Steve Coogan on The Trip, Rob Brydon and Italian food

Steve Coogan

Steve Coogan

With the release of The Trip to Spain this month, we sat down with Steve Coogan to ask him how he travels.

English actor and comedian Steve Coogan has just starred in the third instalment of The Trip with Rob Brydon. They play fictionalised versions of themselves on a driving and dining tour. After England's Lake District and Italy's Amalfi Coast, this time they've taken The Trip to Spain, from the Basque country to Malaga.

Where's the last place you've been?
I only really travel for work. I'm just back from the Berlin Film Festival with Richard Gere, Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall, to promote The Dinner directed by Oren Moverman.

Where are you off to next?
I'm heading to New York to shoot a film called Hot Air about a right-wing shock jock in which I play a horrible Rush Limbaugh-style bastard.

What's the worst holiday you've ever been on?
The first holiday that I ever took was to Red Wharf Bay by Anglesey in Wales. I remember it because I fell down the stairs and split my head open. My aunt bought me a little plastic sailing boat to cheer me up. The first time I played with it I put it in the sea and the tide took it. I remember watching it sail away. It was low point in my third year.

What was the first trip you took abroad?
I went to Lourdes in France on a religious pilgrimage with my Catholic school. It was supposed to be about seeing the basilica where the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette but I only remember buying a sheath knife and drinking cider.

What were your family holidays like as child?
My mother was born in the west of Ireland and so every year we'd stay with her family in a farm house in County Mayo, where I spent most of my summers as a child digging turf, sharpening sticks with a pen knife, running into the sea and dodging the rain.

Are you a nervous traveller?
Not so much nervous, I'm more of an irritable traveller. But when I travel I like to be organised. I like things to be folded neatly. I used to throw everything into a case and get onto the plane at the last minute but I can't live my life like that any more. I like to prepare because I like low stress. I need things to be serene, ordered and civilised.

Boat, plane, train or car - what's your favourite way to travel?
Given a choice of transportation I like sitting on the train and reading. But if the roads are clear I like driving. Give me a windy road and a sports car and I'm happy.

What do always have with you when you go on a trip?
I never travel without my gym kit. I try to go running everywhere I go. I like to run outside and get a sense of the place where I am. It's the closest I get to meditation. I don't run with music and let the silence consume me.

Have you and Rob Brydon ever been away on holiday together for real?
He has been to stay at my little holiday retreat in the Lake District and offered me his little retreat in France. So potentially, I will holiday at his holiday home and he has holidayed at my holiday home but we've never been at either place with each other. That might be deliberate.

We were once flown out to Italy for Vogue by Anna Wintour - it wasn't really a holiday but it wasn't really work either. She loved the The Trip to Italy so much she got Anton Corbijn to take photographs of us on the Amalfi Coast at Villa Cimbrone in Ravello. When we went to the restaurant there were at least two couples that were there because they'd seen The Trip, and there's Rob and me eating at the next table. To them it was like we were always there on the Amalfi Coast eating.

If not Rob Brydon, who is your favourite travelling companion?
The best travelling companion I ever had was Judi Dench. It was a little bit like a scene from Philomena as I became her escort, except when we arrived in America we were whisked through passport control so fast that my head was spinning. She was treated like royalty and all I had to do was hang onto her coat-tails. That ended up being my modus operandi for the whole movie.

What's the most surprising place that you've ever been?
That would probably be Iceland. I once swam in hot springs with Björk near Reykjavik. I saw her swimming towards me through these clouds of steam. It was 20 years ago and I remember thinking that I was leading quite an interesting life

Where haven't you been that you've always wanted to go?
I've never been to Central or South America. I've always fancied going and doing Machu Picchu.

Where do you never want to go back?
I'd never go back to Tucson, Arizona for any amount of money. That's where I did my rehab.

With The Trip you've now toured England, Italy and Spain. What was your favourite of the three?
I love Spain, I love England, in particular I love the Lake District and Yorkshire and I have a special affection and affinity for the north of England because that's where I'm from. I love it; it's in my heart. But the Amalfi Coast is like falling in love with a beautiful woman - it's hard not to. I went back straight after we filmed there because it was so bewitching and lovely and the food was the best there too. The ingredients! The Italians send us their olive oil and mozzarella and some cured meat but they don't really send us their best stuff, they keep it all for themselves. That's very obvious when you go there. Why do the tomatoes they send to us not taste like the ones you get there?

The simple food, even the food eaten by the working-class Italians is so much better than the food eaten by working-class Brits. It's fresh and clean and they eat so much less processed food. Eating decent food is just part of the culture. The stranglehold that multinational supermarkets have on Britain and elsewhere in the world is depressingly complete in a way that it's not in somewhere like Italy. People still want to buy and cook local produce. I love the county, the Italian attitude to life and the dramatic nature of the landscape.

Will there be another Trip?
For a while there it looked like there wouldn't be but I think almost inevitably we'll do it again. I quite like the idea of doing it in Ireland so I can milk my Irish credentials. There's also the possibility of going to America but that feels a bit obvious. I think we can put the kibosh on Wales but who knows, anything is possible.


The Gourmet Traveller podcast

Each fortnight we round up the most interesting characters from the food world for your listening pleasure. We chat to chefs, cooks, authors, bar tenders and baristas - anyone who has something new and interesting to say about the way we like to eat and drink.

Listen
Recipe collections

Looking for fresh dinner ideas? Not sure how to make the most out of seasonal produce? Or do you need to plan the perfect party menu? Our recipe collections have you covered.

See more

You might also like...

Italian cooking schools

Even if you don’t know your tortellini from your tortelloni,...

Italy's new wave pizza

From one end of the boot to the other, Italy’s favourite fas...

Capri calling

Like the fabled sirens, this enchanted isle has long attract...

Best Italian villas

We check out the new crop of luxe residences to rent that gi...

The best of Rome

From Paloma Picasso and Kate Winslet to Elizabeth Gilbert an...

Sting and Trudie Styler's Tuscan estate

Il Palagio, the 16th-century Tuscan estate restored by Sting...

Genoa, Italy

Genoa, the coastal town that gave the world pesto, Christoph...

Unsung Tuscany

Welcome to the Maremma, a former wild frontier that’s home t...

Choc tactics

The Aztecs may have first cottoned on to cocoa and it has be...

La Serenissima

Venice seduces with its intoxicating mix of history, mystery...

Roman roaming

When Josephine McKenna moved to Rome five years ago, she was...

Modena, Italy

Modena is full of surprises: a quiet town that has given us ...

A place in the Tuscan sun

The Roman glitterati flock to the Argentario coast for summe...

Milan travel guide

While Milan matches Rome or Venice for historical romance, i...

Naples travel guide

Art, artefacts, archeological digs and fine artisanal produc...