When Roberto Regnoli started finding bottles with messages inside them on his local beach on the Adriatic coast of Italy he thought little of it. But they kept coming - and he now has more than 80, ranging from political appeals from the Balkans to poignant messages from the lovelorn.

Mr Regnoli, 59, a doctor at Termoli, near Campobasso, said that whenever possible he replied to the messages, which have been posted on his website messaggidalmare.com. Some have travelled hundreds of miles, drawn to Termoli by the strong currents around the Gargano peninsula. The messages were in Italian, English, German, French, Croatian and Russian.

The first bottle that he found contained an appeal in 12 languages from Montenegro, dated October 2005, asking anyone who found it to help the country to achieve independence from Serbia - which it did in June last year. "By the time I opened the bottle and found the message, Montenegro was already an autonomous republic, so it was a bit late," Mr Regnoli said. "The sea takes its time. But every message tells a story."

One desperate message came from a 17-year-old who claimed to be shipwrecked. He had written his SOS message on the elastic of his underpants and put it inside a beer bottle. In another case, a young woman from Pescara, just up the Adriatic coast, had written an apparent suicide note after an unhappy love affair.

Mr Regnoli said that he never found out if the teenager or the woman had survived. However, he replied to two lovers from Amsterdam who sent a message asking the finder to write to them as a sign that their love would endure. "I did write, and they wrote back. They are now happily engaged," Mr Regnoli told Panorama magazine.