Oliver and Barbara Poole spent their honeymoon in Florence in 1966. This was the first time either had been there and the beauty of the Tuscan landscape captivated them. A year later they found Il Bacio, at Cispiano, near Castellina-in-Chianti. This was a once-fortified house long abandoned and no sooner had they seen than they bought it, and with great sensibility Barbara set about restoring and furnishing it. With Oliver's Italian interests so well marked in 1970 he was invited to join the board of the British Institute in Florence, which was not slow to recognise the usefulness of a banker of his standing and with such a successful fund-raising ability in the City of London. During his 10-year term for the institute he served with Dame Freya Stark, Sir Harold Acton, Sir John Ward, Sir Denis Hamilton, Hamish Hamilton and Lord Hastings.
In 1972 Oliver was appointed to the Fiat board in Turin. He was then a director of S. Pearson & Sons and chairman of Lazard Brothers. In making the Fiat announcement Giovanni Agnelli, head of Fiat, said Britain's entry into the Common Market would lead to a considerable expansion of business and Lord Poole's appointment reflected Fiat's taking pains to identify itself in European or international rather than in purely Italian companies.
After Oliver's disastrous sub-arachnoid haemorrhage in 1974 his Italian house became a great refuge for him. With her extraordinary capacity for taking every care of Oliver, Barbara would get him to Il Bacio for three summer months. He would sit in his wheelchair under the pergola Barbara had built on the terrace, receiving his friends, or she would drive him about the district and take him to the many concerts which so liberally besprinkled the cool evenings of Tuscany's summer months.
I once asked Oliver why he always wore a black tie. He fixed me with that one formidable eye and said he saw no reason to complicate the necessity by having to choose a coloured one.Reuse content