Diana Laskaris is an award-winning author, business strategist, and creative consultant. The cofounder of the popular website Food Travelist, Diana is a thought leader in using culinary tourism to promote economic activity in destinations around the world. Food Travelist connects brands, destinations, and experiences to hungry travelers searching for their next great adventure.
Diana is a certified culinary travel professional and has written many articles about food and travel.
TA: How many years have you been traveling? What got you hooked?
Diana: My first memorable trip was a cruise to Mexico at the age of nine, soon followed by a tour of Western Europe with my family at age ten. I fell in love with the excitement of visiting other places, meeting the locals, and especially all the wonderful food.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Diana: Culinary travel -- I seek out unique and memorable food and drink experiences, near and far.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Diana: It's tough to choose just one, but I will say that a luxury barge cruise down the canals of Burgundy, France, is high on the list. The barge itself was incredible. There were only 12 passengers, so we all got to know one another well. The region is full of culture and history, including some of the best wines and cheeses you will ever discover. The captain was an affable and knowledgeable guide. He loved to share his personal favorites in the region as well as historical tidbits. And, of course, the chef was absolutely phenomenal. While we got to experience a Michelin three-star restaurant on one of our stops, we all agreed that our own barge chef's meals were just as good, if not better. Each meal on the barge gave us at least two new wines from the region and three unique cheeses to try. It was an amazing way to experience culinary culture and the heritage of the area.
TA: What is the most romantic place you've ever visited with a partner?
Diana: One that readily comes to mind is Bruges, Belgium. There's a hotel there called the Pand Hotel that is as charming as can be: lace curtains, velvet seating in the honor bar, and a fire roaring. There are places to eat near the water that are delightfully romantic. Chocolate, frites, and waffles are perfect for sharing. There's so much to see and do, and you feel like holding hands while you're wandering around taking it all in.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo?
Diana: I would say that New Orleans is one of the very best. I once had five conferences in a row to go there, and I felt like I practically lived in the place. Everyone was so friendly and outgoing that I never lacked for company, good food, or good music. Dining alone was not a problem because people just started talking and becoming your friend.
I would say that Dublin is quite similar. Everyone has a story, and they just can't wait to tell it to you. You'd probably have to work pretty hard to be lonely there. The Dublin cab drivers are some of the best storytellers in the world, and they're always ready with great local recommendations for where to eat and drink. People don't know how great the food is in Ireland now. They have some of the most amazing food and drink trails anywhere.
TA: What is the strangest thing you've ever eaten overseas?
Diana: I was with a group of technology salesmen at a restaurant in Brazil that served live seafood. The guys thought it would be a great challenge and ordered a bunch of different fish, eels, lobsters, and other items that were literally wiggling on the plates. Everyone had to try something -- not without a lot of drinking before and after, though. I'm not sure if anyone actually enjoyed it, but it was definitely the strangest meal I've ever eaten overseas.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Diana: I have to say that the food in China was surprisingly delicious. I was afraid that it would all be too spicy for me, but most of it was not at all. I enjoyed hot pot and sizzling rice dishes, tons of fresh vegetables, and some wonderful lotus roots that I fell in love with. There is also a lot of delicious fresh fruit available. I had a pineapple that was carved so delicately and beautifully it was like a work of art -- and I watched the seller do the carving while I waited.
TA: What is one place you've always wanted to visit?
Diana: Campione d'Italia. It's a municipality of the Province of Como in Italy's Lombardy region but is surrounded by the Swiss canton of Ticino. It's a tiny enclave on a beautiful lake, and I want to see it!
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Diana: The northern parts of Greece, like the Pelion region. There are some small towns there, like Tsagarada, that are absolutely charming and lovely. The Lost Unicorn Hotel is like something out of a romance novel. You have the sea down below and amazing tall hills above.
I don't think people realize how large and varied the country of Greece is. There are ski towns and parts in the north that experience all four seasons. Fall in Tsagarada makes you feel like you're in Maine or the Berkshires or something like that. They also grow everything there, from chestnuts, walnuts, apples, and pears to lemons, oranges, pomegranates, persimmons, and kiwifruit. And olive trees are everywhere, along with grapevines. I saw all of these in one backyard. Northern Greece is truly an amazing place that hardly anyone knows about but is well worth experiencing.
TA: What is one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Diana: I always pack plastic baggies in quart and gallon sizes. I use them for everything!
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you've ever been given?
Diana: Taste, don't eat. I was given this advice by a very experienced food travel writer. Sometimes we have so many great opportunities to try incredible dishes that we'd be overstuffed if we actually ate everything provided. The idea is to taste the food so that you can get a sense of it and enjoy the experience of it without consuming it all.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Diana: Be bold and go for it! Sometimes travel seems exhausting, full of hassles, complicated, or scary, but it is so worthwhile. You become a richer person from your travel experiences, and the more you travel, the more insights you gain into every part of the human condition. You have the opportunity to meet people and see cultures that are quite different (and in many ways also similar). I think there's no better way to get education in life than to travel.