WHEN award-winning architect Ian Arnott headed to Italy for a music holiday, little did he imagine the trip would inspire him to write his first book - aged 84.

Galashiels-born Ian, who is now retired, attended various recitals held in restored theatres in the Marche, a small and little known area of Italy.

And when he discovered that there were 73 of the historic buildings, he was intrigued as to why nobody had heard of them.

His recently published book, The Hidden Theatres of the Marche, sheds light on how this remote area, just 100 miles by 50 miles, came to have the biggest concentration of theatres in the world, and how this has shaped life for the local population.

Ian explained: "When I went on a music holiday in 2006, all the recitals were given in these restored theatres.

"I discovered that was just the tip of the iceberg and that there were many more.

"I was completely blown away. I wondered why I'd never heard of them and I discovered I wasn't alone, Italians didn't know about them either."

In the 18th century there were 113 theatres in the Marche - the biggest concentration of theatres in the world - and the local population was less than a million.

Currently there are 73 surviving buildings, which are of high architectural and historic value and are still in working order.

Ian was given a Sir William Gillies Award from the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture to research the topic.

And in June, his findings were published in the The Hidden Theatres of the Marche, in which he examines the origins of the theatre boom and analyses the historic, social and architectural significance of this remarkable heritage.

Joseph Farrell, Professor Emeritus of the University of Strathclyde and an eminent authority of Italian theatre, provides a foreword for the book.

Ian, who believes the subject has many similarities with the Borders, added: "The Marche means 'the Borders' - an area sharing the same violent history as the Scottish Borders, the same variety of towns and villages, the same intense local rivalries and the same fiesty, independent people.

"Instead of playing rugby, they built theatres."

Ian was born in Galashiels and attended Gala Academy.

His uncle, Sandy Walker, owned and printed the Telegraph and Peeblesshire News for more than fifty years, taking over from his father and uncle before that.

And Ian added that he felt at home in the Marche, because of his connection to the Borders.

He said: "I took to the people and the country immediately and I think that was because of my Borders background.

"I was in the Marche for three weeks doing research, studying about 40 theatres.

"The restoration work was beautifully carried out. The buildings looked just as good, if not sometime better than the originals."

Ian revealed that the title has sold well so far, with orders also coming in from Italy - but he has no plans to write further books.