‘Law & Order: SVU’ Star Mariska Hargitay Soaks Up Italian Sun in ‘Off-Duty’ Snap

by Suzanne Halliburton

When your alter ego is Law & Order: SVU captain Olivia Benson, you need a break from the action. So yes, that’s Mariska Hargitay looking beautiful and relaxed near an Italian lake.

Hargitay posted a photo of herself, absorbing all that gorgeous sunlight. She was laughing, with her head cocked to the side. And Hargitay, who always prefers dark, neutral suits on Law & Order: SVU, was wearing aqua, with oversized sunglasses completing her fashion ensemble. The photo almost looked like a watercolor. We know everything is molto bella on the shores of Lago di Garda. She captioned the snap: “off duty.” If only we all were so lucky.

Seriously, Hargitay deserves a glorious vacation. She filmed 22 episodes for season 23 of Law & Order: SVU. And that included the show’s 500th episode. It’s the longest-running show on TV for a reason. The actors are akin to endurance runners.

The show also will be going through a transition when Hargitay returns. That’s because Warren Leight, who was on his second stint as Law & Order: SVU EP, decided to leave the show. David Graziano takes the helm in season 24. So he’ll be in charge of what happens with Benson and her fellow officers.

The last we saw SVU, Benson had a decision to make. And get this, it’s basically about whether she’ll allow herself to be happy in her personal life. Everything is cool with Noah, her young son. They went to Mother’s Day brunch together. Rather, Olivia is talking to a therapist about that whole work-life balance.

As the episode called “A Final Call at Forlini’s Bar” opened, Benson asked her therapist “But why am I feeling so sad?” The therapist told her. “Oh, Olivia, everyone is feeling depressed now … You deserve happiness, Olivia Benson.”

This whole Law & Order: SVU season, she’s contemplated having Elliot Stabler back in her life. When Christopher Meloni returned to star in Law & Order: Organized Crime in 2021, that allowed so many more plotlines for Benson and her former SVU partner, who now is a widower.

Stabler wasn’t in the finale, although his name was mentioned throughout the hour. However, Rafael Barba was there. He’s the former SVU prosecutor turned defense attorney. He and Benson always were close friends, but got sideways when Barba represented Richard Wheatley. But now Barba was back representing an abused woman who murdered her husband. Benson and Rollins were trying to help the woman.

At the end of the evening, Benson meets Barba at one of their favorite old bars. They get into a deep discussion about Stabler. Barba isn’t a fan. He tells her “I do know what it means to love someone unconditionally. And when you’re ready to stop feeling betrayed by me, I’ll be here.”

Benson tells him “I miss you, too.”

So you can understand why Hargitay (and probably Benson) need an Italian break from Law & Order: SVU. It was getting intense.