My life in travel: Gennaro Contaldo

'Why would you want to read a book on holiday, when there is so much to see'

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Chef Gennaro Contaldo has teamed up with the Bertolli Spread Olive D'Oro Awards to find the nation's best Italian delis. To vote for your favourite, visit competition

First holiday memory?

I was born on the Amalfi Coast. When I was younger I used to see all these people come to the area on holiday but didn't understand what the word "holiday" meant. Probably the first time I realised was when I brought my children back for the first time, after so many years, to my hometown Minori. That was a holiday.

Favourite place in the British Isles?

Scotland. I went on holiday one Christmas to Dunoon with my wife Liz and it snowed. It's a small, cosy place on the Cowal Peninsula, that looks out across the Firth of Clyde. It was paradise.

Best holiday?

Salina, in the Aeolian Islands, north-west of Sicily. My goodness, what a place, it was incredible. The flavour, the smell, the local produce, the cooking, the sea ... everything. I loved Salina.

What have you learnt from your travels?

I always learn so much about the food and the different dishes that the people are cooking. Many of them are recipes I already know, but you see them cooked in different ways, which gives you new tips.

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I am mad about food and mad about meeting people. It's so interesting to discover different cultures and what they eat.

Holiday reading?

I read more books when I am in England than when I go on holiday. Why would you want to read a book when there is so much to see? You can read a book anytime at home.

Where has seduced you?

There are so many places that have seduced me. The Amalfi Coast, especially. Every time I go home I fall in love again when I see my mountains, the sea, the smell of the lemon groves and the taste of the food. But also Greece, in particular Sifnos island in the Cyclades. It was incredible: the white houses, the blue sea and there was a fantastic restaurant, where I ate lovely fresh tuna. I thought I was in heaven.

Worst travel experience?

I've never had a bad experience, but I am always afraid that the plane won't leave on time or there will be a cancellation. Every time it gives me a bad feeling and makes me worried, especially if I'm running a little bit late. But once I am on the plane, wherever I'm going, I know I will enjoy it.

Best hotel?

Il San Pietro in Positano. I know the family there and they look after you so much. I do like a bit of fussing around sometimes and to feel special when I go on holiday. They always give me this beautiful room overlooking the sea. You can call up room service and before you've hung up the phone there's already someone at your door. The food there is to dream about.

Favourite drive?

I love driving around the English countryside in my old car. It's an E-type Jaguar that was given to me as a present, on my birthday, by Jamie [Oliver], because I always loved vintage cars. I almost cried when I received it. You can't drive it in London but in the English countryside on Sunday afternoon, it's my treasure.

Best meal abroad?

The best meal I ever had was in South Africa. I was in Camps Bay at the Twelve Apostles Hotel and the chef made me a fantastic meal of wild goat, with this lovely potato with lots of African spice. When they served it to me they said the meal was to celebrate the animal, to treat it with respect. The chef was a young boy with such talent.

Favourite city?

Rome. The city is still a mystery, even though it goes back more than 2,000 years. Everything is there: I love the Vatican, the food is good, the weather is excellent and the people are fantastic.

Where next?

I'm going away with the family. We want to go back to Salina and the Aeolian Islands for a little tour because you can spend two days in one place, two days in another, and keep moving around. I have 10-year-old twins who have travelled with me around Europe, but they've never been there. I want to take them back and share a bit of quality time with them.