May 03 2011
My personal style signifier? I find this a difficult question. I believe people should be remembered for what they are, not for an object. But I do have two old watches I like to wear: a beautiful Longines mechanical wristwatch, which belonged to my father, and a Rolex that was a gift from my wife when we were engaged – so, a great many years ago, and it was an antique then. It’s a Rolex Prince, and it has the name of an English soldier engraved on the back. I am very attached to both, but for reasons of nostalgia and affection rather than fashion.
A recent “find” is a small hotel in London, The Egerton House Hotel. I discovered it a couple of years ago and still find it very charming. I prefer smaller hotels for the way they recognise you, remember your likes and needs, generally make you feel you’ve come home. From £300; 17-19 Egerton Terrace, London SW3 (020-7589 2412; www.egertonhousehotel.com).
The book on my bedside table is The History of Italy by Indro Montanelli. I realised not so long ago that I knew more about many foreign countries than I did about Italy. I thought I should be a good Italian and get to know it a bit better. www.indromontanelli.net.
The last thing I bought and loved was a painting by an artist called Thomas Gillespie; it’s a scene of London by night, and it was the first time I’d seen his work. It was at an art gallery in Pietrasanta, and it was completely by chance that we went in; but his talent really struck me.
The people I rely on for personal grooming and style are my tailor, Zefiro Bravi – the original owner has passed away but his successor is equally talented and keeps the tradition alive – and my cobbler Mannina, both in Florence. Mannina, Via de’ Barbadori 19r (+3905-521 1060; www.manninafirenze.com). Zefiro Bravi, Via Rosso, Fiorentina 5 (+39339-295 1321).
The thing I’m eyeing next is a bit of a dream, really, which I’ve had for long time. It’s a ruined tower on the Amalfi Coast, just below Positano. It’s the property of the state, but now the state is starting to sell buildings it can’t afford to maintain. It’s not clear who the appropriate person to contact is; there’s no estate agent, per se. But, apparently, it’s available...
An indulgence I’d never forego is the few moments I have in my life of “nothing” time – moments when I’ve returned from travels and the agenda is, for a few hours or a day, free of obligations. It is crucial. That, and chocolate, which is really a weakness rather than an indulgence. Preferably about a 70 per cent cocoa, and with a good glass of red wine.
The best gift I’ve given recently is the monograph of the recent Bronzino exhibition [Mandragora, 2010] at the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. It was a major event, and it represented the city and what it is becoming beautifully. So for Christmas I gave a copy to my American, Canadian and English friends. And they loved it – it was a very appreciated gift, which is a successful gift. www.palazzostrozzi.org.
And the best one I’ve received is, ah, a double magnum of Mormoreto [a Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi red] – a 1985, which is a virtually unfindable vintage. This was given to my by a friend who must be an absolute genius to have found it. I didn’t ask where he did – I simply enjoyed it, enormously. www.frescobaldi.it.
An object I would never part with is my laptop. It’s an Asus. I don’t know how I’d make do without it. www.asus.co.uk.
An artist whose work I would collect if I could is Giorgio Vasari [1511–1574]. I actually had the incredibly good fortune to find that there is a work by him in one of my homes. Since then I have dedicated myself to discovering him.
If I didn’t live in Florence, the city I would live in is San Francisco, which seems obvious to me. It has quite a bit in common with Florence: it’s very beautiful to be in and within 45 minutes you can be in stunning countryside, where they are producing some of the finest wines, definitely in the New World. I always stay on Nob Hill at The Huntington Hotel, which is very traditional and a bit old-world, with very good service; it’s elegant. From $325; 1075 California Street, CA 94108 (+1415-474 5400; www.huntingtonhotel.com).