Nicky Haslam

Immaculate conceptions

A strange mixture of sand, lime, glue and hair make up the exquisite moulded ceilings of the greatest houses of Europe

Some 30 summers ago we were staying at a famously beautiful villa outside Turin; our hostess was — indeed is — renowned for her superb taste and distilled perfection of every aspect of douceur de vivre. Each night we dined in a different sylvan setting — under inky trees, in flower-filled gardens and in 18th-century rococo salons, amid porcelain bouquets of those selfsame flowers.

Another room, with candles lighting the chinoiserie panelling, is forever incised in my mind, not only for the decor but for the last course.

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