Traveling with the Stars: Giorgio Armani

Designer Giorgio Armani pops into New York to celebrate Wednesday's opening of his fifth concept store, which combines all of his brands, on Fifth Avenue. Look for the glitterati to flaunt his creations on Oscar's red carpet on Feb. 22. Here, he shares his travel tips and highlights.

Q: Where have you been recently that you liked or were surprised by?

A:When I went to Tokyo to open my Armani/Ginza Tower concept store, I then flew on to Sydney to see Cate Blanchett's theatre company, which I sponsor. The contrast between these two cities was fascinating — one so futuristic and bustling, the other supremely laid back. Every time I visit Japan, I am struck by how extraordinarily different the culture is to that in Europe and America. As for Australia, it is a place that seems dedicated to living the good life.

Q: What's the best place you've ever visited and why?

A:That's a very difficult question to answer, as many places have different things to recommend them. I love North Africa for its colors and smells — the markets are an assault on the senses. But perhaps the place I feel most comfortable at the moment is when I am at sea on board my yacht. The combination of limitless water and blue sky is strangely mesmerizing. I find it relaxing — a totally unique experience, in which one is reminded of how small man is when compared to nature.

Q: What's your favorite vacation spot and why?

A:The island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean, near Sicily. I first visited this volcanic island more than 35 years ago, and have had a holiday home there for a while now. I am constantly surprised by how relaxing I find my stays there — my sister says my face changes. I turn off the spotlight, and my eyes are always focused on the clear sky. Pantelleria has a harsh environment — it is certainly not to everyone's taste — but I find the experience of the bright daylight, the dry heat, the winds that blow in from Africa, not to mention the crystal-clear water, truly energizing. Walking along the inland trails of the island, that in some way remind me of parts of the Puglia region (in Italy), I get a complete sense of tranquility.

Q: Can you offer an insider tip or recommendation for your favorite vacation place?

A:My advice to anyone visiting Pantelleria is to get down to the shore and swim in the waters that throw up small pieces of black volcanic rock called obsidian. This alkaline rock with its high levels of potassium and sodium is what I use as the basis of my mineral-rich Crema Nera skincare range, which has incredible restorative properties.