For a first trip to Italy, what would you recommend doing?
The holy trinity of three main cities - Rome, Florence and Venice - travelling by train between each. Explore their Roman, Renaissance, Baroque past and eat wonderful food. Italian trains are comfortable, good value, super-fast and direct and it is only an hour or two between each – it’s the perfect way to travel in a perfect country.
And for a 'Deep Cut' more in depth trip?
Head to a wilder more authentic area, for example Sicily or Puglia, on a road trip, stopping in local towns and villages along the way, to experience the local culture. For Sicily I would head to the south-east coast and recommend local fisherman’s villages such as Marzamemi, not far from Noto. For Puglia, the less touristy villages of Locorotondo or Martina Franca are wonderful.
What made you fall in love with Italy?
Where to start!? The delicious food: locally produced olive oil, pasta, and especially the mozzarella from Campania. Also, the fascinating art history; I am passionate about the Renaissance, in particular in Florence. And, of course, the Italians themselves: their passion for everything and quality of life.
Where have you not been in Italy that you are desperate to go to?
Pantelleria is meant to be amazing! A small volcanic island off the south west coast of Sicily (which is in fact closer to Tunisia) is the new hot spot for Italians. Named the ‘black pearl of the Mediterranean’ this rough diamond of an island is known for its delicious lovely sweet wine.
Is Italy somewhere to go as a couple or with family?
Both! Italy is perfect for a honeymoon - I went to Sicily for mine, but Puglia combined with the Amalfi is another complete winner. For Families, the cities (Rome, Florence) are superb for teaching bambini about history, or you can relax by the sea in Salento, or Puglia, for example.
Recommendations for Italy
What is the perfect souvenir from Italy?
A good luck ceramic acorn from Puglia, called a pumo de fiore, or some fantastic super Tuscan wine, such as Tignanello.
Best local food to order in Italy?
Risotto alla Milanese topped off with some parmesan - the best is in Milan, obviously.
Place in Italy you could go back to again and again?
Castagneto Carducci in Tuscany, where I got married. The hilltop views, ruler-straight roads lined with cypress trees (Bolgheri, in particular, is wonderful) - the scenery is unbeatable. The wine, the quality of life, black truffles. Siena and San Gimignano are both nearby.