I wasn’t born on the pier of Viareggio. I remember my mother, her warm milk, and the touch of my brothers and sisters. There were five of us, tiny little things, and we were abandoned on the beach. I then remember only hunger and fear, mixed with the roar and the smell of the sea, until one day a lady came past and took us into her care, on that spit of land that runs from the pier to the footpath, where we learned to survive. But before long my brothers and sisters were gone, and only I was left.
The pier soon became my kingdom. I had kind ladies who brought me food and fishermen friends who, returning from long days on the sea, would give me a mix of fish and caresses. Everyone knew me and everyone loved me: I was Ettore, the cat on the pier, friend to the fishermen. And that space, between sea and sky, had become my home.
On day, I noticed a lonely figure on a bicycle, who stopped in front of me. We looked each other in the eyes, and he spoke to me: “Ettore…”
The man took from his pocket a paper bag, filled with some wonderful fish. His name was Alfredo and he often came back to see me. He would always appear either when the fishermen had not gone out fishing, due to bad weather, or when they had had such a poor catch that they could spare me nothing to eat.
He would arrive early in the morning, by bicycle in summer and by foot in winter, having taken the bus part of the way. He would look for me, and call me to come and eat. He was concerned about me, and, of course, we became great friends.
Life went on between the people and the cats of the pier, between the pats and the delicious mouthfuls that Alfredo gave me. I felt that he loved me, that man, and that each of us made up part of the life of the other. A special relationship was born from the stroking and purring in the shadows on the waterfront. I lived 19 years on the Viareggio pier; I grew old among the sounds and smells of the sea, among the love that the fishermen and merchants had for me, and among the games and cries of children. And for years Alfredo would come and find me by the balcony, even when I was not long for this world. I would lie there and wait for him, because I would never have been able to leave without saying goodbye to him. And he stayed with me until the end.
From then Alfredo passed by every day, but he never stopped again. He would only turn his head, wave, say “Ciao Ettore”, and continue on his way. But I still feel that we’re close. I’m a lucky cat, and many of my friends from the pier remember me.
And then Alfredo’s daughter, a girl with a heart as big as her father’s, told my story and managed to get sponsorship, from a famous manufacturer of animal items, to make a bronze statue of me and place it on the pier of Viareggio. She also set up a food fund for the city cattery. And so, I’ve become a true symbol, a legend. Alfred and my other friends come to see me: they all look at my statue as they pass, and I…I feel like a real celebrity!