Venice: Not Springer's favourite memory

Controversial chat show host Jerry Springer tells Nick McGrath about his passion for Italy, why he’s not a gastronomic daredevil and how his heart was broken in Paris.

Why do you think Italy is inspiring?

JerrySpringerTV's Jerry Springer is a regular traveller
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"My wife and I are in love with Italy, and Tuscany in particular, and you get the feeling that when God created the place, he was showing off. Everything about the country is stunningly beautiful, from the countryside, to the atmosphere to the spirit of the people. The landscape is physically beautiful, I love the soul of the Italian people and every time I visit it feels like I’m getting back in touch with nature and also back in touch with history. For me and my family it’s the closest place you can get to heaven."

I hear you are a history buff?

When you come from the United States, history matters and that’s one of the reasons I love Italy so much. My love affair began when I first visited Tuscany in the 1990s and I was just blown away by the architecture and found myself literally gazing in awe at some of the museums and ancient buildings, many of which are way, way older than anything in the United States.

What is your favourite city?

Florence200Florence: Springer's favourite city
Tuscany has some beautiful cities, including Siena and Pisa, but the jewel in the crown is Florence, surely one of, if it not the, most beautiful cities in the world. My career’s always pretty crazy whether I’m doing TV stuff in America or West End shows in London but when I need a time out with my wife; somewhere where we can really kick back, enjoy ourselves and just enjoy life’s simple pleasures of eating, enjoying some culture and doing some sightseeing there’s no better place than Florence, and what I like best about the city is that it doesn’t matter where you look there’s always something that will take your breath away.

How do you cope with all the travelling you do?

Zurich200Rooms with great views in Zurich
My career has taken me round the world many times and I’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to hotels; I’ve stayed in some of the best on the planet. If I’m in London I’m a big fan of the Dorchester’s grand, old fashioned ambience and for something even more opulent - and with a better view - you can’t top the Grand Hotel in Zurich. The hotel itself is stunning, the service is second to none and you can see the lake from your balcony so it’s a spectacular experience from start to finish. But top of my list is the Villa San Michelle which is a staggering beautiful resort hotel overlooking Florence. It dates back to the 15th Century, Michelangelo designed the façade and it’s perched on a hilltop overlooking the city and surrounded by terraced gardens, lemon trees and if you’re looking for serene romance, look no further.

Have you had a romantic travel experience?

Paris200Springer had his heart broken in Paris
People say that Paris is the city of love but it wasn’t like that for me. Or at least it wasn’t in the sixties when I travelled there in my early twenties. I was at Law School in the States, I was probably 22, and in the summer of 1966 I decided to take a student ship, the Orelia, from New York to England to embark on a character building two-month European tour. There were 1,100 people on the trip and the only requirement was that you couldn't be under 18 or over 25, so as you can imagine it was eight days of heaven. I met this woman and I was really taken with her and followed her around Europe. We went everywhere together for a few weeks and then when we got to Paris she just bolted, completely vanished, leaving me a note telling me that she had a boyfriend back home, so you can see why Paris wasn’t the city of love for me.

Any travel tips for us?

I’ve travelled extensively for decades now so I’ve become a pretty accomplished packer and I don’t tend to make many packing mistakes but the same can’t be said for all airlines. The worst experience I’ve had was on a return journey from Italy when all seven of our cases were lost by the airline. For some reason everything, cameras, clothes, toiletries, the whole nine yards was sent to France and it took us eight or nine days to finally get everything back. But we did learn a valuable lesson from that experience and now we always take a direct flight to the States from Europe.

What are your favourite elements of any trip?

Family and relaxation are my two key ingredients for successful travel. An ideal trip would be with my family and I’d be sitting by some water; maybe a pool or maybe the ocean and when your working schedule is a hyperkinetic as mine, when the chance to relax does finally arrive it comes pretty easy and I can be in full on vacation mode within about seven minutes. The only thing that might jolt me out of that mood is food. I got very sick about 15 years ago in Venice and it’s not something I want to repeat, so the general rule that I tell my family is: "Let's play it safe with the food or I'll go crazy." It's not going to be fun if you get taken to some strange foreign hospital with food poisoning. The other obvious downer on every holiday for me is the end. When we have to pack our bags I’m always like: “Can we stay another day or two?”

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