27 November 2020

Gianni Vernetti – politician and writer

Ecologist who now provides support for emerging economies

Gianni Vernetti's political roots were in the Italian Greens
Gianni Vernetti's political roots
were in the Italian Greens
Former centre-left politician Gianni Vernetti was born on this day in 1960 in Turin, the capital city of the Piedmont region of Italy.

While serving in the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian parliament he promoted initiatives on renewable energies and, after he was elected to the Senate, he served as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Romano Prodi’s government between 2006 and 2008.

Vernetti is married to the television journalist Laura De Donato and they have four children.

In 1985, Vernetti graduated in architecture from the University of Turin and in 1989 obtained a PhD in urban ecology at the University of Milan. For 10 years, between 1985 and 1995, he worked as an architect and urban planner.

As the child of politically active parents - his father, a philosophy professor and ex-partisan and his mother, an architect, were both former members of the Italian Communist Party - it was always likely he would enter politics himself. 

Vernetti was a student protester in the late 1970s and founder-member of the anti-nuclear committee of the town of Trino Vercellese, in Piedmont, later becoming a founder-member of the Federation of Italian Greens.

Vernetti was a prominent member of the Daisy party
Vernetti was a prominent
member of the Daisy party
He was elected to Turin city council as a Green in 1990, serving as Deputy Mayor between 1993 and 1999 in charge of public works, environment and sustainable development and urban renovation.

He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 2001 and was a member of the national steering committee of his party, Democracy is Freedom, better known as La Margherita - The Daisy.

After he was elected to the Senate and the centre-left coalition won the general election, he served in the second Prodi government from 2006 to 2008. He coordinated all the Italian initiatives in Afghanistan when Italy was taking part in the NATO military mission. He implemented aid projects in Central Asia and coordinated Italian aid to the countries affected by the 2004 tsunami.

He promoted Italy’s entrance into the Pacific Islands Forum and represented Italy on the UN Human Rights Council.

In 2008, Vernetti was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for a third term, this time on the Democratic Party list and served as a member of the foreign affairs committee and the Italian delegation to the NATO parliamentarian assembly.

Laura De Donato is a presenter of TG3's Leonardo programme
Laura De Donato is a presenter
of TG3's Leonardo programme
He decided not to stand for parliament in 2013, but instead founded Geo Solar, a company supporting countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

Since 2018, Vernetti has been a columnist on foreign affairs for the Turin newspaper, La Stampa, and in May this year began writing for the Huffington Post.

Laura De Donato has been a journalist with Rai’s TG3 news programmes since 1999. She is a presenter of Leonardo, a show dedicated to investigating topics related to science, technology, health, environment and society.

She met Vernetti when he was 18 and she 15 and they were friends for many years before deciding to get married. They became parents for the first time in 1996.

Turin is renowned for its elegant squares and a thriving coffee house culture
Turin is renowned for its elegant squares and
a thriving coffee house culture
Travel tip:

The city of Turin, once the capital of Italy and traditionally the seat of the Savoy dynasty, is best known for its royal palaces and as a travel destination benefits from being somewhat overlooked by visitors to Italy, especially new ones, who flock first to Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. Yet as an elegant, stylish and sophisticated city, Turin has much to commend it, from its many historic cafés to 12 miles of arcaded streets and some of the finest restaurants in Piedmont. Turin’s café culture is concentrated in the area around Via Po, Turin’s famous promenade linking Piazza Vittorio Veneto with Piazza Castello, and nearby Piazza San Carlo, one of the city’s main squares. In the 19th century, these cafès were popular with writers, artists, philosophers, musicians and politicians among others, who would meet to discuss the affairs of the day.

La Stampa is one of Italy's oldest newspapers
La Stampa is one of
Italy's oldest newspapers
Travel tip:

The Turin newspaper La Stampa, established in 1867 and one of the oldest newspapers in Italy, has since 2012 been produced from one of the most technologically advanced newspaper offices in the world, in Via Lugaro in the San Salvario area of the city, having been previously based for 40 years in Via Marenco . The newsroom has an open space layout in concentric rings, designed so that all the workers can see the entire news production process, from paper to digital.  Its former headquarters is now part of the University of Turin. The ground floor of the newspaper’s new headquarters is now a museum dedicated to the history of the city seen through the pages of its newspaper.

Also on this day:

8BC: The death of the Roman poet Horace

1570: The death of architect Jacopo Sansovino

1758: The death of the castrato singer Senesino

1964: The birth of football manager Roberto Mancini


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