AN Italian opera conductor has staked a claim to being Scotland’s biggest superfan – after visiting the Edinburgh Tattoo for the 23rd time in a row.
Professor Andrea Colombini drives a Tartan mini, eats Angus beef imported specially for him by his local restaurant and organises pipe band concerts in his home town in Tuscany.
The 48-year-old drinks Ardbeg whisky, eats Scottish scallops and Cranachan, and has filled his home in Lucca with Scottish paintings, tartan rugs, and the headdress worn by a Victorian Scots soldier.
Andrea has taken his love for Scotland into his professional life by incorporating bagpipes and drummers into his Italian orchestras.
He even uses Scottish slang such as “braw” and signs off emails with “Alba Gu Brath – Gaelic for Scotland forever.
Remarkably, he has managed to visit Edinburgh every year since 1993 to watch the annual tattoo on the castle esplanade.
Andrea said his fascination with Scotland started when he was six and saw a military parade for the Queen’s birthday.
He said: “When I got older I started organising concerts, and I wanted to get a Scottish military band into them. I called the British embassy in Rome and said I would love to organise a Scottish military band.
“In 1993, I ended up getting the Gordon Highlanders doing their final concert abroad for me in Lucca.”
He added: “Scottish culture is hugely popular over here, people love it. Your pipers are the most skilled musicians, the best I have ever met in my life, you should be proud.”
But despite his love for Scottish music, Andrea admits after numerous failed attempts he is still unable to play the bagpipes.
He said: “It is a wonderful instrument, but very difficult to play. Too dIfficult for me. I play piano and I am a percussionist and have tried to pick up the bagpipes, but they are very hard to learn.
“It makes me appreciate the musicians of the pipe bands so much more. I am not upset when I have such beautiful music to listen to.”
One of his favourite possessions is a head-turning Mini convertible which he had painted by a local artist in the Royal Stewart tartan.
The tartan has made its way into the interior the vehicle and Andrea now plans to change the scheme to Black Watch tartan.
Andrea said he was aware that the world was full of “Scottish buffs” and “plastic jocks”.
“I am sort of different,” he said. “Proud to be Italian, great to be Lucchese but the love for Scotland is something totally spontaneous and great.
“You are Scottish not because you were born in Scotland but because Scotland was born in you.
“Scotland is a way of life, like music, arts, love, passion. A trademark.”