Bruno Tonioli recalls his holidays of a lifetime 

  • The Strictly Come Dancing judge recounts the first trip he can remember, to Italy
  • He retreats to the Maldives, his idea of heaven, to recharge his batteries
  • And where is he dreaming of visiting? Bora Bora which ‘sounds like paradise’

Heaven: Bruno (above) in the Maldives in 2010

Continuing our series featuring the holiday memories of famous people, this week Strictly Come Dancing judge BRUNO TONIOLI, 62, recalls his life of adventures…

First holiday I can remember: 

When my parents could afford it, in August they would send me from our damp flat in Ferrara to get some sea air in Cervia, a resort on the Adriatic coast, with my grandmother and two cousins. When I was four we went for a month, with four of us squashed into one room. It was a 45-minute walk to the beach from our bedsit and every day my sainted grandmother would carry a large beach umbrella there and back, because they were too expensive to hire.

First time abroad: 

In 1974 I was plucked from obscurity to play Jesus Christ in the satirical revue La Grand Eugene which went to Paris. Coming from a small Italian town, I was stunned by the glamour and beauty of the French capital and I went to the opera for the first time. To see The Magic Flute at the Palais Garnier was like the discovery of a whole new world.

Best ever trip: 

The first time I could treat myself to a proper holiday was in the early 1980s and I went on safari in Kenya. The beauty of the landscape and the clarity of the air take your breath away. I was 6ft from a rhinoceros, which was mind-blowing. I stayed in a beautiful camp with a tent like a hotel room and had fantastic views of Mount Kilimanjaro. It was like Out Of Africa.

Worst ever trip: 

I am very particular about my hotels. The only time I made a misjudgment was 20 years ago when I let a travel company book my trip to Mexico. I said I needed a very nice hotel on the beach and wanted to go to the ruins at Tulum. The hotel turned out to be a 2,500-room monster with all-inclusive drinks and buffet starting at 11am – my version of hell. But I couldn’t move because it was Christmas and everywhere was full. It wasn’t even near Tulum. I went out all day, every day, and saw every Mayan site on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Fond memories: A young Bruno in Italy with his parents 

Fond memories: A young Bruno in Italy with his parents 

Favourite place: 

When my three months of commuting between London and Los Angeles for Strictly comes to an end each December, I need to recharge my batteries. The Maldives is where I can pull the plug and do nothing except swim and read.

My dream destination: 

I’ve done almost every tropical destination except the South Pacific. My dream is to go to Bora Bora. It sounds like paradise and ticks all my boxes – blue sea, white sand and swaying palms – and it’s in French Polynesia, so the food should be good.

My perfect companion: 

I like going on holiday on my own. A companion would have to be someone I can have a laugh with, be easy-going, and say ‘Whatever you like, darling’ a lot.

The first thing I pack: 

Three books – I can’t stand reading on a tablet. I read biographies and thrillers, and always in English. Italian is my first language but English is my chosen language.