I recently met Silvia Colloca on Hamilton Island when we were both there for Race Week. At the time, I had no idea she had just released another cook book, this time, “Love, Laugh, Bake!”. I love it. Silvia is Italian-born and lives in Sydney with her husband Richard Roxburgh and their three children: Raphael, Miro and Luna. I asked Silvia about her work, travels and her homeland… Italia!
Take us back to where you grew up, what was it like as a child in Milan?
I grew up in a two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Milan, where my Mum and Dad still live. My older brother and sister and I shared our bedroom until we moved out!!! Now, that is character building!!! Sometimes we would get so frustrated with each other that we could divide the small space into three sections and we would then build forts and ‘forcefields’ to block the others from crossing over! Apartment living is very common in big cities like Milan. I don’t think I knew anyone back then who lived in a house. I guess you grow accustomed to sharing small spaces and living with less. You can’t get into hoarding habits, that’s for sure!!
Do you have a favourite restaurant there? A meal that makes you hungry just thinking about it?
It’s not a restaurant, but a bakery. It’s called Luini and it’s located just behind the majestic Duomo. There you will encounter a queue of people all coveting the famous panzerotti: deep-fried mini calzoni. Magic!!!
I know you got married in Tuscany. Why did you choose there (apart from it being obviously amazing)? Do you have any tips for those thinking of having their wedding there?
It was my husband’s dream to get married in Tuscany so, when we stumbled upon this lost village in the middle of nowhere, with a tiny castle and farmhouses for our family and friends to stay, the decision was made. I think that, these days, it is fairly simple to find wedding planners that specialise of Tuscan weddings, but I would suggest to still try and not delegate all the important decisions to your planner, so that it is more to your taste and sensibility. Also, unless your Italian is top notch, find an agency with excellent English language skills so nothing may be lost in translation!
Who taught you how to cook?
I grew up with the food of my mum and my two Nonnas. I think, as an Italian, you learn those basic skills along with the language. It’s a given. But, over the years, I developed a real passion and interest and I went on a culinary-learning rampage! I am still learning so much everyday from better cooks and chefs, and this is what excites me the most about this career.
We know and love you for both your cooking and operatic skills. What are your tips for music lovers heading to Italy? What must we see and do?
There are so many classical music festivals in Italy all year round, but how can you beat one that takes place in the main Piazza of Ravello? Truly magical. Festival di Spoleto is a close second; a perfect combination of sensational music and cobblestone streets.
When you take your children back home, what do they love to do? What works well for children in Italy?
My children are half Italian and they experience Italy as locals. We hang with family. The boys make friends at the beach or at the playground. Our holidays in Italy are never fancy. We simply love to experience the everyday life with our family. Last year, we managed to stay for a few months and the boys were enrolled in the local primary school; an incredibly formative experience both for their language and social skills.
On that note, you travel often with your children. Any advice on that front?
Oh well, it really depends on the child! My eldest, Raffi, had ants in his pants as a toddler and just could not sit still on a plane, but my little boy Miro was always quiet and happy to chill without making a sound! Fingers crossed my toddler Luna takes after him!!! Whenever I see parents with young children on a plane, I always feel for them because no matter how hard you try or how amazing your parenting skills are, being stuck in a cabin for many hours is never easy. Whenever I board a plane with my three children I always offer a blanket apology to the passengers near me, just in case!
What do you always pack? A wrap? A sure fire moisturiser? You always look gorgeous.
Oh, you are so kind to say that, but I am at below zero on the Glamorous Scale when I travel!! I always have to pack so many things and they are never for me! The boys are now eight and 11 and tend to pack their own things, but I always have a Luna bag with spare nappies, wipes, clothes, toys, books, snacks (toddlers eat all the time!!) and a little jar of rose hip oil for me. It’s miraculous stuff. I use it for my face, lips and hands!. My hair is very thick and long so I braid it and I don’t have to worry about it until I get to the other side!
What are you most proud of about your new cook book? It’s so beautiful but I’m sure so much work has gone into it.
Thank you! “LOVE, LAUGH, BAKE!” is the book I always wanted to write. It’s my most treasured collection of all the baked goods I love, such as bread, pizza, focaccia, cookies, pies, cakes. I also share lots of gluten-free and vegan recipes, both sweet and savoury. I have been floored by how warmly it has been received. So many people have been making my dishes and it’s a wonderful feeling to know it makes them happy, too.
One last question: If you could pick a favourite holiday destination, where would that be?
I am a warm-weather person! Anywhere where my clothing is limited to swimmer and a sarong, and I am a happy person. Remote islands off the mainland in Fiji are my ideal, heavenly haven. Taveuni, to name one, is paradise found.