Fabio Zoboli was born 48 years ago in Módena, but he lives in Cesena, a city on the Adriatic coast. This allows him to enjoy his hobbies, water sports: surf ski, canoeing or standup paddleboarding.
My interviewee has the particular bearing of an Italian. That little something which turns them into elegant men with just jeans and a jacket. Obviously, pure Italian design, Armani. And a perfectly classic, tailor-made shirt.
He had always wanted to travel and at the age of 23 he started to tour the world as a salesman. Today, he knows the 75 countries he is responsible for as sales manager in his company, Infia. And of course, he continues travelling, frequently with Ryanair, using his Platinum card.
Although I have known him for many years, I admit that I hadn’t realised that, as well as being an extremely thoughtful and friendly man, above all he is a very home-loving person.
In Spain, we decided to meet up at the beach. The day we chose was not the best for Standup Paddleboarding. The sea was rough and the waves made it difficult to move forward.
I see that water sports include a complete repertory of names and specialities, with different boards.
Well, yes. Today, board water sports have evolved a great deal, and it is true that different disciplines are combined into single sports and they are given new names and become new sports. I am happy doing anything, I am like a fish in water, but basically I do standup paddleboarding (SUP), surf ski (a type of sea canoeing) and I take my kayak out when the sea is calm and I paddle off into the distance as a way to relax.
I know that you used to like land sports better and played rugby.
I did. When I was younger, I was a member of a rugby club. I have always liked the sport and it is something that my family experience regularly and that I have instilled in my children.
So your weekends must be busy…
Of course. Our weekends revolve around my children’s competitions and we enjoy them greatly. I usually go to up to 2 basketball matches with my son, who plays in two divisions and last year was in the Italian Second Division and one with my daughter, who plays in the under 13s volleyball league.
I considered it essential to instil my children with sport, particularly between the ages of 8 and 18 years, because it means personal growth, suffering, defeat, companionship, etc. All values that we should pass on.
And above all, because it takes you away from harmful behaviours, and this is an aspect that should be taken into account when you are a parent of teenagers.
I suppose you are aware that the image you project is very Italian. I mean, a handsome man, with class, well-dressed in designer clothing.
Well, I suppose so, but it is not something I give priority to or overstate. Fashion is a part of Italian culture. There are no cities in Italy without brand name or designer stores. It is part of the Italian stamp, not only for clothing, but for cars, furnishings, anything at all. It is the society in which I live, but there are things that are more important than the physical image you transmit. Whoever wants to see that, all well and good and whoever doesn’t should remember the outer appearance. Age makes you free to act, think, dress…
I have been told that you are a proper little ‘chef’, but that you are incredibly bad at karaoke singing.
I have an ongoing struggle with karaoke, but I ace it in the kitchen. I love cooking, searching for ingredients, trying out new recipes… I am very demanding about quality, I look for natural produce and I use olive oil. For me cooking is pure creativity. I have an agreement with my wife: when we go on holiday we never go to a hotel, obviously because I spend my life in them. We rent an apartment and she doesn’t come into the kitchen for 15 days. I am happy cooking for my family and, if friends come round for dinner, I am always the chef.
Instead of telling me: “You don’t love me like you used to”, my wife says “you don’t cook for me like you used to.” Ha ha ha.
So, fresh pasta and balsamic vinegar of Modena?
I can cook anything, not just pasta. I have an extensive repertoire that I increase with my travels, if I can get the ingredients. But of course, if the recipe needs vinegar (and not just because I was born in Modena), my city’s balsamic vinegar is the best.
I have heard you speak in at least three languages, but you did not study them at university.
No, I studied Economics at the University of Modena, but I admit that I find it particularly easy to learn and express myself in any language. It is an innate quality I have. I speak Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, English and German. I have learnt them all by ear, whilst travelling.
How did you end up in this sector?
Well, like many things that happen in life, it was by pure chance as I don’t come from a family that is linked to the sector. Apart from a year and a bit when I worked in the ceramics sector, I have always worked in the fruit and vegetable world. And above all, I have always travelled.
And having reached a certain age, after sleeping in so many different hotel beds, don’t you feel like slowing down a little?
Not at all. Since I was very young I knew that I didn’t want to work in an office, I wanted to travel. Now, it has become almost a necessity.
How many flights do you catch a year?
I have never counted them, but a great many and I fly all over the world. Travelling around Europe is almost like being at home. The distances are short and sincerely, Ryanair has made my life much easier because the company has a very important operations centre in Bologna. If I had to count the flights, it would be between 60 and 80. I have Ryanair’s Platinum card.