Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli lives and travels the way he sings — with deep passion and introspection. Blind since childhood, the onetime piano-bar singer from Tuscany gracefully maneuvers across cultural boundaries and musical styles as a star of both opera halls and pop charts.
History’s highest-earning classical solo artist (with some 80 million albums sold), Bocelli continues to share his love for the world’s people on his latest album, Passione, featuring six languages and duet partners ranging from Jennifer Lopez to the late Édith Piaf.
Here’s his take on travel and how it inspires his art:
National Geographic Traveler: What are your favorite sounds of the world?
Andrea Bocelli: My life is made out of sound. I live in the Tuscan countryside, so my day starts with the sounds of farms, of chickens and horses and other animals. Those sounds are most dear to me. When I go to a city such as New York, all the noise mutes out nature. But the music of silence always follows me, and in silence I can concentrate and develop ideas.
NGT: What is the Theater of Silence?
AB: An amphitheater I created in Laiatico, Italy, in the countryside that I love. Most of the year the sounds of nature reign, but on one day a year in July, thousands of people from all over the world come for a concert. It’s beautiful how on that one day the silence is broken by the sounds of so many languages.
NGT: How do you approach foreign places?
AB: I’ve come to distinguish and expect certain sounds and smells when I get to a place. I know what kind of smell will greet me in Egypt; I know what smell will welcome me in the United States. When I go to a warm country, as soon as they open the door of the airplane, different smells get in my nose — of cinnamon and other spices.
NGT: Any travel regrets?
AB: I’m like an athlete — I need to be in pristine condition to perform, so it can be frustrating that I can’t allow myself to experience all there is to do in a place. For instance, I’m amazed by Chinese cuisine — in the past, I’ve eaten all kinds of things, such as jellyfish. I would eat anything if I didn’t have to be so careful.
NGT: What’s your Tuscan secret?
AB: In the areas of La Sterza and Poggioncino, where I was born, there are simple paths along the river where I ride my horse that not many people know about. The beauty of their simplicity is what I love.
National Geographic Traveler Associate Editor Katie Knorovsky conducted this interview.