Now on the verge of receiving BAFTA’s Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year, Helena Bonham Carter first made Florentine getaways fashionable as a girl of 18, when she starred in the Oscar-winning A Room with a View—all about the life-changing potential of a Tuscan adventure. She never could quit those trips—herewith, her favorite foods, shops, and pastimes in beloved Firenze.
To get away from it all, I go to … Florence, Italy.
My favorite way to travel there is … Car, plane, car. Not long, and always worth it.
My favorite place to stay is … In a house my great-grandmother bought just after the Second World War, that she left for all her descendants to enjoy. I go because it’s a pocket of paradise, and it’s a place in the world that unfailingly fills one with bliss.
My ideal travel companions are … My children, who love eating the tomatoes out of the earth, and my boyfriend, [Tim Burton,] who loves painting on Uncle Frank’s balcony. My mother, who loves reading in the cool of the bedrooms, and my brothers and their families, who all love the pasta.
When I’m in the mood for room service, my favorite order is … The homemade gnocchi verdi are legendary.
My favorite place to go to indulge in a delicious Florentine meal is … There is a deli in the [San Lorenzo] Mercato Centrale called Perini that makes a sin-filled, truffle-flavored cream cheese. The onion one is good, too. The family that runs it practically force-feeds you with gargantuan taster portions of prosciutto or fennel salami or cheese with quince jam, all piled onto pane arabe. Mum and me tend to go there before contemplating anything else.
To stay in shape, my on-the-go fitness regimen is … There is no regimen that lasts longer than a day. Does swimming count? Or justifying a gelato by walking into Florence, which is a 35-minute amble all the way downhill? The most painless exercise ever.
My suitcase must absolutely contain … I never travel without a hot-water bottle, whatever the temperature. It’s my sleeping pill (I don’t swallow it: I rest it on my tummy, and it pretty much unfailingly sends me off to the unconscious).
When it comes to luggage, I am a … Ridiculous overpacker, and I’m proud of it. I always get tremendously excited before a holiday, and I now recognize one of my main pleasures is the run-up—specifically the sorting of my wardrobe. I rummage, explore, find old friends, try new outfits, and invent a new personality that will change her clothing 12 times a day (where as normally I spend my life wearing same thing day in and out). It’s like I become a hyperactive, three-dimensional paper doll.
When I’m in the mood for some retail therapy, the shops I must visit are … There is a brilliant boutique called Guya, just behind the Piazza della Signoria, that sells my favorite designers: High, [Marithé et François] Girbaud, and [Vivienne] Westwood. They know me well. I have spent large fortunes there. I can practically hear a chorus of “Hallelujah” as they see me.
My favorite travel pastimes are … Reading, crafting, sleeping …
Upon arrival, I most look forward to … A ton of books, novels, and all of the culture that I never get to while on the hamster-wheel sprint of daily life. I take a suitcase (part of overpacking), and read a small percentage.
Upon departing, I am most happy to leave behind … [My] to-do list and the plurality of phones, doorbells, e-mails, texts, and bombardment of demands from many that is really the privilege of every working and nonworking mother—or person—that lives in this world where we are permanently available to everyone.