Widely credited with launching the career of Renzo Mongiardino, nonogenarian Italian Countess, Cristiana Brandolini d'Adda, is a tastemaker and fashion icon through and through. Francesca Simpson explores her unique joie de vivre, spectacular homes in Paris and Vistorta, and unfaltering personal style.



Cristiana's wardrobe bears testament to her originality; Miguel Flores-Vianna for Cabana N18.


Countess Cristiana Brandolini d'Adda is the kind of extraordinary woman for whom life is quite literally art. From how she transforms a space to how she styles an outfit, her eclectic, signature aesthetic is embued with an inherent joie de vivre and inimitable flair, often copied but never matched. Her almost languid elegance defies conventionality; her unfaltering sense of style, like her quick-witted charm, is embedded deep in her rather illustrious DNA; Fiat heiress Cristiana (nee Agnelli) married the late Brando Brandolini d'Adda, Conte di Valmareno in 1947.

There is a certain tension in her style too: on the one hand, a rebelliousness and desire to challenge the status quo; on the other, a deep sense of duty and formality. This shines through in her unswerving devotion to her family, as a wife, mother to four sons, grandmother, great grandmother, and ultimately matriarch, to the extended Brandolini clan. The manner in which she moves through the world reflects this duality: her elegance the perfect foil to her passion and lively unpredictability, which has characterised her personal sense of style for so long.


Cristiana's wardrobe bears testament to her originality; Miguel Flores-Vianna for Cabana N18.


Her granddaughter, fashion designer Coco Brandolini, draws attention to Cristiana's "unorthodox eye and ability to see beauty in the seemingly mundane", as well as her desire to meld worlds, seamlessly bridging the glamour of high society with the warmth and comfort of conventional family life. Equally happy in haute couture as flea market finds, Cristiana's appreciation of beauty gives her free reign to indulge her highly individual, and at times eccentric, sense of personal taste.

Speaking to Cabana earlier this year, Coco described joining her grandmother when she was getting ready. "In amongst the bamboo furniture, she had all these bags hanging on the mirror and now I do the same. My grandmother remains my biggest inspiration. As someone who's met everyone and seen it all, [she] never criticizes the younger generation. Open-minded, she always sees something interesting."


The Brandolini family estate in Vistorta; Miguel Flores-Vianna for Cabana N18.


If Cristiana's wardrobe bares testament to her originality, so too do her principal residences: a 15th century palazzo overlooking Venice's Grand Canal; a hotel particulier in Paris and - in some senses, the jewel in the crown - the family's charmingly bucolic estate, Vistorta. The latter, at the foothills of the Alps, is captured in Cabana Issue 18. Truly a people person, Cristiana's homes represent her unflinching generosity of spirit and an innate ability to discover and nurture talent in those around her.

After all, her residences are collaborative projects. Her willingness to work with, and give free rein to, the imagination of her collaborators blossomed into an array of magnificent, yet very livable, homes. With this approach, Cristiana launched the stellar career of, among others, Renzo Mongiardino, and gave fresh impetus to the English garden designer, Russell Page, who would produce some of his best work for her. The enduring allure of her homes - as the latest issue of Cabana bears witness to - is testament to her confidence in their abilities and creative strength in realising and remaining faithful to her vision.


The Brandolini family estate in Vistorta; Miguel Flores-Vianna for Cabana N18.


Cristiana also gave Cabana an insight into her playful character, disclosing her creative disagreements with decorators, in particular Mongiardino. With a glint in her eye, she recalled that Mongiardino's fierce temper meant she "moved things around behind his back" when they disagreed, adding: "So it became Mongiardino meets Cristiana Brandolini!"

But perhaps her greatest legacy is her close-knit, remarkably talented family. Surrounded by her sons, their spouses and a multitude of undeniably charming grand and great grandchildren, it is abundantly clear that this is a woman who lives in the present and, ultimately, for the future. Despite a lineage redolent in aristocratic and noble origins, her apparent lack of interest in the exalted titles and patronage of her forebears is characteristic of how she has chosen to live her life - without judgement, open and authentic in her passions and firmly rooted in her desire to look to, and embrace, the next generation.

In many senses somewhat inconsonant with her illustrious ancestry, Cristiana has, in her own inimitable style, chosen the path less travelled to the benefit of all who surround her.


Cristiana Brandolini's hotel particulier in Paris; Guido Taroni.


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For a full tour of Cristiana Brandolini's exceptional home in Vistorta, order your copy of Cabana Issue 18.

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