Roberto Cavalli walked in the door of his house on a recent Friday night and slung a black leather bag onto a chair—a salaryman, settling in for the weekend, in tight jeans and Cuban heels. He pushed his aviator glasses up the bridge of his nose and ran a hand over a gray-stubbled cheek. The day’s commute had been long: He’d flown from Jordan—where he attended Queen Rania’s birthday party—to Milan, and then home to Florence in his iridescent purple helicopter, the Cavalli equivalent of Metro-North. Now it was 10 p.m., dinnertime in Italy, and the table was set. Assorted Cavallis—his wife, Eva; their children Daniele, 24, and Rachele, 27; Cavalli’s daughter from his first marriage, Cristiana, 45; and a slew of significant others and grandchildren—were ready to talk and argue and drink and feast. But Cavalli, not willing to surrender the attention his homecoming had afforded, was brandishing a souvenir from his travels: a pair of pink plastic Barbie mules, edged in marabou, and a matching pink plastic Barbie cell phone. “Vuoi un regalo?” he said, drawing close to Rachele’s two-year-old daughter, Maria Eva, and enveloping her in a bear hug. She nodded. Cavalli knelt down low, placed the shoes on her feet, and showed her how to dial. “Amore, dammi un bacio,” he said, exacting his tribute.
The Cavalli estate occupies 36 undulating acres on the city’s outskirts, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a wine cellar, and a helipad. In addition to the main house, there’s a futuristic bachelor’s studio, built in 2008 by architect Italo Rota, with a tanning bed, a DJ booth, and a bed laden with stuffed animals. (The family also owns a 134-foot yacht, the RC.)
Cavalli began his career as a fabric printer, and above all else, he is famous for slathering animal prints on everything from red-carpet gowns and espresso cups to doggie clothes. Some find this delightful (“I wear him right down to my underpants,” the London-based retailer Mohamed Al Fayed has said), others distasteful (The New York Times likened his 2007 collection for H&M to “what you might find under the ‘streetwalker’ section of the costumes on sale at Ricky’s”). At Casa Cavalli there are enough animals, real and simulated, to rival the Serengeti. On the patio four parrots shrieked in their cages, recalling a medieval torture chamber. Cavalli keeps a miniature monkey (he has been known to kiss it on the mouth) and a giant, coddled Persian cat. “Do you know the name of my cat?” he asked. “Pussy! It doesn’t mean what you think—I am much more clean—but I tell you, she is very sexy!”
The Cavallis take pleasure in taking pleasure. They are the rare rich family that appears to actually enjoy itself, rather than merely accumulating the accoutrements by which it might. “When I go to a restaurant and they say, ‘We’re fully booked,’ I say, ‘It’s Roberto Cavalli,’ and they say, ‘I will check,’” Cavalli said, clapping his hands with relish. “I love it!” (The other great perk of fame, he said, is getting his doctor to make house calls.)