A few weeks ago I went on a wander with my camera around a small patch of Italy situated five minutes from my house – Chiswick House &Gardens, just over the Chiswick Bridge. The first time I visited a few years ago, I was puzzled by the fact that it’s called a house, but that it’s almost completely filled with paintings and sculptures – no bedrooms or dining/cooking rooms. I imagined that perhaps there had been at one time, but they’d been converted. But now I don’t think that’s the case at all. In the 18th century it was fashionable for the British nobility to take a Grand Tour of Europe to collect classical works of art. Then to show off their status and taste they often had houses constructed purely for displaying their treasures. So it’s a strange and wonderful place – in time, purpose and place.
If you go to Chiswick House in the depth of winter, it has to be one of the most tranquil retreats in the London area. The only people you see are dog walkers and perhaps a few photographers. Still they’re few and far between. It’s like minibreak to Vicenza and having it all to myself.