For a first trip to Uzbekistan, what would you recommend doing?
The main draws are the fabled, evocative Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, which you can't miss. All have fabulous sights and monumental architecture.
And for a 'Deep Cut' more in depth trip?
The Ferghana Valley is the heartland of the arts and craftsmanship within the country. You can take a train into the region which has fabulous scenery, friendly and hospitable local people and retains an authentic vibe given it's less visited by tourists. The main draw are the fabulous arts and crafts centres to visit, where silk carpets and textiles are woven, and you can find some spectacular ceramics.
Describe one place you love in Uzbekistan
I love the windswept romance of the desert in Karakalpakstan, outside of Khiva, which is dotted with qalas or fortresses.
What made you fall in love with Uzbekistan?
Probably the tales of Marco Polo and Samarkand, and once there, the continued tradition of the arts and crafts that have kept the Silk Road alive to this day.
Where have you not been in Uzbekistan that you are desperate to go to?
I'd like to explore more of the Ferghana Valley and the area around the Kyzl Kum Lake - there's more to explore and I've only just skimmed the surface in these places.
Is Uzbekistan somewhere to go as a couple or with family?
Either - it's geared up for both and infrastructure is good.
Recommendations for Uzbekistan
Best book you've read about Uzbekistan?
So many to choose from...I love The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk for a gripping tale of the 19th century conflict between Russia and Britain and the region as a whole. For Uzbekistan specifically, I would choose A Carpet Ride to Khiva by Christopher Alexander for its insights into Uzbek home life, and Murder in Samarkand by Craig Murray.
Best local food to order in Italy?
It's got to be the national dish plov - best when invited to eat it homemade in someone’s house.
Best local food to order in Uzbekistan?
It’s tricky to choose as the country is a shopping treasure trove for arts and crafts. But I have to say you can't go wrong with a pair of hand-knitted woollen slippers from Khiva. I live in mine around the house.
Insider tip for Uzbekistan?
Go off season, it's getting increasingly busy and the sights and hotels are overflowing with big tour groups in May, June and September. If you're in season go to the main sights at dusk or at night when they're empty. Also, travel by train, a far more comfortable ride than car and the chance to watch the scenery slide by.
Place in Uzbekistan you could go back to again and again?
Khiva. I think I'd learn how to make woollen slippers.