You’ve been The Hotel Inspector for a decade… any advice for guests?
Check the details that you care about. For example, I always check the size of the bed because I know that if it’s narrower than 1.8m, I’m going to be miserable. If it’s a nice hotel, I email the concierge and ask for a list of restaurants to see how on the ball they are. You can tell a lot by how quickly and fully someone responds to you.
If you have to make a complaint, what’s the best way to go about it?
Don’t raise your voice – stay calm, because nobody likes being shouted at. And always ask to see the duty manager. Don’t start bemoaning something to some poor receptionist. You might as well start at the top.
What’s luxury for you?
I prize being on holiday with my extended family. I’ve got a week this summer at my uncle’s Rocco Forte hotel in Sicily, with my mum and dad, both my sisters, all the cousins together, with none of us having to worry about cooking a meal or making a bed. That is luxury.
How Italian do you feel, having grown up in the UK?
Italy is definitely a second home to me. It is lovely knowing another language so well that you don’t have to think about it. One of the greatest regrets of my life is bringing up my children without speaking Italian, which is unforgiveable of me.
Where do you return to time and again?
We’ve got great friends in Venice and every time I go there I’m completely blown away by how beautiful it is. I know it’s a cliché but there is nowhere like it in the world.
Any insider tips?
La Scuola Grande di San Rocco has these amazing paintings by Tintoretto. It’s well explained and helps you understand how Venice became such an important trading centre, and it’s a bit off the beaten track, so you can gaze at them without other people breathing down your neck.
Where else would you recommend?
I love Matera, down in Basilicata in the south of Italy, which is a city that’s carved out of a hillside. It was cleared out in the 1950s because of the terrible conditions – there was no running water, no electricity. Now the caves have been turned into stylish hotels and restaurants and, again, it’s just astonishingly beautiful.
Do you have a favourite hotel?
Gilpin Lodge, near Lake Windermere. I’ve only stayed there professionally but I keep dreaming about taking my husband back. I like the atmosphere, and I thought the service and food were amazing. The rooms are very comfortable but not over the top, and the family who run it are lovely – they have hospitality imbued in them.
Two years ago we stayed at [Ian Fleming’s former home] GoldenEye in Jamaica, which is stunning. They have six lodges on a pretty little beach – beautifully designed, really comfortable. It’s owned by the man behind Island Records, Chris Blackwell. We love the Caribbean, so we’re slowly but surely working our way around the islands.
Where’s the next stop?
We’re currently obsessed with going to Turks and Caicos. On the island of Providenciales, there’s a three-mile beach that reminds me of my childhood – we always used to go and stay on the Algarve in Portugal, where there’s mile after mile after mile of lovely sandy beach.
Does your husband share your taste in holidays?
We both enjoy the heat, but we don’t like the same pursuits, which is a bit of a bore. My husband’s spent two years trying to master his Jetsurf [a motorised surfboard], which I bought him for his birthday. So he’ll get up and put on his impact vest and go buzzing up and down the coastline like a maddened mosquito, whereas I’m quite capable of wandering around or lying by the sea, for hours. I know it’s very uncool to be a sun worshipper but I just love getting really brown.
Where’s still on your bucket list?
Masses and masses of places. I’d love to take my children to see Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I’m looking forward to showing them some of the things that have amazed me about different cultures.
The Hotel Inspector is on Tuesdays on Channel 5 at 9pm