A LIFE IN TRAVEL... Paolo Rotondo
The Kiwi-Italian writer, actor and director shares his favourite travel memories.

What do you miss most about travel right now?

I absolutely miss the wonder and wide-eyedness that one experiences when going somewhere entirely new. All one's senses are awake, and you feel truly in the moment.

What are your strongest memories from the first overseas trip you ever took?

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I remember as an 8-year-old going to Japan. Tokyo was such a deep canyon of buildings, skyscrapers and queues of orderly taxis. I could not tell the time of day from the quality of the light. It was a full sci-fi reality. I loved it.

What was a standard family holiday like when growing up?

When I lived in Italy, we had a tiny sailing boat called Kiwi 2. My mother on board was "Kiwi 1". We sailed around the islands in the Gulf of Napoli. In Aotearoa, we would visit an aunt at Motutere Point in Taupō. Both experiences were very Italian and very Kiwi.

Who has most inspired your travels?

My mother and father both had a genuine passion for other cultures and experiences. That respect for otherness and difference is a gift I am very grateful for.

What is the greatest trip you've ever been on?

When I was younger I was obsessed with Che Guevara, Castro and revolutions so I travelled to Cuba on my own. It was the most fascinating, fun and conflicting journey, on every level imaginable. It felt like an experiment in another way of life and different possibilities for the world. The joy and contradictions of that country have stayed with me.

And the worst?

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Back in the day, rural New Zealand was not so kind to people who looked like me, talked like me and came from the big smoke. I am overjoyed to say that no longer happens…in fact, quite the opposite.

Actor/director/writer Paolo Rotondo. Photo / Supplied
Actor/director/writer Paolo Rotondo. Photo / Supplied

What is the destination that most surprised you – good or bad?

Pago Pago in American Samoa was so different from Samoa. The crass commercial side and US influence didn't fit very well with my view of the Pacific.

Where was your most memorable sunrise/sunset?

Recently I was on Te Mata Peak watching the sunset at this super-cool little restaurant called Peak House. Possibly the best view in Hawke's Bay.

What do you miss most about home when you travel?

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Home-cooked food. I am convinced that there is more nutrition in something prepared with love.

Where is the one destination you must see in your lifetime?

I simply must travel to India. I know that sounds a bit generic considering it's an entire subcontinent, but that is precisely why I must go.

What's your favourite thing about travel?

Food and people together. I always meet people when I need to eat, and even without language, the food communicates so much.

Cinema Italiano: The Italian Film Festival is in Auckland from September 17 to October 2, and then continues nationwide. For details, go to cinemaitalianonz.com