Lisa Hilton

The splendour and squalor of Venice

Hard by the Rialto, in a densely packed and depressingly tacky quarter of Venice, the church of San Giovanni Cristosomo houses one of Giovanni Bellini’s most luminous and exquisite paintings. ‘I Santi Cristoforo, Girolamo e Ludovico di Tolosa’ is known to locals as ‘the Burger King Bellini’, after the fast food outlet opposite the church

On a wing and a prayer | 15 March 2018

Operation Columba was one of the most secretive arms of British Intelligence during the second world war. Between April 1941 and September 1944, its agents made 16,554 drops over an area stretching from Copenhagen to Bordeaux. Amongst Columba’s successes was the mapping of Belgium’s entire coastal defence system, 67 kilometres worth of priceless, minutely detailed

Italy’s apathetic attitude towards corruption

Another day, another Berlusconi outrage. Writing on the “embarrassment” Silvio Berlusconi must have felt at having received the news of David Mills’s conviction for bribery whilst in conference with Nancy Pelosi, the British press have rather touchingly missed the point. The news is not that Mills has been found guilty, nor that due to Italy’s

Fearful of the Wetlands?

Literary news this week suggests that when it comes to women writing about sex, reviewers are still reacting in the same way as Dr Johnson to his walking dog, surprised that it’s being done at all. So hats off to Charlotte Roche, who has managed to give both the Sunday Times and the Guardian the

We treat our pupils like Aldous Huxley’s Gammas

The historian Lisa Hilton is dismayed by the government’s latest proposals for the teaching of history in which the understanding of complex narrative will be marginalised Like any self-respecting adolescent, I spent most of my teenage years referring to my parents as fascists. What exactly that meant I had little idea, thanks to a state

How to look the part on the piste

Milan may be Italy’s richest city, but no-one this weekend was talking about the markets or “Il New Deal di Obama”. The only topic during the Engadine treasure hunt is who is going ‘up” this weekend.  “Up” means St Moritz, where from December until April, Milanese society is to be found every weekend munching apfelstrudel

An affront to faith and thought

Many of us may no longer believe in God, but it appears we still miss Him. The nineteenth century’s anguished howl of loss as the tide of faith receded across the sands of Dover beach had diminished to barely a whimper before the atheist buses zoomed along to jolly up the argument. Catholic bishops in

A fat-fighting New Year?

I love the gym on a January morning. The frantic flush on the faces of the bankers as they Stairmaster to redundancy, the quivers of the anorexics staggering into their fifth mile. Actually, there aren’t any anorexics. The anorexics of Bloomsbury are clearly lacking in New Year’s resolve. Hardly surprising, as despite the tsunami of

Dressing for the end of the world

We know it’s not cool to dress like a master of the universe right now, and the lunchtime crowd at the Ivy on Tuesday were less Madoff than Man at C&A. Regulars have always been more fashionable than Fashion, considering themselves too serious and important to appear to pay attention to clothes, but the abundance

No more puffs in Paris

One of the best things about Paris is that it never changes. The stone is always the colour of Champagne, the cabbies are always foul and Bernard-Henri Levi is always seated on the first table opposite the door as you go into the Flore. I’ve spent most of my adult life in Paris, and perhaps

Mind the shoes!

Still few signs of retrenchment in Notting Hill, although at a Euro-bankers party this weekend one wit did propose that Soda-Streamed Chablis might pass as acceptably crunchy Champagne. How the time must fly in what’s left of the City. Over the canapés (chestnuts wrapped in lardo, salmon with liquorice), one guest described the distress she

Faithful to infidelity

Oscar Wilde said that one of the charms of marriage was that it made a life of deception essential for both parties. I agree; the opportunity to commit adultery is surely one of the few advantages of wedlock. Yet so zealously monogamous has our culture become that infidelity is agreed upon as the last taboo.

Holla, ye pampered jades…

At risk of sounding like Glenda Slagg, don’tcha just hate those mealy mouthed drink aware advertisements which are crawling all over the Tube? You know: “Party this weekend – it was a party, right?”. Because we all need to feel just that little bit worse right now. What people seem to forget is that bingeing

Kiss me tonight, for tomorrow I may be bankrupt

And still the band plays on, though the chairs are beginning to tilt imperceptibly down the deck. Perhaps there’s only so much wretchedness people can take. Aside from the fact that the jewellery dealers of Hatton Garden now feature boxes of tissues on their counters, like divorce lawyers (turns out diamonds were a girl’s best

Another Johnson triumph

Nice to know that frivolity still has a function in politics, if only as admirable sang froid in the face of Armageddon. The Bad Sex awards at the In and Out club last night had a Regency air, from the torches outside to the Rowlandson physiques of the burlesque group Satanic Sluts. Accepting her award

Society news

Despite its increasing resemblance to ‘Heat’ magazine, I was reassured on Tuesday morning that my beloved Guardian has not lost the courage of its convictions. Running an ill disguised-spoiler of next month’s Tatler cover (ha ha, vile toffs, we know who Daisy Lowe is, too!), Hadley Freeman pondered “that almost parodic monthly recorder of Britain’s

Every artist’s favourite conversation topic

Commerce has always deferred conversationally to art.  It’s assumed that painters and writers are fascinating talkers, but from the Mermaid to the Colony room, I think they’ve only ever had one subject: money and their lack of it, or the outrageously unfair amounts of it bestowed on (naturally) less talented peers. The legendary wit of

I don’t miss Italy. The dolce vita is a myth

Mention to most people that you have recently quit Italy for London and you become an instant object of sympathy. ‘Oh, poor you,’ they coo, ‘don’t you mind?’ Cue effusions about that darling trattoria in Lucca, those hidden della Francescas in Arezzo and enthusiastic reiterations of the word ‘bella’ as last seen in Gregory’s Girl.