Leda Zanlungo, 44 years old, single. Born in a small village in the north of Italy, Leda left her birthplace on an Erasmus scholarship during her University years and never moved back. Since then she has been living in Oviedo, Granada, London, Madrid, Dublin, San Francisco and Singapore before coming to Barcelona 9 years ago. She is the General Manager for Spain and Portugal of Sonder, a next generation hospitality operator, which is revolutionizing the tourism industry through tech powered service and inspiring, thoughtfully designed accommodations. Sonder was officially launched in 2014 and headquartered in San Francisco, with over 15,000 accommodations in more than 35 cities spanning 10 countries and 3 continents.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
I lived in Spain during my final two years of University and visited all main Spanish cities except Barcelona. Once I graduated I moved to London for a year and then decided to go back to Italy to “settle down”. But on my way back I decided to stop by Barcelona and got so awestruck that I decided to stay here. Work opportunities dragged me away for a few years but Barcelona always kept a special place in my heart and I finally managed to move back (for good!) 9 years ago. Barcelona has everything I need. Perfect size, awesome location and nice weather. Furthermore, Barcelona is very well connected and this is a huge plus for people like me who travel a lot for both work and pleasure. Last but not least, I love the richness and quality of the food offering here, which, being Italian, plays a very important role in my satisfaction scale.
What aspects of the city would you highlight as being positive?
Despite being a fairly compact city Barcelona is extremely diverse. You can start your day hiking in Collserola and end it with a dive in the Mediterranean sea. Moreover, you can wear your plastic gloves to eat calcots in a typical Catalan masia in Horta at lunch or change into your high heels to have dinner in a fancy restaurant in Borne in the evening.
Every neighborhood has got its own personality and peculiarities and a lot to offer. No matter what you are looking for, Barcelona has it all. And can a city really be more beautiful?
What aspects of the city must be improved? How?
Barcelona has an amazing concentration of artistic talents and has an excellent cultural offer but it is not taking the most advantage of it nor is promoting it well enough to Barcelonians and to Barcelona visitors. I miss live music venues, pop up art galleries and exhibitions. With a richer and more affordable cultural agenda Barcelona would better entertain his youngsters and attract more diverse visitors.
Which are the city’s strengths that will allow it to overcome the COVID-19 crisis?
Barcelona has always shown an amazing resilience when facing challenges. The city has all natural ingredients to overcome this crisis and come out of it stronger than ever. But it needs to avoid the risk of complacency and become too self indulgent. Competition is fierce and there are a lot of upcoming cities that are fighting for attracting talents and visitors are working hard to enrich their offer. Barcelona should not settle for being anyone’s second choice.
What other challenges do you think the city will face once the health crisis ends?
Barcelona needs to reopen its doors to the world and embrace the idea that sustainable growth is possible.
What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?
I really wish to see an improvement in the collaboration between the public and private sectors. Without private investment it is impossible to transform a reality. Degrowth cannot be Barcelona strategy. The long term objective should be to keep on growing sustainably and responsibly and in order to do so all main actors need to sit down at the same table and think strategically and constructively about Barcelona’s future with the city and its citizens in mind. We are not short of ideas, we just need to take action.
Which city do you feel as «your city»? What do you miss the most?
Barcelona is my home. I felt it on the day I landed here for the first time and I missed it every time I had to move away. It is the only city in the world where my “post vacation depression” lasts one taxi ride, from the airport to my apartment. The only thing I miss is my family, back in Italy. No matter how many restaurants I try…my mum’s lasagna has no competitors in the world. Period.
And I have two gorgeous nephews, Celeste and Edoardo, who I do not see enough of. But I love to play the role of the cool auntie who lives abroad and talks to them in a “strange” language every time she visits.
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