'I love to sit in the shade, caressed by wonderful silky air, whittling away at my sticks'

Where did you spend the summers of your childhood?

Where did you spend the summers of your childhood?

We lived in the north of Italy, and practically every year would go to the south, near Avellino, where my grandmother lived. The seaside at Salerno was not far away, and I would be taken there for the day. At the time, there were no tourists. There was one big hotel called Lloyd's Baia, which had a lift to go directly to the beach.

Where did you go on your first independent holiday?

Laigueglia. It's a small spot on the Italian Riviera, and it was my first holiday after getting my first pay check. Funnily enough, it is also the reason I went to Vienna to study years later, because I met a Viennese girl there.

What has been your best holiday?

Bali, about 10 years ago. I spent the whole advance from one book. We stayed at the luxurious Amandari and Amankila hotels. You get up from a chair and your towel is changed without you noticing it. You take a fruit from the pile in your room and, five minutes later, it has already been replaced. But you are left completely alone and in peace.

Are you a frequent traveller?

I've travelled practically all my life. Filming for the BBC, I travelled a lot - to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Morocco, Egypt and, of course, Italy. And I've been to India many times. We've just come back from three weeks in Goa.

What is your favourite place in the British Isles?

Hampshire, near Petersfield, where we have a house. It's beautiful, really wonderful. I like Scotland for the wildness, but there's still so much of it that I need to explore.

What are your top travel tips?

In Kerala, the Coconut Lagoon, a hotel on a lake, is lovely. My favourite beaches are in Sardinia. They're small and the sea is emerald. And in the Seychelles, on an island called Silhouette, there's a deserted beach two or three miles long.

Who would be your ultimate travelling companion?

My wife. I could mention others, but she would be upset. Heroes? I would like to have travelled with Ulysses on his journey back from Troy.

Are you beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I'm a "leave me alone" chap for the first two weeks, then I'm reasonable. I enjoy the sun once I have become acclimatised to the temperature. It's lovely to sit in the shade and be caressed by wonderful silky air. I try to carve my sticks, which gives me great peace of mind. First, I hunt for the sticks in the countryside, then I cut them with my little knife, and then I'm very happy.

Do you go on organised tours or package holidays, or do everything yourself?

We go back to places that we've discovered, or to places that people recommend to us, and generally organise it through the internet.

What luxury would you never travel without?

Money. I travel equipped with cash and credit cards. Everything can be bought. Well, maybe not everything - you can't buy atmosphere.

What do you read on holiday?

Not much. I whittle. I write, sometimes. I still have bits and pieces to do on my book, and I use holidays to do them.

Where have you lost your heart?

I was in New Zealand last year, on South Island. I was invited there by the Christchurch Food Festival. The panoramas and the light were fantastic. I would have liked more time there, but I left something to come back to.

What is the worst thing that has happened to you on holiday?

I was in Greece on holiday when my mother passed away. I went to the funeral, but then I had a few days of holiday left, so I went back to Greece because I didn't want to be in London, which was full of pain.

Where would you never return?

The places where tourists have taken over, where there are busloads of them. We organised a holiday by ourselves on Kalimnos, flying to Kos. On the plane I thought, "Oh God, lager louts!". And it was a bit like that, but luckily they were staying in Kos. We had to travel another hour by boat, to the extreme corner of Kalimnos, and it was fantastic.

Where is the most overrated place that you have visited?

I was in Provence with my brother-in-law Terence Conran. We went for a New Year's Eve dinner to a three-star hotel, Oustau de Baumanière, and were presented with a bill for £2,800 for four people. The food was indifferent. We went home and we were still hungry. We hardly drank anything, certainly nothing extravagant. But £700 each?

Where is the most underrated place that you have visited?

The South Island of New Zealand. I hope it stays "underrated", and that the charm and the character remain. The people are lovely.

To where would you consider emigrating?

I'm quite happy here now, after peregrinating in Europe. I left Italy at 20, then went to Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, and then here. I've reached the point where my interests, friends and love life are all here, so I've no desire to emigrate.

What, for you, would be the trip of a lifetime?

I would like to do a televised journey similar to the one Michael Palin did, but on the subject of food. I tried to interest the BBC, but they didn't want to know. Food is always given the Cinderella role. There are so many places where it would be interesting to see what they eat, how they eat, what their life is like. A real cultural film, not a travelogue.

The world ends tomorrow - where do you regret never having been?

Kashmir, for one reason: I get morels from there. It's a very sought-after mushroom, and there is an entire village collecting for me. I'd like to see how they do it. And there's a lot of Africa that I don't know - I'd like to see Ethiopia.

Where are you going to travel next?

I don't know. Usually, we take a holiday in August and decide at the last minute. But certainly somewhere in the sun.