My Secret Life: Alberto Alessi, businessman and designer, 65


My parents were ... My father was Carlo, a designer and entrepreneur, and the second generation in the family to enter the business. In the Forties he designed the Bombé Tea and Coffee set, which is still in production and is one of our most successful items. My mum is Germana, a housewife and very good cook. Her family name is Bialetti – who are the most important Italian producers of coffee machines.

The house/flat I grew up in ... was in the little town of Omegna, on Lake Orta, 100km north of Milan. It was a big house with a large garden on the shore of the lake.

When I was a child I wanted to ... become an explorer!

If I could change one thing about myself ... I would be 10kg lighter. But I know sooner or later I will succeed. One of my favourite holiday resorts is at the end of the Quiberon Peninsula in Brittany, where I usually spend a couple of weeks to lose weight in a magnificent hotel. The restaurant is run by Patrick Jarno who has developed a special diet based on the most classic French specialties. It is very effective: I can lose up to 6kg in two weeks. But during the three-day car journey back I love stopping in small villages to taste all the various specialities, and so I put back on the kilos I lost in Quiberon!

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... badminton. I like the game because it is unknown in Italy ... so I can easily excel. I like playing it with my wife and my daughter on the badminton field I have in my new property.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at ... singing – but I would love to be.

At night I dream of ... my own wine cellars.

My favourite item of clothing ... a T-shirt, blue jeans and French pullover from Brittany – for winter.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... all the things behind me.

I wish I'd never worn ... elephant-hoof pants, also known as Seventies flared trousers.

I drive ... an Audi.

My house is ... in the middle of my vineyard, facing Lake Orta.My favourite work of art ... is the famous mural by Leonardo da Vinci, L'ultima cena (The Last Supper), which covers an end wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

My favourite building ... Casa Malaparte, a project by Adalberto Libera and Curzio Malaparte, in Capri.

Movie heaven ... John Ford's My Darling Clementine.

A book that changed me ... Maybe La notion de Dépense by Georges Bataille.

The last album I bought or downloaded ... I never buy nor listen to music.

My greatest regrets ... too few to mention.

My real-life villains ... People who are selfish.

The person who really makes me laugh ... All my friends make me laugh.

The last time I cried ... Every other morning, waking up.

My five-year plan ... To succeed in my wine business.

My life in six words ... Peace, calm, family, food, wine, friends.

A life in brief

Born in Arona in northern Italy in 1946, Alberto Alessi is the managing director of the homeware brand Alessi, based near Milan. He is the third generation in his family to run the company, established by his grandfather in 1921 as a specialist in steel products. Alessi took over in 1970, and since then the company has become known for its quirky gadgets and kitchenware, often developed in partnership with designers including Philippe Starck, Michael Graves and Frank Gehry. Alessi is curator of the 'Dream Factories' exhibition at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan, which opens on 5 April

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