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Mountain, freedom and the open air: an extraordinary life in paragliding flight

By Egle Damini / LUZ
Paragliding is a philosophy of life. Every evening when I leave the office I take my backpack, I go an hour or so to the foot of take-off and I fly for two hours with the sun setting: a sunset at those heights is difficult to tell, you have to live it. Fabio Zappa
Fabio Zappa was born in Como in 1982 and approached paragliding about 15 years ago. After having always practiced mountain sports, such as skiing and mountaineering, he decided to try the flight also thanks to his father, a mountaineer, and paraglider: "The mountain, freedom and the open air are dimensions that unite us and so I followed him and I started to fly".
Today he works in Switzerland, and he is lucky: so he can do paragliding during the week waiting for the weekend when he returns to the mountains near his home where for the first time he discovered his passion. There is good news for those who have always wanted to try paragliding: you can start from scratch, without any preparation from an athletic point of view and after a course that goes from 6 to 8 months you go out ready to drive in different weather conditions and with the basic notions of micro and macro meteorology.

The beauty of paragliding flight

Fabio Zappa assures that "As in all sports, you will have the experience as you practice it, but let's also say that any person can go flying in paragliding. Of course, there is a way and a way to do it: simply flying down the mountain taking off and landing is something that everyone can do, for longer and more structured flights you need more experience".
Yes, because with paragliding, which is the simplest means of free flight existing you can make flights of up to 200-300 km, but you start in steps. First, you try on the fields, where you become familiar with the means of transport, then you start to raise your feet from the ground and make the first flights from 10 to 20 meters and, once the course is over, begins the real fun.
When you start flying from one mountain to another, you start to understand how the winds work, how the sun works on the ridges and you start flying from a distance, says Fabio Zappa. Fabio Zappa often returns to Italy to follow his passion for paragliding: the last time he flew in the Chiavenna area with friends, flying for 80 km to the Maloja Pass and then returning to the base. We flew among the Eagles in isolated places, where everyone is looking for a bit 'of himself, despite the fact that we all leave together.
Fabio Zappa says: Well, every time I fly I live the same thing: I take my feet off the ground and it's as if they took off my wheels, and every time since 15 years I live every take-off as if it were the first. I go flying with my problems, with the weight of the days, but then I have nothing more, I fly and I'm fine.
The beauty of this individual sport is its aggregative side. It's just you and your vehicle, but practicing paragliding with friends with whom you share the same passion gives much more value to the experience, as confirmed by Fabio Zappa: Many times I take off with ten people, then maybe one arrives after ten minutes, the other after an hour, the other again after two hours and so on. Let's say that you can't be together during the experience but it's still starting and ending something that we all have in common.
Fabio Zappa at the start
The fundamental moment, according to Fabio Zappa, is the take-off: when you take your feet off the ground and it is really just you, in the midst of nature, with your paraglider. I can't speak for everyone, says Fabio Zappa, everyone lives their own experience, but I can tell you what I live. When I'm with friends and we decide to fly 100 km, we take on the flight and the moment comes when I take off my feet: here for me that is a wonderful moment, which lasts until I support them again.

The most beautiful flight of Fabio Zappa? In Val Pusteria

He has paraglided in many places around the world from Brazil to South Africa, but the flight he loves to remember, the one that marked him most was in Val Pusteria, near Brunico.

The Alps are among the most beautiful places in the world where you can paraglide, especially the Dolomites and the Valpusteria, meeting places for paragliders of all nationalities who come to try the moment of takeoff from those peaks. Right from Val Pusteria, you leave for the longest flights and from those heights, in a day in the air, you have the opportunity to see completely different views.

For example, says Fabio Zappa, I flew 220 km with friends in the morning at 10:00 a.m., landing in the evening at 8:00 p.m., we saw three different environments. Usually, he sets these distance flights with the paraglider imagining a triangle, so he starts from a point reaching the two extremes, the challenge is to be able to touch them all. That time he did it, crossing more than 200km.
The great thing was starting from a green environment, going towards the glaciers and the very rocky areas, crossing the Dolomites and then returning in the evening when everything is already dark in the valley. Practically make a dream come true! Gliding in the last light that beats on the ridges at 3,000 meters, after 10 hours in flight and 200 km with friends is a difficult experience to tell and I still have goosebumps.
Yellow and red paragliding flight
Fabio Zappa talks about his paragliding adventures as if they were tales of walking in the mountains, but when you are in the Alps, to fly in strong winds, you need to be competent and prepared.

From the ground, it seems to see the paragliders descend slowly but in reality, with the turbulence, the speed is very high and when you make flights of 200 km you get to lose even 3 kg for tension and stress. Paragliding is a sport for which you need preparation, and only afterward begins the real fun. For Fabio Zappa it is like this: Every flight is a new experience, you can have even 10,000 take-offs: there will never be one like the other.

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