Travelling with Anthony Lapaglia

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Aug 24, 2016

by JESSICA IRVINE, Associate Editor

Raised in South Australia, based in Los Angeles and swindled in Sicily, the actor is a truly seasoned traveller.

When you walk into a hotel room, what’s the first thing you look for?

It’s the mattress. The bed is everything to me. I’ve bought mattresses for my own home based on ones that I’ve slept on in a hotel. I really like the mattresses they use at Four Seasons hotels; they definitely have amazing beds, as does The Soho Hotel in London. Unfortunately, some of the worst hotel beds I’ve slept in have been in Australia. I’ve actually had to check the bed to make sure that it wasn’t just a box spring.

What do you like to find in your minibar?

I do like a little shot of vodka every now and then and I’d appreciate tequila, which I prefer to drink. Some hotels have fantastic minibars with all kinds of interesting things, like edible undies – not that I’ve used those but they’re there.

Where is your home away from home?

New York. I lived in the city for 25 years so I feel very comfortable there.

SEE ALSO: Our full guide to New York City

Is there a city you could have given a miss?

Oh, it’s so horrible to trash a city, isn’t it? Antwerp [in Belgium]. I’ve been to cities in America that were worse, to be honest. But if you’re talking internationally, I’d have to say that Antwerp was underwhelming.

Describe your typical childhood holiday.

It consisted of my father coming home and saying, “Right, everybody in the car! We’re driving to Canberra to see your uncle.” So we’d all pile into the car and within half an hour we were driving to Canberra. We either slept in some cheap motel or in the car. It wasn’t glamorous. Not like my daughter [Bridget, 13, with former partner Gia Carides], who has been around the world three times and stayed in some of the most amazing hotels ever. 

Where would you most like to take your daughter?

Egypt – she and I share an interest in Egyptology – and I’d also like to take her to the Galápagos Islands [in Ecuador].

Do you wander the streets or follow a map?

I’m not a map person at all. If you give me a map, I’ll turn it into a paper plane. I just like hitting the streets – and when you do that it’s with mixed success. Sometimes you stumble upon great stuff and other times you miss it.

What destination surprised you?

Southern Greece. I’ve been to Greece a number of times – always to the more glamorous islands, like Mykonos. But when I went to Kalogria in the Peloponnese, I liked it so much more. They’re really political, really interesting people. It’s one of the few places I didn’t want to leave.

Have you ever gone completely off the grid?

Yes. In East Timor, when I did [2009’s] Balibo. We were off the grid for days at a time. They didn’t really have the internet, my phone didn’t work, the plumbing was questionable. There was really nothing and despite all that, I loved it. In fact, I had a hard time readjusting when I got back home. I think I’d be pretty good in the witness protection program.

Have you ever been fleeced?

Oh, yeah – in Italy, my father’s home country. It was brilliant, actually. I went to Sicily with my younger brother, Jonathan. We got to Taormina and decided the beach looked great. We parked the car, went for a swim and came back. I had this shitty denim jacket with my wallet in it and my brother had a nice camera, both of which we left in the car. As we walked back to the car, these two Italian guys – in their mid-20s maybe – were leaning against a red sports car, smoking cigarettes. They just looked at us and smiled. We got to the car and realised that we’d been robbed. They stole my brother’s camera but thank God that denim jacket was shitty, because they didn’t want it. They actually had the nuts to watch us go to the car and see our reaction. Then they just calmly drove off.

If that’s the worst of it, given all the travel you’ve done, that’s not so bad. You must fit in pretty easily? 

I lived in New York for a long time in the ’80s, when it was a war zone, and you learn pretty quickly to have the antennae up. And it’s always stayed with me. If I’m in a foreign place, I try to be aware of what’s going on around me. And I trust my instincts – if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t say to myself, “Don’t be silly, you’re imagining it.” I trust that instinct and I’ll take action. I won’t go down a particular alley if I’ve got a bad feeling about it. I won’t walk into a neighbourhood if it starts to feel a bit “itchy”.

Can you share a favourite dining experience?

Some of the best have been in Melbourne. I went to Tonka – so good, like an Indian fusion – and the other that I enjoy there is Coda [both in the CBD]. In Sydney, I go to A Tavola [in Darlinghurst]; it has good Italian food. I also like Maurizio Terzini’s little place in Bondi [Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta].

Ever taken a great road trip?

Yes, I have – from New York to Los Angeles. I’ve done it three times, taking three separate routes. The first trip was in a 1966 Dodge Dart. It was a friend’s car, which I borrowed because I wanted to go to LA and didn’t have the money to fly. Normally for a trip across the States you’d give yourself a week or two but I did it in three days. It was mental. I didn’t really stop unless it was to get gasoline. I got to the point where I started hallucinating – I saw snakes come out of the hood of the car. It was insane. I took my time on the second trip; about two weeks. You really don’t get America until you drive across it. When you drive through the middle, it’s just a whole other place. In Arkansas, one of the first things I saw was a Kentucky Fried Chicken with deep-fried gizzards as the special of the day. Which is like chicken guts, I guess. It’s different. 

Do you prefer resort or rustic? 

Camping, to me, is a four-star hotel [laughs]. I’m not big on rustic. Although, in East Timor, I was sleeping on dirt floors and loved it. If I go on a vacation, I want it to be pretty lush. I like the creature comforts.

When you go away, what are you most  likely to bring home? 

I’m going to say nothing, because I don’t want Customs looking at me [laughs].

And if you could be anywhere else in the world right now, where would it be?

You know what? I love where I am right now, this minute – in LA in my backyard. I’m very happy here. It’s not very exciting but I like it. The old saying is: no matter where you go, there you are – whatever baggage you have, you bring it with you. I like my life now, a lot. And pretty much wherever I am, I’m okay. 

SEE ALSO: Bernard Fanning’s Favourite Places