The late great Italian decorator, Verde Visconti, possessed a magical ability to transform anything into beauty as an alchemist transforming metal into gold. Fabrizia Caracciolo explores her life, style and legacy, speaking to friends and former clients, while Derry Moore shares beautiful images of Verde's beloved home in the Umbrian hills.



Italian decorator Verde Visconti's colorful, atmospheric home in Orvieto, Italy, photographed by her close friend Derry Moore 


It is not surprising that, as a young teenager, Verde Visconti traveled extensively and spent her 'finishing school' years between New York, London, and Paris, meeting the creative forces that would inspire and shape her career. Despite being educated in the lifestyle and tastes of the aristocracy, Verde - the only child from the marriage of two of the most renowned Italian noble families, the Dukes, Visconti di Modrone, and the Counts, Colonna di Cesarò - spent her formative years in a very eccentric, avant-garde environment where art and beauty were her milestones.

The acclaimed decorator started traveling at a precocious age, learning multiple languages, living a cosmopolitan life, and developing the aesthetic that would later forge her style: a harmonious blend of 'nonchalante' elegance and timeless grace.

Verde Visconti's home in Orvieto, photographed by close friend Derry Moore


Both her parents, who divorced soon after her birth, were artists; her father, Gaio, was a painter and her mother, Simonetta, was an acclaimed fashion designer of the Italian post-war era and a habituée of the 'Café Society'. Her eponymous Maison, 'Simonetta', was one of the first, along with Emilio Pucci, to be sold at Bergdorf Goodman in New York in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, with her new husband, the designer Alberto Fabiani, she opened a Parisian atelier on Rue François-Ier.

While travelling during her teenage years, Verde met most of the figures who would become her mentors, such as the renowned British photographer Derry Moore and the Greek designer, John Stefanidis. It was Derry Moore who introduced Verde to the beauty and culture of India, a country she would visit countless times in her life and which became one of the most important inspirations and pillars for her work.


Verde Visconti's colorful, atmospheric home in Orvieto in the Umbrian hills, photographed by her close friend Derry Moore 


Throughout her career, she was particularly drawn to Indian textiles and would include them, ante litteram, in all her projects. She also became very close to the great interior designer, John Stefanidis, who became another great influence.

Verde was known for her complex, secretive, and fascinating personality. Her family recall a funny anecdote when, back in Rome, she had started working for the Mantovani Studio where she was in charge of the creation and design of objects and furniture.

She had asked an artisan to make a seashell-shaped cache-pot, but after three attempts, she was still not satisfied. The artisan, frustrated, asked her why, and she responded: "I can't hear the rustle of the sea in these shells." He promptly replied: "My name is Pompeo, not Neptune, Madam."


Italian decorator Verde Visconti (1949-2023), photographed by Derry Moore

Before long, Verde opened her own studio in her family's palazzo in Via Gregoriana. Among her loyal clients scattered around the world, from Paris and Spain to New York, California and Colombia, was leading Italian publisher, Leonardo Mondadori. As well as decorating most of his houses, from his city apartment in Milan to an old monastery in the Dolomites, Verde became his close, trusted friend. 

Without fail, she always adapted the style of her interiors to the place and person who lived there; her unwavering design mantra was, "to begin a room from a beautiful painting, piece of furniture, textile, or object that is meaningful to [the owner]". 

Color was also of fundamental importance to her. Andres and Diana Echevarria, who were her affectionate clients and friends for many years, remember that when she first entered their apartment in Paris she immediately noticed and exclaimed, “this is a yellow, red and green place; not a hint of blue in this house!”


Color was of fundamental importance to Verde Visconti, exemplified in her own home in Orvieto, photographed by Derry Moore


Friends and clients recall another emblematic anecdote when Verde ordered an "antiqued" mirror from an artisan from Brianza recommended by Renzo Mongiardino. Once again, Verde remained dissatisfied with the result, and the poor man, exhausted and offended, asked her why he had always been able to satisfy the exacting Mongiardino, but not her. "In this mirror, I am looking for the atmosphere that reminds me of a Cochin sky after a storm," she replied. Verde visited and revisited every single interior detail in a truly holistic, existentialist approach.
Her beloved home near Orvieto, Italy, best represents Verde's unique “poor yet rich” ambience, as she liked to define it. Like Verde herself, it is difficult to describe her style; simple yet elegant and sophisticated, simultaneously welcoming and enigmatic. It is easy to be captivated by such an intense environmental experience of ease and grace where everything seems to have been there forever. She had that magical ability to transform anything into beauty as an alchemist transforming metal in gold.

Verde Visconti's home in Orvieto, photographed by close friend Derry Moore


Her circle of friends consisted mainly of artists and intellectuals, among whom she had a close friendship with Balthus. They were neighbors at Villa Medici when Balthus was the director of the French Academy, and she incorporated a lot of the artist's influences in the houses she was decorating. Verde was also fascinated by the Golden age of the Italian film industry. Along with Piero Tosi and Tirelli, she was part of the famous Visconti Clan, centered around her father's cousin, Luchino.

Verde greatly admired him and drew inspiration from his refined aesthetic and meticulous attention to detail. She designed sets and interiors for her great friend, the director Liliana Cavani. Their latest film, The Order of Time, was awarded at the Venice Film Festival in September 2023. Unfortunately, Verde passed away suddenly and unexpectedly just hours before the awards ceremony.


A special thanks to Marina Giusti del Giardino, Gaia Chaillet Giusti and Andres and Diana Echevarria for their insightful cooperation.

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Pre-order your copy of Cabana Issue 21, the Birthday Issue, to read an article by Derry Moore, reflecting on his friendship with Verde Visconti. The piece features exclusive illustrations of Verde's interiors by portrait artist SJ Axelby.

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