Watch and discover more about Roberto Cavalli as he talks us through his Italian surroundings and home, as well as his passion for horses and vases.

Sitting in the shade of a jasmine-laden arbour on top of a hill near Florence, fashion designer Roberto Cavalli looks around him. “I wander around these gardens with my camera, taking photos of flowers, butterflies and leaves. They inspire me,” he says. There seems to be no shortage of inspiration on his 36-acre estate, not only for his high-end gowns, but also for the profusion of Cavalli products, from perfumes and sunglasses to cutlery and bedspreads.

The drive up to Cavalli’s family home mirrors his rise though the fashion business. From the centre of Florence you pass the Rialto Bridge and the banks of the River Arno, where everything is bright and beautiful, as it was for Cavalli when he launched his label in 1970. But then the road turns into narrow, cobbled back streets and is overcast by the shadows of ancient stone walls.

Just ten years into his business, Cavalli’s signature “King of Bling” style fell out of favour, as fashion turned its attention to the austere and deconstructed. But, since 2000, with the launch of the Cavalli denim collection and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Sharon Stone, the label’s revival has been quick and steep. The discreet double gates open on to a lushly planted driveway. Beyond that, the walk up the cypress-lined pathway to his home takes you past a large sculpture of a horse by Arturo Di Modica, the word, “Cavalli” is Italian for horses.

Although distressed denim and a liberal helping of gold and sparkle have helped Cavalli in his success, his home of 30 years is an unexpectedly old-fashioned place. He shares it with his wife, Eva, their three children, Robert, Rachele and Daniele, plus Tommaso and Cristiana, his two children from an earlier marriage, and an array of dogs and birds.

Born and bred in Florence, 73-year-old Cavalli has lived in this house since 1973. “After the divorce from my first wife, I needed somewhere in the countryside to bring up my children, so I rented the first-floor apartment here. A family lived below, so all the children played together; it was one big happy family. Then, in 1980, the owners told us that they planned to sell the place, so I decided to buy.”

The house is built around a lookout tower dating from the 15th century. As the defence of Florence improved, the tower was no longer needed. “A farmer bought it. In time, he had a child, so he added a room. Then he bought a cow and built a stable. Over the years, the place grew, room by room. No architect was consulted; it just evolved, so it has character,” says Cavalli.

Next, he steers me to the sitting room and points to the tree-trunk beams in the ceiling, the terracotta tiles between them and the roughly hewn stone of the walls. “Sometimes I wish they could speak. The walls and timbers have seen so much,” he says with a smile.

The tour continues around his collection of madonnas. “Fifteenth-century black madonna from Umbria; thirteenth-century from Siena; a gilded one from the fourteenth century,” he says, caressing their faces. Cavalli’s grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, was a celebrated Impressionist painter, and Cavalli is a keen collector of art. His assortment of Daum and Gallé glass sits on the long side table in the fireplace room, with a Giovanni Boldini painting of an elegant lady and her sailor-suited son hanging on the wall above. Then there is the Julian Schnabel portrait of Cavalli’s wife, Eva, who is also creative director of the Cavalli business.

Courtesy: The Sunday Times