One of our neighbours is what might be called a Pimlico patriot. ‘This is what Palladio would have done, if only he’d had the money,’ he declares stoutly. ‘Much better than Vicenza: there’s so much more of it.’ I thought of this as I looked at Palladio’s Il Redentore in Venice. I’d been asked out there to help celebrate 20 years of the travel company Elegant Resorts, who had laid on a grand dinner at the Cipriani Hotel. This culminated in two circus artistes ascending what looked like long pairs of net curtains, suspended from a beam high overhead, before performing a series of heart-stopping stunts.
The Cipriani also has a birthday, being 50 years old. For this, it’s invented a Champagne cocktail, onto which the barman floats a square of gold leaf. I did wonder, as I watched the water lapping over the quaysides of the Grand Canal, whether Pimlico would ever share Venice’s fate: the Thames gets pretty high these days. No doubt Londoners would also find ways of adapting to an aqua alta, although it might prove difficult for the Tube. But until then, La Serenissima can’t really be confused with the Great Wen. Far from admitting themselves impressed by my tales of Venetian extravagance, friends here simply ask if the gold stuck to my teeth.