Italian festival chief reveals love of all things Scottish

Professor Andrea Colombini with his tartan car. Picture: Stephen Rafferty
Professor Andrea Colombini with his tartan car. Picture: Stephen Rafferty
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A leading academic who heads up an opera festival in his native Italy has revealed his true musical passion ­— the bagpipes.

Professor Andrea Colombini, 48, has been visiting Scotland since he was 15 years old and admits that he has fallen deeply in love with the country and its culture.

He even makes sure his love of Scotland is known in Italy, as he drives around in a tartan Mini car, decorated in Royal Stewart colours.

Andrea is the director of the annual festival celebrating the music of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini - the man behind the La boheme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly operas.

But when he is not arranging orchestras, tenors and sopranos for the festival, Andrea says his favourite pastime is listening to pipe bands.

His deep love for Scotland has even led to him being considered as an unofficial ambassador for the country back home.

And he has now marked his 33rd visit to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo after being invited as special guest by the Scots Guards.

Andrea said: “I love coming to Scotland and I have been coming here since I was 15 years old.

“My favourite place to visit in the world is the island of Islay, followed by Edinburgh and the Tattoo.

“I do not know where this connection with Scotland comes from because there are no Scots on any sides of my family.

“Maybe it is because I am Andrea Colombini, and you have a St Andrew and a St Columba here, and it was preordained that I would love Scotland.

“In Italy I am considered an unofficial ambassador for Scotland and an honorary Scotsman.”

Andrea lives in Lucca, around 50 miles west of Florence in Tuscany.

And when he isn’t working on the opera festival, he stages concerts featuring pipe bands from the Gordon Highlanders and Scots Guards among others.

Andrea, a conductor and a musician in his own right, said he would rather work with pipers and drummers as they are much easier to direct.

He added: “I work with military bands only, and it gives the lads an opportunity to come to Tuscany, which they might not usually get, so it’s very popular.

“They are extremely easy to work with and are all extremely accomplished musicians, which makes the conductor’s job very simple to do.

“And because they are in the army they are very open to instructions on how to play and how to make the music work.”

Despite his love for the pipes, Andrea has been unable to learn to play the instrument himself, but he doesn’t let that get him down.

He said: “It is a wonderful instrument but very difficult to play. Too difficult for me.

“I play piano and 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.”