“I am married in Venice! » Toto Bergamo Rossi talks about taste
My personal style signifier is probably my selection of jackets. My style is very classic – not trendy – I have a more timeless spirit. I’ve worn the same clothes since I was little. I almost always wear a jacket, from Loro Piana or Zegna, or one that was handmade in Naples because the tailors there are the best. I also often wear a ring, which is engraved with the coat of arms of my mother’s family, the Colleoni. Bergamo Rossi is my father’s name, but he wasn’t from here and I never spent time with that side of the family – I don’t feel connected to him. I grew up alone with my mother in Venice.
The last thing I bought and liked was an 18th century Venetian mirror – it hangs like it was born in my house. It is in walnut, covered with gilding and rocaille, and surrounded by many other small mirrors, all engraved. I got it from an antique shop in Modena. You can buy these things now for a reasonable amount, in fact.
The place that means a lot to me is my city, Venice. It always has been. I think that’s the reason for my existence. I’m still single, so I’m married in Venice! I thought that even when I was a little boy: I have to do something for my city. I always looked at the facades of its churches, I drew them, even if I was never religious. The city was truly the New York of the Renaissance. You go around the churches, you find a Titian, a Tintoretto, a Bellini… they are all still there.
A place I can’t wait to return to is my little place in Croatia. It is a former convent on a small island facing Dubrovnik; it’s on two floors, each the size of a large room. It dates from 1484 and also has a chapel. When I found it, everything had fallen apart, so I gave it new roofs, new floors, redid everything inside – the chapel now has beautiful old candlesticks and a new crucifix. But everything was kept very simple. A few of us have homes there, including architect Steven Harris and Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. We are five foreigners and 200 locals, and no cars. Whenever I need to finish typing a book, I go there. No distractions!
The best book I’ve read in the last year is Invisible cities by Italo Calvino. I had read it 30 years ago, and it was good to come back to it. I loved the imagined dialogue between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo: it inspired me in my fights against the deterioration of my city. I thought, let’s be more articulate and inspired, so I went back to Calvino. Also, I don’t have a TV. So the night – books.
My style icon is Paul Newman – especially when he was young. He had the most beautiful face in the world. The stars of the 1950s and 1960s were always classic with this preppy chic: it was a time when America was elegant. It’s 90% gone now.
The best gift I’ve given recently is the show I just organized at the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice, From Donatello to Alessandro Vittoria 1450-1600: 150 years of sculpture in the Republic of Venice. I organized it with the support of Venetian Heritage: this work and this history are very dear to me. Otherwise, I like to give people books – I recently gave an architect friend a book of 18th century architectural drawings of Venice – or a nice piece of cashmere.
In my fridge you will always find very little. I am not a good cook.
I have a collection of sculpture casts. Some are old, and some are works of Antonio Canova. I have a cast of his Hebe statue – beautiful! – and also Borghese’s Hermaphrodite, the original of which is in the Louvre. Mine is an 18th century cast so the patina is beautiful. I love having sculptures around, but when I can’t own the originals, a nice cast isn’t so bad.
I recently rediscovered sex! No, seriously, I actually started psychotherapy again three years ago. I have an amazing doctor. We do it very “soft” – we no longer do Freud. Since last year, I am a new man. I have to improve all the time.
My favorite building is La Malcontenta, Villa Foscari. I love all those Palladian villas in Veneto – they are to die for – but La Malcontenta was renovated in 1924 by an incredible man, Albert Landsberg, who was stylistically Axel Vervoordt’s predecessor. He used coarse linen on his tables and had very little furniture. The owners have kept Bertie’s decoration and it remains timeless a century later.
The last clothes I added to my wardrobe are drawstring pants from The Erose, a store in a new hotel called The Venice Venice. I took two pairs for the summer, one with white and blue stripes, the other beige. The owners of the hotel are a couple who owned the brand of shoes and accessories Golden Goose: they bought a beautiful abandoned and ruined Byzantine palace and transformed it. There is a restaurant where you can have lunch or dinner, and this shop too. Sestiere Cannaregio 5631, 30121 Venice
When I need to feel inspired, I’ll just walk and watch. It’s all there, you just have to take a closer look. And traveling also inspires me: I love going to Paris. I like staying with my friends Joseph Achkar and Michel Charrière, who renovated the Hôtel de la Marine and also the Hôtel du Duc de Gesvres, where they live. They have such a passion for what they do – they’re like me, but in a different field. Every time I go and stay with them breakfast starts at nine in the morning and continues until 12 because we talk and talk and talk. And then afterwards, there is a procession of antique dealers, who arrive with this or that…
My Wellness Guru, apart from my therapist, is my local public swimming pool in Giudecca – the Sacca Fisola. I love swimming, and this pool is great: it has a big glass wall, so you can see the lagoon outside.
The grooming staple I never part with is Trudon’s Ernesto room spray – I’m going to use it on myself. I love this smell; I think it suits me. But otherwise, I get up, take a shower, basta.
My favorite room in my house is the yellow room, the main living room. It is yellow because the ceiling has frescoes painted by Tiepolo’s favorite assistant, Jacopo Guarana, depicting the Triumph of Flora – and the image is framed by a yellow border. So I had the walls painted a very pale Venetian yellow. The frescoes are just some of the ones I discovered when I bought the house. The place was in a terrible state – all the rooms were subdivided and the ceilings were covered with a false ceiling. And there was only one bathroom… a nightmare! I also restored the garden, which is rare in Venice, the city is so built up.
The best advice I’ve ever received was “to be consistent”. It was from my late godmother, who was head of Unesco for Venice, and she trained me – she was like my second mother. Italians don’t know much about consistency, they don’t have the attitude for it. So I forced myself to be more like the Anglo-Saxons. It’s a way of working – of being professional but also focused and pragmatic. If it doesn’t work one way? Do it in another.
An indulgence I’ll never give up is my glass of wine in the evening. I never drink it during the day, but at 9 p.m. I’m like “Ahhh – fuck everyone!” and I do not have. I have a tall glass for my red wine – you could fit half a bottle in it.
In another life, I would be the Pope! They live in the most beautiful place. But the Pope at the time of the Renaissance – not now.