He is 92 years old and has the energy of a 19-year-old; he is a careful observer with accurate insights. He is charming, witty and a great conversationalist, and even though he has already achieved so much, there is still room for more and he has no plans to stop. The spirit of an entrepreneur can never be dimmed.
VIA magazine’s Editor in Chief met with Carlo for lunch to talk about life, love, and what it takes to build a business – all against the current.
When you first meet Carlo, you can instantly see that he is a man who has seen and done a lot. In his lifetime he has constructed more than 500,000 square meters of living space for his family, excluding built commercial space during his career.
Under the shade of an open-air gazebo wrapped in a shawl of vines (the last bundles of grapes visibly hanging on with admirable tenacity) Carlo and his wife Grazia talk about the delights of living close to the sea, their favorite restaurants, the children and friends who have come to visit over the summer, and the projects they’re working on. Still.
One of them is particularly sensitive; for anyone who has driven, trekked, or cycled in the region it’s hard not to notice the careless rubbish that dots the country paths and sometimes in disturbing piles.
His mission to save Puglia actually did not start in Puglia. Several years ago, while walking in the countryside of Verona with his grandchildren, they found a beautiful cherry tree and picked a couple of ripe fruit. The children ate the cherries in sheer delight and innocently looked up at their grandfather and asked, “Where should we throw this?” Apart from the fact that the seeds are organic, there was no bin anywhere in sight. Carlo remained without words.
He glances at me and gives me a look that asks, Can you believe that? I can. His objective now is to launch Piulita, a non-profit that aims to educate students and generations of tomorrow about the importance of recycling, differentiating rubbish, and the impacts of abandoned garbage on the environment. It sounds elementary, but in certain spots across Puglia the obvious is oblivious. So much so that some have called it a “dirty paradise”. If local were to hear that it might hit hard and rightly so; yet for a region that is celebrated for its good living philosophy and relies so heavily on international tourism, any damage to its image of the ‘dolce vita’ could have long-term effects.
“There are things we should not take for granted”, Bonazzi warns. “To launch this project with a lasting influence, we need to start the project as a public container. Piulita has already started in Fasano: 4,500 students in middle school in 190 classes covering 386 kilometers in 3 hours with differentiated rubbish bags, going door to door and covering the country roads.” He is convinced the project needs to start on an institutional level.
Perhaps the one weak link in his plan is its genuinity; pure business perspective, i.e. ‘what would I get out of it?’, which fortunately or not, drives most investment decisions. Yet it’s even harder to imagine what other motives one would need to be convinced of this initiative besides clean countryside landscapes and roads? Carlo Bonazzi is relentless in his search for the ideal stakeholders – a company, an association, private investors, the major of a city – any body that is willing to see that his futuristic vision is not futuristic at all; if anything it’s long overdue.
Entrepreneurs interested in investing or donating, and potential partners that are curious to join may contact Mr. Bonazzi via e-mail.
Learn more about Carlo Bonazzi’s life in this interview (in Italian): https://youtu.be/j5oI8KKLXeo