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The Italians (especially the men) are here

March 7, 2010

According to Savills, the estate agent, 70 per cent of properties purchased last year in Knightsbridge were bought by Italians. Italians!! Suddenly the French, whose accents and croissants have been gracing all the nicer parts of London, particularly Chelsea and Kensington, for years, have become rather forgotten about. The Russians have had their time in the spotlight, the Arabs theirs (well, theirs doesn’t really wane, and therefore it is always a bit dim), the Chinese are experiencing it (Harrods are recruiting Mandarin-speaking staff for all counters), but when it comes to the guys everyone’s talking about, it’s the good old Italians. Lush with cash from Berlusconi’s little land, they’ve been enticed by that good man, via a tax break, to bring overseas cash back to Europe. Once it’s back here, they don’t want to pour it into property in Italy. No no, once you’ve really made it, you buy a pad in Belgravia or Knightsbridge.

I noted this rise in moneyed Italians in SW1 with some interest as it tallies with my rather less Knightsbridge-based impressions. In the bars and clubs of this town, from Shoreditch to Mayfair, the first accents you hear and- if you don’t behave yourself- the last of the night, are Italian. Suddenly, these Euros are everywhere, romancing us Londoners as if we were bella donnas in Bologna or Rome, that is, with the confidence of slicker-than-thou men in their own stomping ground. As for female Italian voices, I can’t really say- I haven’t paid as much attention.

Does anyone else remember Italian men having a rather suspect reputation, the classic cheeseballs of Europe, the ones you were harassed by on holiday and snogged in extremis, aged 16, when you were on a school trip to see the Coliseum?

It’s all changed sisters, it’s all changed. Italian men are the new French men. They are charming, new-seeming (honestly, that accent is like a breath of fresh air after a decade of French and..Spanish?) and…HOT. Only the other night I met a Sardinian-born beauty, with nothing of the Mediterranean perv about him. On the contrary – sweet, civilized, restrained. Last week I had lunch at Benares, the Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in Berkeley Square. Who was the sommelier but a handsome young man from Ischia? He was passionate about pairing wines of the world with this exquisite Indian cuisine. He was slick, sweet and studious. Five years ago, it would have been a French guy.

Is my point made? The Italians are not just coming – they are here. Get ready to see those croissants replaced by biscotti. (Or whatever Italians have for breakfast…I should know that, right?)

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