Marco Bortolami captained his country for the first time at the age of 21 and has racked up 94 caps for the Azzurri to date in an 11-year international career.
The Zebre captain, and RaboDirect PRO12 ambassador, has been kept out of action both domestically and internationally this season as a result of three shoulder operations.
During his time off he told us about how his dream is to drive a Ferrari, why Dean Ryan is his favourite pundit and how he prepares for matches.
What are your nicknames?
In Italy everyone calls me 'Borto' which has been what I’ve been known as since I was young. The only other nickname I’ve had was when I was playing for Gloucester and I was very imaginatively known as ‘The Italian’.
If you weren’t playing rugby what would you want to be?
I think I would probably be a mechanical engineer for Ferrari. My dream when I was a kid was to work for them and I started studying mechanical engineering. I haven’t had the chance to drive one yet but I definitely will make sure I do.
Who are your rugby heroes?
My hero growing up was Lawrence Dallaglio so it was pretty special playing against him. I even got to play with him once in a Northern Hemisphere v Southern Hemisphere match in 2005. That was a great experience for me.
Who has been your best ever roommate?
The advantage of being captain is that most of the time I would get my room when we went away on tours. When I did have a roommate I’d have to say Santiago Dellapè, my colleague in the second row, was the best.
Who’s your gym buddy?
In the gym all the second rows stick together. It makes sense for all the locks to work together and generally we get on well.
Which rugby player would you least like to meet down a dark alley?
I’d probably have to go for Jonah Lomu. I got to play against him once in 2001 and back then in terms of his size, he was just so much bigger than anyone else. You didn’t really know what to do to stop him.
What is your guilty diet pleasure?
It’s definitely chocolate for me, especially after dinner. It’s probably the worst thing you can eat so I have to be careful but I have some when I can.
What do you like to do on a day off?
At the moment I can’t do a lot with my shoulder but it’s giving me a great chance to spend time with my daughter. When I’m playing it’s difficult to spend time with your family so in that sense it’s great to be able to see her a lot.
Do you play any other sports?
When I was in England I used to play quite a lot of golf and since I’ve got back to Italy I like to do the same. It’s good because it keeps my mind away from rugby.
What newspaper do you read?
The only paper I buy is La Repubblica which is mainly for the news. If I’m out for a coffee I’ll have a flick through the Gazzetta Dello Sport but I don’t tend to buy it because it’s only got sport in it.
Who is your favourite rugby pundit?
Dean Ryan was my coach at Gloucester and is very good as pundit on the TV. He really knows what he is talking about and is good at picking out the little details in the game.
Do you have any superstitions?
I always have to put my right shoe and my right sock on first before I put on my left. I’m not sure why but it’s something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember.