Nicola Benedetti: My life in travel

'I always end up carrying a huge amount of luggage'

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The Independent Travel

It's a steep, steep climb to my dad's village in Italy.

He grew up in the area surrounding Pisa, but left for Scotland when he was nine years old. After a lifetime of hearing stories of him departing the beautiful mountain top village of Farnocchia on a donkey, I finally visited, with my parents. The population can't be more than 100 people. When we finally got to his grandparents' home the owner came outside, sensing we were keen to take a look, and said to my parents "You will love this story if you're from Scotland. We bought this house 35 years ago from the grandparents of a Scottish violinist, Nicola Benedetti." My parents just laughed and replied, "She's standing right here."

There's something deeply therapeutic about a long walk.

The home my mother grew up in is on the outskirts of the Auchinleck estate in Ayrshire, and some of my purest childhood memories are from there, walking for endless hours in among the valleys and forests on a Saturday with my Uncle Tommy's dogs ... and a goat would join us too. Eating mince, tatties and beans cooked by my gran after returning home always tasted like the greatest meal of all time.

Skiing isn't easy when you're aged four or five.

I remember being in our old flat in northern Italy, being woken up at 7am, having toasted Italian bread with jam and preparing for a cold day skiing with my family. I was always slightly nervous about the day ahead.

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Benedetti loves the Côte d'Azur

Beaches with no people are the best.

I'm no expert on beaches but have been to many along the Côte d'Azur. The little hidden gems with no people – those are the places I remember the most.

I knew Bilbao would be beautiful ...

But it was breathtaking in every single way: food, culture, architecture art. And the audience for our performance was engaged and yet lively. A wonderful place.

I always end up carrying an enormous amount of luggage.

It makes every delay and queue more frustrating and tiring. Fortunately, I don't like to buy things on holiday.

Coffee in Italy is the best.

It arrives perfect without a hundred explanations of this or that to add or take away. Produce in Italy is tasty without any sauces or fancy additions. And, of course, there's the pasta. The weirdest thing I've eaten was in China, when I was given "chicken". There is no way in the world it was chicken, and to this day I have no idea what I actually ate. I also ordered a steak to my room which was processed meat with grill marks on top of it.

It's impossible to choose a favourite city.

New York is somewhere I seem to always want more of – I'm always fed with energy there and never need to sleep much. But London is one of the most incredible cities in the world and I feel very fortunate to live there. Its parks are some of the best in the world, and Kew Gardens is so stunning. London is in danger of pricing itself out of normality though.

I really like to be alone when travelling.

But if I was going with someone it would be anyone I could ask a million questions to, who knows far more than me. Who could that be? Chomsky?

Each and every trip changes me in some way.

I am forever taking trips for work; I try to be very open to my surroundings and soak up what's there. India was a particularly interesting place for me. I found the people to be the most intuitive in the world. In fact, I never had to explain myself to anyone.

Violinist Nicola Benedetti is on tour across the UK and Ireland between 17 and 30 September (nicolabenedetti.co.uk).

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