Florence is an entirely different city when Pitti Uomo has finished and the fashion boys have left town for the Milan shows. I still can’t get out of the habit of getting up at an ungodly hour so simply take myself off to the Savoy terrace for eggs benedict and hot chocolate and as peruse of Suzy’s column in the International Herald Tribune. Better Half had a terribly long lie-in. Well, we’d gone for a nightcap in the Piazza della Signoria and an orchestra was playing and a crowd dancing furiously. Though I am old enough to know better at my stage of life, I couldn’t resist joining them and ‘throwing some shapes’ as we used to say in the Acid House days.
After breakfast I went shoe shopping: fabulous faded cornflower suede pumps and a lovely pair of brown suede loafers. I might go back for the red car slippers also. The shop – Sax – is run by a divine Canadian lady who totally got my number and was a real ‘up’. I then decided to meander up towards Palazzo Pitti: mis-en-scene for The London Cut exhibition for Pitti Immagine Uomo in January 2007. I cannot believe it’s five years ago now. I am very emotionally attached to the Palazzo Pitti. Perhaps I was Catherine de Medici in a past life? Seriously, I spent many weeks at the Palazzo dressing The London Cut and got to know the curators and the guards terribly well.
After touring the Salle Bianca and royal apartments on the primo piano, I climbed the stone staircase up to the second tier where we presented The London Cut in the private apartments of the Duke and Duchess of Aosta. These rooms are usually closed to the public as is the Prince of Naples’s nursery that we also used for the exhibition. Today was no exception but I recognised one of the guards who allowed me a peep into the Japanese salon where – not coincidentally – there was a temporary exhibition dedicated to the influence of Japan on Western art and antiques.
I can say without doubt that the art galleries in the Palazzo Pitti combined make my favourite museum collection in the world. I adore figurative art – particularly royal portraits – and Pitti has thousands of masterpieces not only by the usual suspects such as Botticelli and Raphael but also whole rooms full of Giovanni Boldini and John Singer Sargent portraits. One can’t take photographs in Palazzo Pitti so you’ll have to make do with some eye-watering, heart melting photographs of the Boboli Gardens that surround the palace.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about the Costume Gallery. The collection and the curation is superb. The costume gallery is in the same wing of the palace where we dressed The London Cut though the very room where we spent so much time – the bedroom of King Vittorio Emmanuele – was closed. Still, I snuck round the back of the palace to take a peep at the King’s balcony where Frederika and I used to smoke cigarettes and slam espressos to keep the energy up. The biggest thrill in the Costume Gallery is the display of Cosimo de Medici and Isabel of Toledo’s funerary garments exhumed, restored and exquisitely presented. I wonder if the grave robbers found any jewels?
What can I tell you about the Boboli Gardens? There are classical statues, follies, ornamental lakes, orangeries, flower gardens and a grand amphitheatre punctuated by obelisks and statues of Roman gods and goddesses. There are also many hills, dells and groves naturally planted to encourage assignations where wild flowers and wildlife thrive. I took a terribly long walk around the perimeter of the Boboli Gardens and must have lost a stone in perspiration but it was worth it.
The views over Florence towards Duomo are on an epic scale as is the view up into the hills of Fiesole where Medici summer palaces stand guard on the tallest hilltops. I have spent many glamorous evenings in the Boboli Gardens at Pitti Uomo parties hosted by Sibilla della Gherardesca. My favourite was a bal-en-tete for Gianfranco Ferre where we all had to wear marvellous millinery and black tie. I recall that was the season Anthony Keegan was in town.
For the ball, I wore my black and diamond domino mask picked up in Venice (amongst other things) when Anthony and I used to borrow an attic apartment overlooking the Rialto bridge. I recall that was the night Anthony was picked-up by the American Consul. So the evening ended with me sipping brandy on the American Consulate terrace while Anthony was chased round the bedroom by Il Ambassadore. Gosh we’ve had some fun times in Florence when Pitti Uomo is in season.
Better Half has gone awol so I’ve decamped to my usual table at Gilli for a prosecco and water break. I do love Gilli. The waiters know me of old, never fuss around and let me sit here for hours writing my letters to you. We have a table at Olio e Convivium tonight in Santa Spirito for our last night in Florence. Tomorrow it’s off up to Milano. I don’t really like Milan – impossible to walk around and that’s a big bore – but am very much looking forward to seeing Elizabetta Canali and Poppy ‘Huntsman’ Charles for the Alexander McQueen presentation.
Until next time…