(ANSA) - Rome, September 28 - Italy's former national antimafia prosecutor Pierluigi Vigna died in a Florence clinic at the age of 79, family members said on Friday. Vigna worked for the country's magistrature since 1959 and, before becoming the antimafia chief in November 1996, spent most of his career in Florence, becoming head of the prosecutor's office there in 1991. Speaking at a conference in 2004 on ways to attack the assets of organised crime, Vigna said that he had "always enjoyed" his job. Vigna retired in August 2005, but said at the time that he would have "happily stayed on". The Tuscan magistrate actively sought to deter and stamp out infiltration by mafia into areas like human trafficking, the so-called Eco-mafia and contract dealings for plans to build a bridge linking Sicily to the mainland that he said were "fertile territory" for the crime syndicates. Head of the National Association of Mayors (ANCI) Giuseppe Cicala said that Vigna was a figure "that gave so much to the country with his straightforward Tuscan character that allowed him to say things in a simple and clear manner, even in the most dramatic of moments. He takes with him a piece of history of the struggle against the mafia in Calabria, Sicily and all of Italy". "He was an extraordinary magistrate who knew how to respect defendants' rights during questioning in an era that was extremely difficult for the country," Justice Minister Paola Severino said.