by Fabio Trombini
LONDON – When I was asked to write this article, I was flattered but also concerned. I am not a writer, and what would I write about?
My interests are varied and range from clothes and art to furniture and history. Too much to consider in merely one article. Hence I settled for something that would touch upon a few things that interest and inspire me greatly.
We live in a world where things change at an increasing speed, where we rush from point A to point B without noticing what we see along the way.
A lot of people strive to have the newest gadgets and latest “must-have items.”
Not me. I am one of those people who looks back from time to time out of interest of the past and the decades gone by.
But perhaps out of melancholy as well. Allow me to show you one of my favourite places in what is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
We begin our trip at the glorious house of the renowned architect Sir John Soane. It’s situated in three Georgian townhouses on Lincolns Inn Fields.
This museum is filled with busts, paintings, architectural prints, plaster casts and not to forget an Egyptian alabaster sarcophagus and a stunning Canaletto. Whilst walking around the eclectic but predominantly neoclassical rooms, Greek gods and Pietra Dura table tops, one can only be amazed by the vast collection of antiquities and other pieces Sir John collected in his lifetime. One tends to forget about daily life when beholding a Canaletto in the picture room, admiring the books in the library or losing count of the numerous plaster casts in the central gallery watched over by an Apollo del Belverdere and Sir John himself. But for me, it is not just the objects that enchant me. It’s the atmosphere in the house: the darkened rooms with different heights of ceiling, the stained-glass windows and the mirrors where you catch a glimpse of yourself amongst all these treasures. It makes you feel that, for just a few moments, time stands still. I find it’s a perfect place to visit when one is in need of some inspiration.
Next we travel west, to the better-known private collection of the Marquis of Hertford. The Wallace Collection is just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and like Soane’s museum transports you into another world. Housed in Hertford House on Marylebone’s Manchester Square, the collection comprises a vast collection of art pieces ranging from the 15th to the 19th century, with some important holding of 18th-century French objects, paintings and furniture. No matter if it’s your first or twenty-first time at the Wallace, the collection of the superb Ancien Regime pieces are always worth a visit. In a hurry? Then perhaps wander through the front state room, with its richly decorated walls in crimson silk, portraits of Princes and Peers and Sèvres porcelain. Or visit the small drawing room upstairs with its flattering light coming from the chandeliers and the mauve coloured silk wall hangings. Whether you plan a long or a short visit, the astonishing collection of Canaletto, Dutch masters, Gainsborough and Boucher will make any lover of art, furniture or historical dress sigh with contentment.
When looking for clothes, accessories and my general Saturday shopping, there is only one place to go in my opinion, and that is St James. Start on Piccadilly and drop in at Cordings for a tweed cap and a pair of jewel coloured corduroys. Next on the list is Hatchards, which treasures all the books I could possibly want in life in authentic surroundings and excellent staff recommendations.
In need for a little treat? Fortnum and Mason certainly needs no introduction: the Georgian purveyor of delicious goods has something to satisfy every desire when it comes to food. From cheese to cake, from confectionary to wine. In equally pretty surroundings. You simply must have a Scotch egg whilst you are there.
And back to clothing, there are a few places to go to which satisfy every caprice. I usually start at the beginning of Jermyn Street at the renowned Harvie & Hudson for my usual supply of socks in every hue. When I’m feeling frivolous, New & Lingwood is just the place to go to for an extravagant silk scarf or a pair of jewel-coloured trousers in a perfectly laid out shop.
Last but certainly not least on my usual Saturday shopping spree is Budds Shirt makers. The tiny shop on the Piccadilly side of the Piccadilly Arcade is a veritable treasure trove to find the most exquisite pajamas, gloves, printed ties and impeccable evening wear. With a wonderful team at your service to offer the best advice on shirt colours and collars or which tie to choose from their dazzling selection. My first navy polka dot bow tie and stiff collar were purchased there for me when I was quite young, and it shall always have a special place in my heart.
I hope this brief snapshot of a few of my favourite spots in London gave you some inspiration. To be perfectly honest, it still galvanises me, and adds a very important part to the quality and joy of my life.