I'm married to the music, says Proms' biggest fan ahead of his 51st successive visit from Italy

Former salesman books in for 55 concerts as BBC favourite enjoys record ticket sales

An Italian music-lover who has attended every single Proms season for the past half century – and most of the concerts – is planning to continue his tradition this year. He is among fans who have bought record numbers of tickets for the 2012 season.

The Proms would not be the Proms without Giancarlo Stoppini in the audience. The retired salesman, who comes every year from his home near Milan, has set a kind of attendance record for the world's largest music festival. This summer, he has secured tickets for 55 BBC Proms.

Now aged 72, he told The Independent that the Proms have been his "university", instilling a love of music in him. "My family was very poor and couldn't even think about music in the years after the war," he said, describing the BBC and the Royal Albert Hall as "my real family".

For 35 years, he worked for Alessi, the Italian design company for home products. He was an area manager for sales in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. On a visit to London 50 years ago, he found himself drawn to his first Prom. He said: "I remember my first concert. Haydn's Creation conducted by Malcolm Sargent. I remember crying all through it. It was magical."

He was overwhelmed by the sight of Prommers standing throughout a concert and "by the emotion of seeing so many young people give standing ovations for classical music", adding: "Where can you find that anywhere in the world? Only at the Proms...It is the only concert theatre in the world where young people with a very little money can go and listen to the best classical music in the world. This is exceptional."

This year, up to 1,400 £5 Promming tickets will once again be released on the day of each concert. Stoppini saves up throughout the year for his, previously keeping costs down by finding cheap student accommodation.

As a regular Prommer, he became such a familiar face that he later stayed with the families of Proms stewards. Eventually, he bought a "tiny" studio flat. He spends between £1,500 and £1,800 on tickets every year. "But it is my life," he said. Asked whether he is married, he replied: "I'm married to my music."

Booking for the BBC Proms 2012 opened last Saturday and 100,000 tickets were sold on the first day alone – an increase on last year. The programme includes Daniel Barenboim conducting all Beethoven's symphonies.