- Tell us about yourself and where we can find more about your travelling.
I am Italian, live in Rome, 53 at the time of writing (2016), with a very normal life and a family. The bug of travelling bit me when I was 16, rather late compared to the average, but then I have never stopped since.Wandering, exploring, breathing, tasting, I like doing everything when on travel. While still following my normal life and professional career, I am constantly pushed by my wanderlust to take my time off, be it as low as 2-3 days, and go.Even alone. I cannot say I am a competitive traveller, since I live a very normal and busy life and cannot afford say, one month off or a sabbatical period. I always have to find a compromise with time, the most scarce resource we all have. I better think of myself as a constant traveller. For many years I thought of my travel bug as a sort of an eccentric attitude of mine, but lately, with the sociality of the Internet I discovered this was actually common to many people from virtually anywhere in the world.
Back to the online world, I think I was one of the first to exploit the Internet, especially in Italy. I used email before the web was even invented and started e-commerce back in 1996. So it was straightforward for me to register my domain www.mauromartino.it and in 2002 create a blog ante litteram. At the time there was not much software for blogs so interaction was limited and posts passed via email. My original blog discussed about travels, of course, and life amenities such as gourmet food, wines, liquors, books, movies and the like. And shared photos of course when Flickr, Shutterstock, Snapfish did not exist yet. But I knew that life on the Internet is speed, constant update, innovation. My job absorbs most of my time so I slowly turned my site into a more unidirectional window for travels, yet reacting to the comments I receive. I still update my web site by hand and by old-fashioned programming, struggling for finding the time to change it with a more modern look-and-feel.
A few years ago I also found the time to write a book about travels: “Escape!”.My book is not a reportage, it is more an essay on the art of travelling, particularly in the modern times. I had the luck (or bad luck) of start travelling when Internet did not even exist. So I wanted to offer people like me, and not only, the story of an experience. I wanted to help people who by nature are reluctant, or think they do not have the time or the money or the spirit to afford a travel, to overcome their fears or their laziness or they clear bonds and be rewarded with a life worth experience. And in doing this I try to teach to be professional, even if in the end you only want to entertain yourself: surprise does not mean improvisation.
- How many countries have you visited and where would like to settle down at some point (I know you fall in love in so many places, but choose one and tell us why)?
First we have to settle the issue of what it is a country and what a visit. Regarding the countries with a UN seat everybody agree that so far they are 193 but everybody agree that this definition is not enough as well. I have elaborated my criteria to define a country in a broader sense and I built a world country taxonomy which I report in my website. On this basis I count 257 countries in the world at the time of writing. As for the visit I use a slightly more stringent version of the one adopted by the MTP web site.
Given that at the moment of writing (2016) I have visited 97 UN countries and 106 countries of my extended list.
As to the last question, it is really difficult. But you said “settle down at some point”, so I think that the place of my retirement cannot be different from where I have roots and stay now, Italy.
- What do you miss most, aside from your family, from home?
Provided that while on travel sooner or later I will be back home, I do not miss anything from my home. I wish to enjoy everything of the place I am visiting.
- What is the most common misconception that people have about you during your travelling?
Well, not quite sure but in some not commonly visited countries, due to the fact that some time I travel alone, I was not believed to be a real tourist, more someone with a covert mission of sort. But this luckily did not cause too much trouble. I could have probably given some boring time to someone.
- Is there any place which you wouldn’t visit again and why?
I think that every country, with very few exceptions, has its own charm and things to see. In my web site I list the 1500 World Wonders. I am not the first to try such a chart, that you know is very much based on personal taste and experience, but mine, compared with the other resources available on the Internet, such as the Hillman List, or the famous Patricia Schultz’s 1000 places, or the recent Lonely Planet’s list, or even the Unesco WHS, has a unique feature: it lists at least one worth to see spot for every country in the world (257 as said before).So you have at least one reason to visit every country.
Apart this, after I visited a country there is always something I had to set aside, or I have overlooked. And then the country changes with time. For example I visited the same country (to name a few Czech Republic, Thailand, etc.) after more than 20 years and I saw really different places. So I would not dismiss the idea to be back to the same country, to see new things or old things with new eyes, even if in general I would prefer to try new countries. Maybe in future I’ll find a really bad place, you never know.
