Talking to Peter Moore about travel, motorbikes and music, and why, after all his globetrotting, he loves Livorno so much!
Peter Moore, the well-known travel writer from Sydney, Australia, lives in London and regularly journeys to fascinating places around the globe to feed his passion for other cultures and to provide material for his entertaining books. He has published several titles based on his worldwide travel adventures, and currently also writes for the British travel magazine Wanderlust, and newpapers like The Guardian.
I first discovered Peter several years ago when searching online for instructions about how to make Livorno's celebrated Ponce, and stumbling across his article in the Sunday Times about Bar Civili, the historic Ponce bar!
Peter was in Livorno last week and during his stay a gathering was organised at the Mercato Centrale, with the reading of a passage dedicated to Livorno (read in Italian by actor Claudio Monteleone). Peter's first visit to Livorno was recounted in Vroom with a View, the first of a two part story of his trip around Italy on vintage Vespas.
I managed to finally meet Peter while he was here.
So what is it you like so much about Livorno?!
It's a city full of fascinating stories, like the history of Livorno itself, and the origins of Ponce, and those that lie behind those amazing votive paintings in Montenero, to name but a few. I also think it's a city that offers a really authentic view of Italy, unlike the tourist destinations of Florence, Pisa etc. A tour of Livorno taking in the canals, Montenero, the market, a stop for a Ponce, and a meal in one of the great restaurants makes for a perfect insight into the real Italy. The people are similar in many ways to Australians, with their origins of many backgrounds, and their love of the sunshine and the good life.
What was your first ever journey?
Apart from a cruise around the Pacific with my parents when I was young, the first trip that made a real impression on me was to Vanuatu in the South Pacific. I accompanied my dad who was going there to do some work as a plumber. It was a real eye-opener - I was absolutely amazed by the Nambas tribes on the island of Malakula and at how such a different world could exist such a relatively short distance from Sydney.
Your favourite places in the world?
I really do love Italy (I'm not just saying that!), but I also love Sweden, especially Stockholm where I feel very much at home. I think it's something to do with the vicinity to the water. Living in London, I really miss the sea. Other countries I have really enjoyed include Japan (I spent a year in Tokyo teaching English after university), and Iran, a country which is now becoming very popular for travellers again.
How do you record your travels?
I have a notebook where I write down words and phrases to remind me of things that happen to me during my travels. It's not a journal, just notes to help me remember all my experiences.
Going back to Italy, and your 2002 trip on Sophia the Vespa, why didn't you make the second trip on the same bike?
Well, I had left Sophia here in Livorno at my friend Marco's Vespa workshop, and I did originally intend to take her on the second journey too [featured in Vroom by the Sea]. But when I got back to Livorno, I discovered she was no longer registered, so I had to look for a new one! In the end it turned out well, because Sophia was the right kind of size for the Milan-Rome journey, and also the right colour for a trip through Tuscany. And the bright orange 2 litre model I chose to go around Sardinia and Sicily was just right for that trip too!
Do you ride a motorbike in London?
I used to, for a while. I bought a beautiful brand new, special edition Vespa, but after only three months I had an accident and the bike was written off. It's not quite the same, anyway, riding a Vespa round London wearing a huge waterproof cape against the elements. Not cool at all!
You've been travelling around the UK recently - when will we be able to read about that?
Soon! The excuse for the trip was that I had to take the Life in the UK test in order to get British citizenship, so off I went to try and get a better understanding of the country by experiencing various aspects of British life: I spent a week as a student at Oxford university, for example, hung out with the London Paparazzi, and travelled right up as far as the Orkneys in Scotland. I received a warm welcome all over the country, from north to south, breaking the stereotype about Northerners being more friendly! And I passed the citizenship test too! The book about the trip, Brit on the Side, will be coming out soon.
Do your wife and daughter share your love of travel?
Not really, unfortunately, not for the same kind of travel. I took my 11-year-old daughter to Fez recently, and to see the Northern Lights in Sweden, but she still seems to prefer the 'relax and unwind by the pool' sort of holidays that my wife enjoys as a break from her very busy job.
Have your books been translated into other languages?
Yes, especially into eastern European languages since travel became more accessible to those countries. One book, The Wrong Way Home, [about an overland trip from London to Sydney] has been translated into Italian as La Strada Sbagliata
What are your tastes in music?
I have very varied tastes. I write a blog about African music from the 70s and 80s, called African Revolutions. It's a mixture of travel stories and music. I also love Swedish singer Jens Lekman and Swedish band Hello Saferide. I saw Australian singer Courtney Barnett in London recently. I am also a member of the Epsom Music Club, which is basically myself and a few friends who meet up once every 3 months and play music to each other. It's great fun and I really look forward to it!
Where can we keep up with you? Do you post regularly on the social networks?
Not really, except for updating my website. I should do more I suppose, but on the other hand, if I shared all my travel experiences on Twitter and Facebook, I wouldn't have anything left to share in my books.
Thank you for your time, Peter. And many thanks also to Marco Quaretta who made this interview possible.