“For 40 years I had the best job in the world — I was a lifeguard. Of course, to make extra money on the side I was also a fisherman. But who has never been a fisherman in Monterosso?

On evenings when the fish were plentiful we used to catch everything we could, even though oftentimes we couldn’t sell it because there wasn’t enough demand in the village. How do you think this salted anchovy thing came about? We all had cellars full of anchovies during the cold months and that’s why we called them winter bread. I didn’t study, I just finished elementary school. I bought a beach club in the 1980s, it was in bad shape because every time there were rough seas everything was destroyed. We got it back in shape.

I have been writing for 4 or 5 years, mostly in dialect, because it’s my first language. I started because of my wife. How did I meet her? Well, one July many years ago she came on vacation from Holland and, how do you say it? She was screwed! 

In those days everything was different, hardly any girls came and when there was a foreign girl there was a war amongst the locals.

You couldn’t leave one for a second without someone else going to talk to her. On the other hand, you couldn’t touch the local girls because otherwise you’d have to marry them immediately. She made the mistake of coming back that September and the rest is history. I still remember the first time I saw her, she was in front of Cigolini with her friend and I was with my friend. We put bells around our necks and stopped them, speaking in mixed French – you know, Dutch people can speak a bit of everything. In the evening we met again at the Gypsy club, where I was a deejay. What was I playing? A bit of everything. A good deejay must understand what the crowd likes and play that, not impose what he likes on the crowd. Today everyone is selfish, everyone thinks only of themself!

It was a different world then, people didn’t drink all of these things that are drunk now, there was only one wine, the wine, without sulphites and other crap. You got drunk in the evening, went to sleep and the next morning you woke up fine and dandy. We got married 5 years later in the Netherlands, it helped with the residency permits which were a nightmare. Anyway, it’s not a piece of paper that keeps people together. She used to study art history and live in Amsterdam, close to all the museums. We had two children, Simone and Sebastiano. I never told my wife that sappy crap like “I love you”. We just strolled around the village and held each other by a finger, that was all we needed. It was a different world, when things were a mess we stole water from the house below. It was an abandoned villa that belonged to General Ferrari. During the fascist regime he was someone very important, I had seen him in lots of photos with Mussolini.

We spent the last 16 years of her life visiting hospitals. I remember I used to say to her, ‘You really don't want to miss out on a single illness, do you?’

She passed away last year. During the last few months of her final illness, every day I wrote a poem for her. In my books the illustrations come from my paintings, most of them I made them when I was young.

My first book is called Munterussu vei e ancò, Monterosso yesterday and today.

One is called Sentuquaranta scaìn, a hundred and four steps, which was the number of steps I had to climb to go home — one of the luxuries of youth. Now I live on the ground floor, in front of a dry stone wall holding up a terrace with lemon trees.”