Gianluca Zanini: The True Traveler


At the end of the 90ies, a new AEGEE local entered the net­work map: AEGEE-Bres­cia. The anten­na in the North Ital­ian indus­tri­al city near Milano quick­ly became a star in the net­work, because its mem­bers com­bined Ital­ian joy of life and an incred­i­ble spir­it with Swiss pre­ci­sion and reli­a­bil­i­ty. Its founder was Gian­lu­ca Zani­ni, who recent­ly became mem­ber of Les Anciens. Togeth­er with AEGEE leg­ends such as Patrizia Menchiari and Enri­co Vigliani he cre­at­ed a fan­tas­tic anten­na that left its mark in the net­work.


Gold­en Oldie: When and where were you born?

Gian­lu­ca Zani­ni: I was born in 1967, 1st of March, in a small sea­side town called Alben­ga in Lig­uria.

Gold­en Oldie: Where and what did you study?

Gian­lu­ca: I stud­ied Med­i­cine at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Milan, I lat­er obtained a post­grad­u­ate diplo­ma of spe­cial­i­sa­tion in Radi­ol­o­gy.


Gold­en Oldie: When did you join AEGEE and how?

Gian­lu­ca: I met AEGEE peo­ple in Milan in the sum­mer of 1993 dur­ing the local SU and through­out the peri­od I act­ed as chauf­feur for the guests of the Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty, then I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the activ­i­ties of the win­ter 1993–94.


Gold­en Oldie: You were also founder of AEGEE-Bres­cia. How do you remem­ber that time? What where the great­est mem­o­ries, biggest chal­lenges and rewards of this job?

Gian­lu­ca: It was the rich­est and most beau­ti­ful peri­od of all my uni­ver­si­ty life, full of won­der­ful expe­ri­ences, knowl­edge and unfor­get­table friend­ships through­out Europe. I got to know close­ly cul­tures and made great expe­ri­ences. I was very com­mit­ted to increase the num­ber of mem­bers of AEGEE-Bres­cia who were trav­el­ling around Europe. After so many years, my reward is now to con­tin­ue to have AEGEE’s friends around the world.


Gold­en Oldie: Tell us a fun­ny sto­ry of your AEGEE time!

Gian­lu­ca: At the end of the Euro­pean School in 2000, organ­ised by my anten­na, AEGEE-Bres­cia, the par­tic­i­pants pre­pared a col­lage to thank the staff of AEGEE-Bres­cia, draw­ing some­thing that rep­re­sent­ed each of us. For me they drew a car, the leg­endary Gian­gi Car, which became famous in Europe, because at the time I turned up at events with this car, car­ry­ing around my AEGEE friends. The car had a horn with a very crazy sound.


Gold­en Oldie: What was your favourite AEGEE event?

Gian­lu­ca: As a sin­gle event, sure­ly the Ago­ra in Barcelona in 1999 and in Ankara in 1997, as well as a Sum­mer Uni­ver­si­ty in Lviv. The expe­ri­ences, encoun­ters and friend­ships made in those events were the most impor­tant in my AEGEE life.


Gold­en Oldie: What were your best and worst moments in AEGEE?

Gian­lu­ca: My best time has been one long jour­ney from 1997 to 2003, but espe­cial­ly the peri­od 1998 to 2000, when the rest of my life was in trou­ble and just the joy of the AEGEE expe­ri­ence gave me the strength to con­tin­ue with a smile. The worst moment was in 2003, when I had to make the deci­sion to aban­don the active life of AEGEE, as work, home and fam­i­ly required my full atten­tion. But the dis­ap­point­ment was dimin­ished, how­ev­er, when I got elect­ed an Hon­orary Mem­ber of AEGEE-Bres­cia.


Gold­en Oldie: Which AEGEE mem­ber impressed you a lot?

Gian­lu­ca: I have a name in mind, but out of respect I pre­fer not to reveal it, because it is a very spe­cial and very impor­tant per­son to me.


Gold­en Oldie: Any things you regret that you haven’t done them in AEGEE?

