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Celebrity Travel: Go Away With Mark Lamprell

By Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency on

"I live in Manly, (near) Sydney," says Australian filmmaker Mark Lamprell, one of the co-writers of "Babe: Pig in the City." "It's a magical part of the world -- a spit of land with an ocean beach on one side and Sydney Harbour on the other. You can catch a ferry into the city center in 20 minutes." Lamprell is also the author of the book, "One Summer Day in Rome" (Flatiron Books, $24.99). We talked with him about his travels in general and Rome in particular.

Q. What have you learned from your travels?

A. The brilliant thing about travel is the perspective it offers you. It's impossible to stand in the places where Michelangelo painted, where Caesar spoke, where Saint Peter is buried and not feel small. You realize that you are a microscopic blip in the grand pageant of history. Nothing matters and everything matters. This is a useful thing to comprehend -- life will be over in a blink. It's important to embrace the real opportunities before you and let the imaginary ones go.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. It was a beach holiday that entailed a five-hour drive down the south coast of New South Wales. I was car sick the entire way. The only thing I remember about it is vomiting in the back seat of my dad's car.

Q. What are your favorite cities?

A. Rome, Amsterdam, Venice, Paris, London, New York.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. San Francisco, with its lovely buildings tumbling down the hills toward the harbor, often reminds me of Sydney.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. Don't get me started! Prague, St. Petersburg, Beijing, Seoul, Mumbai...

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?

A. Drinking a Lambrini as the sun goes down. It is mixed in a cocktail shaker, two parts gin and one part Aperol -- a glorious spicy, orange-flavored Italian liquor -- served in a Martini glass with a twist of orange. Some people say it tastes like rocket fuel but I think it's like drinking a liquid sunset. Heaven!

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Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. Rome! Each time I return I am even more enchanted by it.

Q. Your book is all about Rome. What are your top five picks for tourists in Rome?

A. Visit Campo de' Fiori and Palazzo Spada. Start first thing in the morning for a taste of Italy in Campo de' Fiori when the piazza is filled with market stalls and shops selling fruit and vegetables, breads and meat and some other bits and pieces. Then go to Palazzo Spada to see the mystery illusion. I'm saying no more.

Next, visit Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. Piazza Navona used to be a stadium where the ancient Romans held games and it was occasionally flooded so they could entertain the crowds with mock naval battles. Now it is crowded with tourists most of the time, but is still worth a visit, if only for the incredible fountains. The Pantheon, which is my all-time favorite building in Rome, is not far away.

Go to the Colosseum area. This is where Rome began, with the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, Imperial Forums and Circus Maximus. Get a guide to take you through this extraordinary area. Otherwise it's just a bunch of old buildings! This will take at least half a day, though you could spend the whole day here.

Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano. The Rome we visit now sits literally above its history. There's no better example of that than the Basilica of San Clemente, not far from the Colosseum. This is a medieval church built right on top of an early Christian church that is built on top of a pagan temple. The mosaics and frescoes are impressive and you get to travel through three layers of history in one go.

Museum and Crypt of the Capuchins. If you are into skulls and bones, and even if you're not, head over to see the relics of the Capuchin Monks, not far from Piazza Barberini. Unique is the word I'd use to describe it...

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. The Keyhole in Rome. To get there, climb the Aventine Hill to the hidden-away Piazza Cavalieri di Malta. It really isn't near much else so you have to make a special trip. There is a massive door with a keyhole. Look through the keyhole. You will discover that it perfectly frames a distant view of the dome of St. Peter's through two rows of trees. It's as if legions of town planners and landscape architects have conspired to create this wonderful surprise, just for you.


(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)



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