'North Korea appeals to me because people don't know much about it'

What is your first holiday memory?

What is your first holiday memory?

I used to go to the village my father was born in, Monforte, which is near Cassino, south of Rome. There was no running water in those days, which was quite interesting for a little boy used to a relative amount of luxury.

What was your best holiday?

Spending 10 days in Iceland salmon fishing. I caught a huge number of them, about 99. I loved the complete wilderness and the rugged volcanic terrain.

Are you a frequent traveller?

I travel mostly for business, so I don't like the travelling part very much - on average I'm on a plane around twice a week.

What is your favourite place in the British Isles?

I like Scotland quite a lot; I go there to shoot in the grouse season. I quite like Cornwall too - my sister has a hotel in St Mawes and it's very unspoilt there.

What have you learnt from your travels?

That people are very similar the world over. People's daily lives have the same problems across the globe. You can talk about mothers-in-law anywhere and you get a response.

Who would be your ultimate travelling companion?

Perhaps Cameron Diaz for her brain. Otherwise, my family.

Are you beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I hate lying on a beach all day. I like to do some sort of activity, if possible. I like a bit of culture, but not too much, because I'm usually tired when I go on holiday and I want to relax.

What luxury would you never travel without?

If I can take it, my bicycle.

What do you read on holiday?

I'm taking Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore on holiday with me this summer, and last summer I read Roy Jenkins' biography of Churchill. I do read lighter stuff too, like Freddy Forsyth's thrillers.

Is it better to travel than to arrive?

Travelling these days is a nightmare, so arriving is a relief. Airlines treat one like cattle and airports are always very congested.

To where would you never return?

I once went to a place in south-east Iran because the Forte group were feeding workers who were building a motorway across a desert. It is the only place where I have had a shower and felt dirtier after than I did beforehand. I slept on top of the bed with my clothes on.

Where is the most overrated place you've been?

Probably Phuket. The Amanresort that I was staying in at the time was an oasis, but outside it was fairly cheap and nasty.

Where is the most underrated place you've been?

I went to New Zealand last December, when I was taking part in the world triathlon championships. It was one of the most beautiful places that I've ever seen. It was a cross between Scotland, Canada and Iceland. The light there is fantastic and it is very under-populated. It's also a lot more sophisticated than I expected it to be.

To where would you emigrate?

A natural country for me to go to would be Italy if I didn't live in England, because I am of Italian origin and I speak the language.

Where would be your trip of a lifetime?

I have never been to Africa or on a safari, so that appeals to me. Friends who go to Africa regularly say that they can't leave, that it's almost like a drug, so I'd like to see what it is like for myself.

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

North Korea. There's something very appealing about it being a police state and a rather deprived country that people don't know much about.

Where are you going next?

To Italy and Turkey. We're taking a boat along the Turkish coast.

Sir Rocco Forte is chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels. Earlier this month, the company added the five-star property Le Richmonde in Geneva to its collection. For more information visit www.roccofortehotels.com