How I Travel Toni Collette Found Heaven on the Italian Island of Ponza
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Style & Culture

How I Travel: Toni Collette Found Heaven on the Italian Island of Ponza

We peek into the airport routines and bizarre quirks of the world's most well-traveled people.

In the new comedy Mafia Mamma, out this week, Toni Collette vamps it up and brings the laughs as an American woman who is forced to take over the family crime business in Italy after her estranged grandfather dies. She wastes no time confirming that filming on location in the Eternal City was as glorious as it looks on screen. “Just being in Rome was the be all and end all. I've traveled to Italy many times, but being able to live in Rome and have a focus and a purpose and experience living in the city day to day—it was like a gift from the gods,” says the Aussie actress. “Honestly, it was so much fun! It wasn't just a highlight of my career; it was a serious highlight of my life.”

Ahead, Collette spills to Condé Nast Traveler about a few of her favorite Italian tastes and sounds, as well as what she packs, why she needs to vacation near water, and which southeast Asian city she’d return to again and again. 

On sightseeing (and eating) with her Italian costars and crew:

We found a few holes in walls, and I introduced them to a few as well! I'm very good at researching. It was carciofi [artichoke] season, so I was seeking them out at pretty much every meal. Carciofi alla Romana, not the fried kind. It was like finding gold every time towards the end of the shoot, because it was coming towards the end of the season. They took me to this keyhole where you look through this tiny hole and see the Vatican in the far distance. It's just perfectly framed. I went there at night, and it was the most incredible thing. I also never realized the Borghese Gardens were actually in the shape of a heart. Did you know that? So beautiful! Different gardens, restaurants, museums, secret little churches. There's so many churches there. I'm not religious, but I always go into them and sit there and soak up the energy. When I'm in other cities now and I hear the bells, I stop and I close my eyes and it feels like Rome.

The side trips she took during filming:

We went down [near] Naples for a weekend, a two-hour drive south of Rome, to a completely idyllic seaside resort. It was freaking magnificent. We also went to Ponza, which is really more for locals. Not many tourists were there. That was an incredible experience. We took the boat out for the day and just explored the island and swam and oh, heaven.

Her travel pet peeves:

Just being loud is so obnoxious. Well, did you know we’re all sharing a space, and it's quite small? Come on. What about the farters! That's just horrifying. That's where masks actually help because it acts like a filter, but it's like, what the fuck? Go to the bathroom, dude.

What’s in her carry-on bag:

I always have my computer because I'm too scared to check it in case someone nicks it. I have something warm because the plane gets cold—usually a scarf as well as a jacket. I have a book or two, and usually carry my speaker, so it's a little more protected than in my checked-in luggage. Now, I carry extra masks and hand sanitizer. I have a little hessian zip bag full of little face pads and creams that I love, like the Weleda Skin Food because it gets very, very dry on planes. That's a really thick, nourishing one for all skin types, which I love, and you can use it everywhere; I use it around my eyes, on my lips, my hands. And I have a couple of things from my kids—my daughter made a little cardboard tube with a piece of string and a marble in the middle. It's an eye, so she's watching! I always have that with me.

Her first time riding in first class:

I still get a thrill going first class! Although I'm a Qantas girl, Emirates first class is bonkers. I recently flew with them to get over to Europe to start this press tour, and it reminded me of my first first-class flight with Qantas because on the Emirates flight it was a big, proper [dinner] service and they dumped the whole tin of caviar on the plate, with all the accoutrement. You could have vodka, you could have champagne. They have the most amazing gluten-free bread on Emirates—better than any bakery on earth. The first first-class flight that I took, they had the same situation with the caviar. It was so weird back then, because people were still smoking and they just had curtains between smoking sections, as if you could separate it! So disgusting.

The memorable trip she took recently, and where she wants to go next:

A friend used to go to Parrot Cay, to the COMO resort in Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos. I'd been wanting to go for 25 years and I had a week, I was in the ‘hood, so I just went. I took myself there, and it was very beautiful. I swam every day, I had treatments every day, and the food was very good, so it ticked all my boxes. But the place I've never been that I want to go to before it [no] longer exists is the Maldives. I wonder if I would get a bit bored—there's not much to do—but I love water, so I can't imagine.

The destination (aside from Italy) she could travel to a million times:

Thailand! I love the culture, I love the people, I love the weather, I love the food. I love how insane Bangkok is. It's one of the most incredible cities. I just adore it. It makes me feel so alive and so excited. It's just an assault on the senses. It's a very exciting place to be. And also for the islands. I'm a big water baby. I'm a Scorpio. I love to be in the ocean. I just love snorkeling and swimming, and they have some of the most beautiful bodies of water there.

Her feelings on hotel bathroom amenities:

I don't like it when there's no robe. I've had that experience and you're like, whoa, what's happening? I went through a phase of collecting all the slippers, but I got too many. It was too much. I also went through a phase of stealing the bath mats. Really revealing things here!

Her favorite hotel staff on Earth:

I've stayed at a lot of hotels. You know what really makes a difference? The staff. For the last several years, I've stayed at Hotel Locarno, which is just off Piazza del Popolo. The staff there, honestly, you feel like you're family. Last time I left I was blowing kisses goodbye to the staff. They make you feel so comfortable, like you belong there. They have great baths. I like to have a bath.