Villa Lilly

The terrace of the main house of Villa Lilly in Praiano on Italy's Amalfi Coast. (Photo courtesy of Costa Land Company / July 19, 2011)

It's no surprise that Dr. Ben Carson is a world-class traveler.

Being a world-renowned surgeon who has been named one of the nation's 20 foremost physicians and scientists by CNN and Time Magazine and one of 89 "Living Legends" by the Library of Congress, requires a great deal of coming and going.

Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, also heads the Carson Scholars Foundation, providing scholarships to students for academic and humanitarian accomplishments in more than 30 states. Add to that, speaking engagements and demonstrations of his unprecedented surgical methods and you come up with a global itinerary that's both business and pleasure.

"We travel about once every 10 days, usually to destinations within the continental United States, but there are several trips to other countries each year as well," says Carson. "Most of my trips are planned in conjunction with some activity I am participating in, but I do like to explore the destination on the Internet before I actually arrive."

We spoke with Carson recently about his favorite getaway and the one thing he doesn't like to travel without.

Where is your favorite travel destination?

The Amalfi Coast of Italy.

How did you discover it?

A very close friend of mine purchased and restored the region's premier villa — Villa Lilly [in Praiano]. It used to be owned by Napoleon's sister who was married to the king of Naples. We stay in the villa, which has a five-star rating. When we are not there and our friends are not there, it is rented [by the week].

We love that it is secluded and the vistas are breathtakingly beautiful, overlooking the Mediterranean, with views of Positano and Capri.

My wife accompanies me, and my sons and my mother have been there. I tell everybody about it, and some of my friends have been able to visit.

What inspires you most about this destination?

I love to walk around the property early in the morning when the birds are in full chorus because there are beautiful flower and vegetable gardens from which the chef picks our daily meals. There are about 200 steps down to the beach, and making that trek several times is not only beautiful, but invigorating.

The food is the most delicious I have ever tasted. The private chef, Jon Carlo, is a master at his craft, and it makes me hungry to even think about the eggplant parmesan with ingredients fresh from the garden. This is accompanied by a fresh garden salad and fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Can you share a magical memory from the trip?

Flying through the water at high speed on a private boat and arriving for the first time on the island of Capri and then on to Sorrento. Roaming through the streets with multiple stops with friends and family is an unbeatable experience.

Travel bag of choice?

My favorite is my Rollaboard because I can get almost everything I need for a trip into it even if I am going to be there for several days; the garment section, which will accommodate two or three suits, and the lower portion which will accommodate several changes of casual clothing.

What is the one item you will not travel without?