Remembering a true gentleman

Count Natale Luccio Labia died earlier this month at the age of 92.

Described as an “impeccable and quintessential gentleman” Count Natale Luccio Labia died at his Wynberg home on Sunday November 13, aged 92.

His son, Natale Labia, 32, who lives between Johannesburg and London, described his family’s rich heritage.

“My family is originally of Italian, Venetian descent. My grandfather, Prince Natale Labia came to South Africa as the first Italian ambassador but passed away after marrying a South African,” he said.

Natale describes his father, who was born in South Africa on September 28, 1924, as a “charming, modest, graceful, humorous and very sociable man”.

Count Labia met and married Countess Sylvia Labia, 73, in Johannesburg in the 1970s.

Natale told the Tatler his father enjoyed skiing, playing tennis and holidaying in Italy.

He had conveyed the very important lessons of modesty and grace to his children.

His daughter, Antonia Labia, 35, of Constantia, fondly recalls memories of her father in Italy where she said he “seemed his most relaxed and invigorated self.”

She said treating all people with equal respect no matter who they are; loving your children unconditionally and enjoying life to the fullest are some of the greatest lessons her father bestowed on his children.

Antonia said the Casa Labia Cultural Centre and Cafe in Muizenberg reflects her family’s colourful heritage.

“The centre was opened in May 2010 to act as a cultural hub for the southern peninsula,” she said.

Count Labia presented the museum to the South African National Gallery in 1985 in memory of his parents, Prince Labia (1877-1936) and Princess Ida Louise Labia (1879-1961), the daughter of Sir Joseph Robinson.

The house was designed in 1928 by Frederick Mackintosh Glennie and completed in 1930. The property was built to reflect the spirit of 18th century Venice as the furnishings and decorations were imported from Italy and the interiors designed by Italian craftsmen.

Today the building functions as an art museum and cultural centre where lectures, exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings, pottery workshops, drawing classes for adults and children, and technical demonstrations are held.

Antonia said her father had loved eating tomato spaghetti and swimming in the warm Mediterranean ocean.

“I will also remember how he was with my children, and how his face lit up when he saw them. And I will remember him walking his dogs in his garden, which he adored, and sitting in his favourite armchair reading the daily papers,” she said.

His memorial service was held at St Saviour’s Church in Claremont on Friday November 18 and he is survived by his wife Sylvia, children Natale and Antonia and grandchildren Amelie and Stella Belle.

Additional information sourced from