Luciano Giubbilei’s perfect weekend in London

The Italian garden designer is known for his elegant and timeless spaces. He has won three gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and was awarded “Best in Show” in 2014

Image: Nick Ballon

Many of my weekends are spent working – I could be in Sicily looking at cacti, or travelling to Long Island or San Francisco on projects, so a free weekend is a chance to relax. I love being back in London, at home. I live in a tiny flat in a Victorian conversion in Holland Park, overlooking a church. I am a morning person and wake very early. Saturday begins with a run between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens – because I don’t have my own outside space, the parks are my garden and it’s become a ritual, to prepare me for breakfast.

I really enjoy the environment of a grand hotel like The Connaught [pictured]. I arrive early, so there’s no problem getting a table, and I go often so they know me; the service is very relaxed. I usually start with a green juice, especially since I drink a lot of coffee during the week. I take a pile of design magazines with me; I love the quality of the paper, and I get inspiration from what they talk about. Sometimes I stay there until 2pm – it’s such a luxury to have time to read and I always make notes because I have a terrible memory. I use black Moleskine notebooks with big pages and it’s all quite untidy, but I highlight things I need to remember.

Afterwards I’ll go to Hamiltons Gallery next door. The last thing I saw there was the Irving Penn Flowers exhibition, which was incredible – these colourful flowers that you would never think of with Penn. It’s a small space and the way things are displayed is always beautiful. Later I might go to Chiltern Street and look in Trunk, where I can find elegant Boglioli suits, as well as pieces from Massimo Alba and Salvatore Piccolo, a shirtmaker from Naples. I’ve bought so many velvet jackets there – once I was having tea with Paul Smith and he wanted to take my blue velvet jacket back to show his team. Then I’ll go to Shreeji newsagents to buy magazines like The Plant, a Spanish publication about landscapes and philosophy.


Saturday evenings are for the movies at Curzon Mayfair – I know it’s a favourite of so many people but it’s very civilised, and I’ll often have a big bucket of popcorn. Close by is Kiku. It’s not fashionable, it’s not glitzy – it’s just great Japanese food. I like to sit at the bar. I have the house sake and then salmon sashimi, miso soup, rice and tempura.

On Sunday I might go to Chelsea Physic Garden. I’ve known the garden for a long time, but a few years back I went to a talk that Cleve West was doing there and got to know it better. There’s a café, and I love the greenhouses with cacti. It’s a magical place. Afterwards I’ll drop in to John Sandoe, a bookshop off the King’s Road that has great art and design editions.

I like Locanda Locatelli best on Sunday lunchtimes as families and children are there then and it’s much more relaxed. I’ve known Giorgio for 20 years. I used to do the flowers for him when he was at Zafferano and he has the best stories about food, people – everything. I’ll have something simple, either spaghetti pomodoro or rice – they do a fantastic rice with prawns and tomato sauce. I grew up in Siena with my grandmother and the main meal at lunch was always rice – rice with butter and Parmesan; rice with tomato, asparagus or peas.


On Sundays I often go to Wigmore Hall for the morning-coffee concerts, or in the evening. I love chamber music and you can listen to the best there; a few years ago I listened to András Schiff playing Bach’s Partitas – it was beautiful. Superstars come to this stage but it’s an intimate space and it’s very powerful to have them so close to you. It’s the best end to a Sunday I can imagine.

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