Il Testimone

LHA London Life Stories, PierFrancesco Diliberto aka Pif

In the second blog in a series of life stories, we talk to PierFrancesco Diliberto aka Pif; an Italian Television Host, Film Director, Actor and Writer. During the week of Pif’s latest film’s London premier, ‘The mafia kills only in the summer’, he took some time out to re-visit Belsize House; where he stayed whilst living in London as a 23 year old.

Pif’s debut film (trailer shown below) as director premiered at Leicester Square in July of this year, which Pif invited some of his ex-LHA colleagues (and old friends) too. It is an Italian, black comedy picture portraying life as a boy, an adolescent and an adult through 20 years surrounded by the criminal activities of the Mafia in Italy. The film takes an alternate narrative approach from a typical film about the Mafia in that it focusses on how the people grew up with, understood and dealt with their dangerous environments. You can order the film on Blu-Ray via Amazon here.

Previous to this film, Pif is known for his work with MTV on the television show he created called Il Testimone (see below). Armed with only a small portable camera and an insatiable interest in people’s stories and perspectives, he investigated life for people growing up in large families, with the mafia as well as investigating the story of the Tarahumaran people of north-western Mexico renowned for their long-distance running ability.

Being curious about other people, other lifestyles and how cultures can affect a person’s perspective have allowed Pif to build a successful career behind and in front of camera. We were able to take some time out of Pif’s busy post-film premier schedule to interview him about this and his time in London with LHA. We conducted the interview by email, with translation by Pif’s old colleague and now manager of Belsize House, Renato Rossi (on the right in picture above), at Belsize House.

Belsize House

Q: How long ago did you spend time with LHA and what jobs/roles did you play during that time?

A: The first time I came to London was in November 1994 and I came back and forth from Italy until June 1998. I remember it was the year of the Football world cup in France. My first job was as Kitchen Porter at Bowden Court. I arrived a few days after Gigi, who I believe is the current chef at Sandeman Allen. Then I worked as “dining girl”, to replace a girl at Halpin House for a few weeks, then for about a year at Belsize House, and I finished my career as Kitchen/House porter at Bowden Court again.

Q: What were you doing in London at the time? Were you studying, working or travelling?

A: I came to London to learn English and to attend some media practise courses. Considering the job I do we can say the media practise courses have been useful to me. And considering that I am writing to you in Italian and you are translating, let’s say that the English courses have a bit a little less useful to me.

Pier Francesco Diliberto

Q: Any particular fond memories whilst at LHA or from your time in London?

A: I was 23 years old and it was the first time I had been travelling on my own for such a long time. That only served to make everything more special. Working in a LHA hostel allowed me to meet a lot of people and to work to live, rather than live to work, which was often the case for example for those who worked in Italian restaurants.

Q: Did being in London help you to develop in anyway?

A: It opened up my mind a lot. I would oblige all Italian young people to move to London for one year, to make them realize that often what is considered to be extraordinary in Italy is normal in London.

Q: Is there anything you miss about living and working in London?

A: I miss London international soul. It is really true that living in London means living at the centre of the world.

Pif and his autovox

Q: To this day many of our residents and volunteers are in the arts and attend the many ballet schools, theatres and drama colleges in London. Is there anything you would say to LHA volunteers and residents aspiring to achieve their dreams on stage or in film?

A: The time before you become a professional, must be lined as a training ground, I used to shoot short films around London that in some way anticipated the ones I would go on to make for MTV about ten years later. One must make the most of that time, experimenting and above all producing. The creativity of being twenty years old is unrepeatable.

Thank you to Pif for taking the time out to speak to us and Renato for your translation services! You can follow Pif on twitter @pif_iltestimone.

PierFrancesco Diliberto aka Pif on social media

If you are a past resident, volunteer or employee who would like to get in touch and discuss your time at LHA London and life since we’d love to hear from you. Please get in contact via email to