I worked for several years as a professional photographer travelling the world. You are talking, believe it or not, almost 20 years ago. I was extremely fortunate to work for Italian Vogue and many other international publication. Shooting a Swatch watch advertising campaigns in Kenya and living in a suitcase, meeting alone the way many international artists, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Antonio Banderas, who I photographed for the cover of Vogue, and generally having a ball. They were some of the best years of my life and I would recommend it to anyone who has the tenacity and confidence to be behind the lens. In 1992 Margherita and I married and we both moved full time to London. After a couple of years of London blag I started questioning my own ability, as one does in the creative world, and decided to stop being a snapper. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in myself, I just couldn’t cope, nor did I want to, with the insecurity.
Not knowing were life would take me and having a interest in architecture I started Domus Nova in a back street of Notting Hill, well Bayswater, well now Notting Hill! It was the same street that Stiff records started but that’s were the similarity ends. It was a struggle, one day being an international man of mystery and the next branded an estate agent but little Domus Nova and myself achieved a reputation of excellent. We only dealt in architectural and interior designed houses. A back street quacky estate agency with a big heart and a passion for interior design, and you know what, it worked.
The company went from strength to strength and we received a number of editorial articles including a double page spread in The Sunday Times. I acquired Alexandra McQueen’s studio in Clerkenwell, took Bianca Jagger out in my RR, showed Hugh Jackman around Chelsea and sold a fantastic apartment to Alan Rickman (love you Alan). Everything was going well expect Margie was becoming more and more disillusioned with London life. I always remember the day we talked on the phone and remember those words, "I wan go home daling!"
Life’s a funny old thing. As you get older you always need to look on the bright side. There are so many twists and turns, decision made, good and bad and opportunities lost. She got me on a grey depressing wet English summer’s day, when I was having a nightmare at work and I just said, YES, okay, let’s go. Selling the company for a song, selling my lovely London abode, which I had just spent 10 months building only two years previously and my beloved 1974 Volvo, we left...
I’m a qualified commercial skipper and my in-laws live on Capri, so off we went. Looking back at it now I must have been absolutely mad. I don’t want to be the richest man in the world nor do I want to feel I’ve wasted my life. I do however want to live my life and not just fall into the rat race. That’s why sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and start a fresh. Capri was tough, island life is not for me and 8 months later I jumped on a motor bike and left.
Umbria! Heaven on earth. I’ve been to many places, regions, towns, hamlets in Italy but Umbria must be, and is for me, the best. When we purchased our Villa someone told me that nothing has changed for 40 years. My reaction was, bloody brilliant! Living in Italy is not easy for a “stranieri”. What they don’t tell you in the travel guide is the winters are hard, long, wet and cold. The upside is that we get five months of sunshine.
Villa Metato is now our home. I love the freedom. I love knowing it’s safe for my son (Marcello) and I love seeing him cycling to our nearest village on his own with the only sound ringing in his ears, “don’t be home after dark!” No amount of money can buy you that in blighty, sorry...
Contessa Margherita Emilia Gardella
Margherita, Margie to friends and Bug to me grew up in Milan. Her mother Mariella De Natale worked for Conde Nast for thirty years. Margie graduated as a journalist and started work for Mondadori working for Grazia. She later moved to L’uomo Vogue and was guided by a wonderful man (Marco Reati). She also travelled the world and we met one Sunday morning at an antiques fair outside of Milan. We have been together for 25 years, hard to believe really. When we moved back to London Margie quickly found her feet. She we offered a position as deputy fashion director of Harpers & Queen, now just Queen magazine and became one of the fashion elite.
Marcello Benjamin Blenkins Ferrand
Marcello’s passion is motocross as I stuck him on a bike at 5. He’s totally fearless and now I have problems keep up with him. We try and go out every weekend. He’s also a dab hand on the computer as most kids of his generation are. He was born at St Mary’s Hospital in London next to Paddington Station, but now regards himself an Italian. He learnt Italian in 3 months. I’m still learning after 8 years.