Gian­lu­ca: First of all I regret not hav­ing known AEGEE when I was younger, and then not being able to par­tic­i­pate in more Ago­ras and SUs. Final­ly, I regret not being able to become active on Euro­pean AEGEE lev­el.


Gold­en Oldie: Did AEGEE influ­ence your career deci­sion?

Gian­lu­ca: Not real­ly, if con­sid­er­ing that I’m a doc­tor and when I found­ed AEGEE Brescia’s Anten­na I was already work­ing.


Gold­en Oldie: As a child, what did you dream to be your future job after grow­ing up?

Gian­lu­ca: I’ve always want­ed to be a doc­tor, for sev­er­al years with the idea of going on a mis­sion. Now I am spe­cialised in radi­ol­o­gy, work in pub­lic health in Switzer­land.


Gold­en Oldie: Are you single/married/married with 5 chil­dren?

Gian­lu­ca: I am mar­ried to Fleur from AEGEE-Maas­tricht and I have a five-year old son. I would have liked to have six chil­dren, but in real­i­ty no one can choose the final num­ber of their chil­dren.


Gold­en Oldie: Which lan­guages do you speak?

Gian­lu­ca: Ital­ian is my moth­er tongue and I speak flu­ent Eng­lish, French and Dutch. Also learn­ing Ger­man will be use­ful for my work in a mul­ti­lin­gual coun­try like Switzer­land.


Gold­en Oldie: Where do you live now? What do you like/dislike about your city?

Gian­lu­ca: I live in Lugano in Tessin/Ticino, the Ital­ian-speak­ing Switzer­land. I like that here Ital­ian cul­ture is cov­ered by a Cen­tral Euro­pean prag­ma­tism, a cul­ture of respect for civ­il and social rules, indi­vid­u­als and work­ers. At the moment I’ve been liv­ing in Switzer­land for too lit­tle time in order to find neg­a­tive aspects.


Gold­en Oldie: What are your best and least liked cities?

Gian­lu­ca: My pas­sion for trav­el and dis­cov­ery enables me to appre­ci­ate aspects of a city which are not always obvi­ous. For this rea­son there are many cities that I like, which often have a long his­to­ry: Gdańsk, Kraków, Warsza­wa, Lviv, Lei­den and Utrecht, Aachen, Istan­bul, Barcelona and Moscow. For the same rea­son there is no city that I real­ly do not like.


Gold­en Oldie: What is the fur­thest place you ever went to?

Gian­lu­ca: Bamako, the Repub­lic of Mali, 6700 kilo­me­ter far from home. I went there with my par­ents on a jour­ney of 46 days.


Gold­en Oldie: Which coun­try would you like to vis­it in the near future?

Gian­lu­ca: I’d like to vis­it Japan, Aus­tralia and the islands of the Caribbean, pos­si­bly accom­pa­nied by the orig­i­nal peo­ple of those lands to get to know the true cul­ture.


Gold­en Oldie: What are your hob­bies?

Gian­lu­ca: Cer­tain­ly trav­el­ling is high on my list, not as a tourist style hotels and vil­lages, but in the pure sense of the jour­ney, in search of cul­ture, art, his­to­ry and soci­ety. For this rea­son, trav­el­ling with AEGEE rep­re­sents real trav­el­ling. I also like work­ing with my hands, craft projects at home and in the gar­den. My dream is to find an old house and to restore it.


Gold­en Oldie: What are you most afraid of?

Gian­lu­ca: Despite appre­ci­at­ing soli­tude at times nec­es­sary, but my worst fear is being alone for the rest of my life. The sec­ond biggest fear is to die with­out hav­ing realised my life plans.

Gold­en Oldie: What’s nev­er miss­ing in your fridge?

Gian­lu­ca: Fruits and some­thing sweet, usu­al­ly to eat after fruits at the end of a meal. My favourite desserts are Tiramisu, I make a very good one, and choco­late with hazel­nuts.


Gold­en Oldie: How would you describe your­self in five key­words?

Gian­lu­ca: Ide­al­is­tic, dreamy, pas­sion­ate, gen­er­ous, empa­thet­ic. These are the pos­i­tive things, one thing is def­i­nite­ly neg­a­tive: messy, in dif­fer­ent aspects of life.