- Where did you meet the friendliest people and how did you feel about being around them?
As a tourist I was generally treated well everywhere. Usually the poorer the country, the more people tend to be kind, not considering those that see you as an ATM with legs. I do not want to name any, so I would only recall that on my first trip to Portugal in 1986, when they had just applied to join European Union and Italy was a sponsor, they were at the time exceptionally friendly.
- Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?
Well many, and most too much stupid to be published. The most recurring situation is when doing some excursion and you reach some unexpected spring, pool, fall or beach and you really do want to swim but do not have a swimming suit. I always did it with my men’s pant with a most serene nonchalance.
- What has been the most under-rated country/place you have been to and why? Most overrated country/place?
As I said, I think that most of the countries have something to show to an interested traveller. It is a matter of expectations and open mind. Given that I can list a number of countries that are not on the top touristic lists where you can have a good time and see a lot: Macedonia (FIROM), Laos, Georgia. I consider overrated any place where tourism is a mass market industry. When you travel a lot sometimes you can avoid such places sometimes not. But it is important to recognize them.
- Tell us about a favourite dish from the world and one from your country that everybody should try(If you have a picture, share it with us).
When I travel local food for me is part of the experience. In my web site I list a number of my favourite dishes around the world. Here I list 2-3 that come to my mind now: Japanese sashimi (particularly toro, hotate and sake, i.e. fatty tuna, stjacques and salmon), corderopatagonicoasado (i.e. wild Argentinian lamb on fire), pad thai (thai noodles). But the more I travel the more I think that Italian cuisine is unique both for quality and variety, and for tastiness and healthiness. I can’t name now the tens and hundreds of Italian food recipes. But I want to make a point. Cooking in Italy is an art (at least for those that love food) and not an activity devoted to put something in the stomach not to starve. So even if you ever tried the most common and renown daily Italian dish,“spaghetti al pomodoro” (spaghetti with tomato), be aware that there are hundreds of variations and that the one in the most touristic city center “trattoria” (small restaurant) can be miles apart from the best. To be concrete, my idea of the best is using thick spaghetti made with “senatorecappelli” variety of durum wheat grown in Abruzzo land, drawn with a bronze machine, cooked in salt water (slightly salted with Sicily salt rich in iodium) “al dente” (hard but not too much), and seasoned with original San Marzano fresh tomato grown in Campania land, just scalded only with salt and extra virgin olive oil from Liguria hills and a few basil leaves from your garden. Nothing else. After tried this every other tomato pasta will look like a pale resemblance. But I am sure that someone else has already devised a different recipe of the best spaghetti with tomato. I should soon discover it and try….
- What is your favourite author and what did you like about his style?
John R.R: Tolkien, father of the modern fantasy.
- What is your favourite music (You can share a playlist/link)?
You may think of me as a caveman, but I am still stuck with the fusion from the ’70 and ’80, when music was still played by musicians and not by actors and models, people such George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Ernie Watts, Shakatak, Rahband, Shalamar, George Benson and other myriads… More recently I appreciated some ethnic compilations made by Sam Popat in 2006 and Ravin in 2007 for Buddha Bar label.
- What song from your country everybody should know?
La canzone del sole by Lucio Battisti
- Give us one of your favourite phrases in your mother tongue and explain what it means.
“Mamma miachedomanda!” means“My god, what a question!”And it may come from the fact that for us mommy is like God!
- Do you have a favourite foreign name and what does it mean?
Not quite.But I have a funny story about names happened to a friend of mine whose name is Andrea. You know that in Italy Andrea is only for men, while in US, Germany, etc. is for women. Once he was exchanging emails with a Rosario in the US, name again for women there while in Italy is only for men as well. So imagine a man talking to a woman thinking that she is a man while she, on the other hand, was thinking the contrary about him.
- You have a chance to ask one question to anyone in history and get an honest reply – what is your question and to whom?
To Giuseppe Garibaldi. What was the exact terms and the reasons of the agreement of Teano with Vittorio Emanuele II on 26 October 1860 (when South Italy just conquered by Garibaldi was handed over to the Savoy)?
- One thing you don’t like about other travellers?
The implicit or explicit disapproval with which they observe and judge behaviour and way of life in developing countries.
- What has been your most valuable lesson learned from travel?
That the best travel is the next one.