Edmondo di Robilant talks personal taste: Part One

Edmondo di Robilant co-founded the Dover Street gallery Robilant + Voena in 2005 and deals in a wide range of fine art.

Edmondo di Robilant at Robilant + Voena gallery.
Edmondo di Robilant at Robilant + Voena gallery. | Image: Jude Edginton

My personal style signifier is a pair of rose gold cuff links with lava-rock cameos, which I found many years ago. Lava rock was used a lot in Rome and Naples in the 18th century. These are particularly charming; they are not really worth anything, but they represent a period in Italian art that was very sought after by the grand tourists of the Enlightenment – a period I particularly like.

A recent “find” is the basement store of W Bill in Mayfair, for all the bales of cloth you could ever want to see, especially tweed. And the Caffè Sant’Eustachio in Rome, which serves the best cappuccino ever. The coffee machine is hidden by a little screen because it is a secret formula. They have this whole charade, but the result is amazing. Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè, Piazza Sant’Eustachio 82, 00186 Rome (+3906-6880 2048; www.santeustachioilcaffe.it). W Bill, 22-23 Sackville Street, London W1 (020-7437 8174; www.wbill.co.uk).

The ancient amphitheatre at Termessos, Turkey.
The ancient amphitheatre at Termessos, Turkey. | Image: Getty Images/Perspectives

The grooming staples I’m never without are all from Farmacia SS Annunziata in Florence, not to be confused with Santa Maria Novella. I particularly recommend the aftershave cream. €30; Via dei Servi 80/R, 50122 Florence (+3905-521 0738; www.farmaciassannunziata1561.it).

An object I would never part with is my Vespa 250cc Gran Turismo. I will never, ever, part from it, until I finally fall off it and die. I have had one since I was 14; I am now 53, so I am coming up to 40 years of going on a Vespa virtually every day. How else would I get to the gallery from leafy suburbia? It’s an 18-minute ride from home, which would otherwise be an hour. It has now, however, become difficult and expensive to park them in central London. www.vespa.com.

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The book on my bedside table is Beckford of Fonthill by Brian Fothergill. William Beckford turns out to be a very insipid, rather nasty person – a great collector, a great architect and quite a great mind, but he doesn’t come across as terribly nice.

An indulgence I’d never forego is handmade, perfectly polished shoes. I think I have had shoes made by virtually every cobbler in every city in Europe. Funnily enough, the best is George Cleverley, just up the road in the Royal Arcade. 13 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London W1 (020-7493 0443; www.gjcleverley.co.uk).

Oxfordshire shoes by GJ Cleverley, £4,300.
Oxfordshire shoes by GJ Cleverley, £4,300. | Image: James Bedford

The thing I’m eyeing next is an Ulster Cavalry Twill coat from Caraceni in Milan. It is an English army coat with a double breast and round lapels. It is like something from the 1920s. €7,500; Via Fatebenefratelli 16, 20121 Milan (+3902-655 1972; www.a-caraceni.it).

The best gift I’ve received is a Turner print of Venice from my son, Michele, for Christmas when he was about 11. I was particularly chuffed by this little print of the Bridge of Sighs. My family is from Venice and I am an art dealer, so he thought it would be a nice present.

Beckford of Fonthill by Brian Fothergill.
Beckford of Fonthill by Brian Fothergill.

The site that inspires me is Termessos in Turkey. I have been two or three times, and I am amazed by it every time. It is one of the great Greco-Roman ruins, perched in the hills some 30km north-west of Antalya. It is the most beautiful, unspoilt place with green, green valleys. And yet there are these extraordinarily well-preserved amphitheatres, and so on. In some spots you can see for miles to the sea.

The last music I downloaded was Bravissima! The Best by Mina [born Anna Maria Quaini, 1940], an Italian chanteuse of the 1960s and 1970s. As children we used to hear her all the time. I hadn’t heard her songs for some 25 years when, in one of those fancy places with a man plinking away on the piano, there was a Mina song. It reminds me of all sorts of things from my childhood.

Farmacia SS Annunziata aftershave cream, €30.
Farmacia SS Annunziata aftershave cream, €30.

My favourite websites are Sport Antiques, where Manfred Schotten sells the strangest Victorian toys, fussball machines from the 1900s and other sporting things; and then there is Gallery Suav, which sells fabulous reproduction Iznik pottery. It makes the most beautiful things, using traditional and modern techniques. www.kusav.com. www.sportantiques.co.uk.

The second part of this interview will be published on Thursday March 22.

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