced as the new Italian sex goddess after Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren, but in the early 1960s that role was passing to Claudia Cardinale.
Schiaffino began a new life with the jet set.
During the summer of 1980, in Portofino, she met the handsome playboy and steel industry heir Giorgio Enrico Falck, who had also just divorced. Their affair was big news for the gossip tabloids. Rosanna Schiaffino died of cancer after a long illness on 17 October 2009, aged 69.