The connoisseur: Jean-Christophe Babin
It won’t surprise anyone to hear that, as a president and CEO of Bvlgari, Jean-Christophe Babin is a man of great taste. And it’s not all about jewels, watches and perfumes for the retail giant – there’s also a luxury hotel collection, with plans to open a new location in Rome in 2022. We sit down with the well-travelled, well-coiffed boss to see what makes his travels tick…
If I had to have one meal in one city, I’d choose a nice plate of pasta lunga Amatriciana at a traditional trattoria in Rome. There’s no better dish in the world for exalting simple ingredients.
When I visit a new place, I splurge on its history and its main artistic and architectural landmarks.
My greatest travel companions are usually my wife and kids, but I also love to travel alone with a great book about the land I’m visiting as my companion, as I did last year in Tibet.
A great hotel should have a warm and friendly welcome that looks beyond beauty in its design and provides a cosy yet lively atmosphere. That’s the philosophy of Bvlgari Hotels around the world, and why I love them so much – I can’t wait for Paris, Moscow, Rome and Tokyo to open in the near future.
The moment that changed everything for me was when I settled in Italy 30 years ago. I discovered a new joyful and sophisticated lifestyle that I fell in love with so much. It was really in tune with my heart and soul.
I’ve recently discovered that, despite my hectic business life, I want to travel the world by myself on a personal level even more than before – ideally with my backpack, as I did in the 1980s!
An object I would never part with is my headphones, as I love music. I can’t go more than one hour without the enjoyment of listening to something through them, loud and crystalline.
The place I can’t wait to go back to is the Bvlgari Hotel in Dubai. It’s ideal for me as it’s a very easy destination to visit in a weekend from Rome or Switzerland, and the hotel is a gem of the Middle East. It’s a perfect combination of the Italian excellence of Citterio’s interior design and the incredible cuisine of the three-Michelin-star chef Niko Romito. It’s got the pleasure of the beach, the sea and a beach club in which to relax, and is also in the heart of a city that can offer any type of leisure.
The best souvenirs I’ve ever brought home are the images taken with my eyes and camera of the places I visited. They are indelible memories. Sometimes I turn them into books.
If I didn’t live in Rome, I would live in Napoli or Milan. Napoli because of its zest for life, the peculiarity and uniqueness of its neighbourhoods and the beauty of its gulf. Milan is the city of dynamism and lifestyle and its high quality of life makes it a vibrant city that’s full of opportunities.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Ginza in Tokyo. I love the allure of its buildings, which perfectly and enticingly combine the past and future in one place.
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Mount Kailash in Tibet. I was travelling alone, and Mount Kailash is the best spot for anyone wanting to enjoy and experience Buddhist culture and an authentic Tibet. It was a very spiritual experience.
I make myself at home in a new city by immersing myself: living the local lifestyle, adopting its food and wine habits and uncovering its history, arts and traditions.
My favourite destination for solo travel is hiking any mountain! I also love to sail alone, setting off from Neuchâtel lake a few yards from my Swiss home.
The key to switching off on holiday is to do a lot of swimming and sailing – and also allow time for cultural discovery.
The last place I visited for the first time was Louvre Abu Dhabi last February, not long before lockdown.
The most underrated destination is India. People hesitate to go because of unjustified fears inherited from the past. It’s one of the most fascinating countries on earth – from its people to its arts, history, food and architecture. I went travelling there for more than 18 months when I left university and have revisited it many times since.
My favourite season to travel is all of them! I’m always ready to discover new things.
Global tastemakers travel in style – and British Airways’ First is the most luxurious way to experience flight. From your own stylish suite, to exclusive access to spa treatments, fast-track security and excellent service, it’s the finest way to travel.