Brunello Cucinelli talks personal taste: Part Two

A laudable library of books, Perugina chocolate and a love of lighthearted pranks round off the cashmere brand owner’s list of likes

Brunello Cucinelli at his headquarters in Solomeo, Perugia
Brunello Cucinelli at his headquarters in Solomeo, Perugia | Image: Fabio Massimo Aceto

My style icon is a theoretical mix of three men: the Prince of Wales, a man who loves a good jacket and has such amazing manners; John F Kennedy, whose Bostonian style was very appealing; and Gianni Agnelli, who was the master of individual style – a white sweater round the shoulders of a navy polo-shirt, a shirt and round-necked cashmere sweater with a tie on top, the watch outside the cuff. I never copy such details because they were his alone. All these icons are mature – the young are into fashion, not timeless style.

The place that inspires me is the Bosco di Solomeo, a small wooded hill that induces in me what Rousseau called the “rural delirium”. I walk up there with my black labrador, always sit at the foot of the same oak tree and contemplate the precious Umbrian vista before me. I take a pencil and notepad and come back drunk with good thoughts. It’s the ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Cucinelli’s Minerva statue, in the entrance of his home
Cucinelli’s Minerva statue, in the entrance of his home | Image: Sante Castignani

An object I would never part with is my 2m-high statue of Minerva, which two artists in Carrara took two years to make for me, working in the Renaissance tradition. Apart from being an amazing work of art, it is very inspiring – Minerva was the goddess of both wisdom and weaving – and the way she stares at me is very thought-provoking.

The last item I added to my wardrobe is the new Marina sailing jacket I’ve designed, in nylon, or in cotton (which I prefer). It’s more fitted and shorter than the average, but still goes over a sports jacket. I always try out new styles before we sell them, and this will go in next summer’s collection. €1,266, www.brunellocucinelli.it.

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An indulgence I would never forego is my habit of playing lighthearted pranks and jokes on people. I try not to make them nasty and I hope they don’t make people uncomfortable, but I do find them amusing. I could say it comes from the culture of Lorenzo the Magnificent who believed in being happy and joyful because no one knows what tomorrow will bring, but I think I watched too much Candid Camera as a child.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the pyramids in Egypt. It’s very crowded and noisy, but if you shut that out and just concentrate on the line-up of the pyramids and the fierce-looking sphinx, you cannot help but be amazed at man’s achievement in such ancient times. Next time, I’ll go at dawn.

Brunello Cucinelli cotton sailor jacket SS13, €1,266
Brunello Cucinelli cotton sailor jacket SS13, €1,266

And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is some drawings made by children in Malawi, where we are involved in a hospital-building project. They are of their village and life, in beautiful earth shades of brown and red on rough paper. I keep them in my study to remind me of the generosity of people who have very little.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Pane e Vino, a very simple restaurant in Cortona. I had wonderful crostini with melted cheese, hot bread with lardo di Colonnata, a platter of 12 carefully chosen local cheeses and 10 salami, and lovely dark Perugina chocolate. All wines are by the glass so you can try something special like Sassicaia and it’s not expensive. As a result you get a great mix of all ages; people swap wine across the tables and the atmosphere is brilliant. Piazza Signorelli 27, Cortona (+390575-631 010; www.pane-vino.it).

Pane e Vino restaurant in Cortona, housed in the old cellars of a 14th-century building
Pane e Vino restaurant in Cortona, housed in the old cellars of a 14th-century building

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Leonardo da Vinci – well, not collect because I’m not that acquisitive, but I would love to be the custodian of Il Codice Atlantico Della Biblioteca Ambrosiana Di Milano, the extraordinary book of his drawings and mathematical formulae, which to me is one of the greatest works produced, artistically and intellectually.

My favourite room in my house is my library. It has a big fireplace and a wonderful view so it’s great in the winter, too – I study a little, nap a little and smoke a cigar; I’ve worn out the sofas as I spend so much time there. I have about 4,000 books, so I never run out of choice.

Azzaro For Men
Azzaro For Men

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Mayfair in London. It has the best choice anywhere of luxury brands, from the most established to the latest successes, and independent stores that buy truly creatively. I love Browns and Dover Street Market, where you find a clever mix of big names and new young designers from all over the world. I also love EB Meyrowitz, which is an optician with a wonderful atmosphere. Browns, 27 South Molton Street, London W1 (020-7514 0016; www.brownsfashion.com).  Dover Street Market, 17-18 Dover Street, London W1 (020-7518 0680; www.doverstreetmarket.com). EB Meyrowitz, 6 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London W1 (020-7493 5778; www.ebmeyrowitz.co.uk).

My favourite website? I don’t have one, as I rarely use the internet. I prefer personal contact and recommendations.

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The grooming staples I’m never without are Azzaro cologne – I believe everyone should have a signature fragrance that becomes part of their personality, and I have worn this since I was 15 – and La Prairie Skin Caviar cream because I have fair skin with a tendency to dryness and I really feel it makes a difference. Azzaro Pour Homme, available from Harrods, 87–135 Brompton Road, London SW1 (020-7730 1234; www.harrods.com) and at www.azzaroparis.com. La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, £275 for 50ml, www.laprairie.com.

If I didn’t live in Solomeo, the city I would live in is Rome, in an apartment with a view of the Fori Imperiali and the Colosseum – I know I’m demanding, but I love ancient Roman architecture and culture and these are superb examples. I especially rate the Hotel d’Inghilterra – very central, near the Spanish Steps, a favourite because it’s traditional and comfortable but stylish. I also love the Palazzo Altemps, a beautiful 15th-century building that is now part of National Museum and houses Roman art statuary. And Trattoria Lilli, a typical Roman restaurant with the best pasta in town. Hotel d’Inghilterra, Via Bocca di Leone, Rome (+3906-699 811; www.hoteldinghilterrarome.com), from €275. Palazzo Altemps, Via di Sant’Apollinare 44, 00186 Rome (+3906-996 7700). Trattoria Lilli, Via Tor di Nona 23, Rome (+3906-686 1916; www.trattorialilli.it).

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