Giovanni Angelini was born in Udine on August 4th 1905. The paternal family was native of oriental Friuli, near to the old State border; the father was the head physician at Hospital of Udine. The maternal family was instead native of Val di Zoldo; from the end of 1700 this branch of his ancestors was engaged in engraving wood, Giovanni’s mother who modelled clay, had studied at the Accademia of Venice, and helped her grandfather, the sculptor Valentino Panciera Besarel, who from poverty was able, tanks to his art, to live and open a business in Venice, on the Canal Grande.
He pursued classical studies in Udine, the University ones in Padua (after the death of his father in 1922), where he got his medical degree in 1928. Except during the periods of military service (7° Alpine’s Regiment 1929 – 1930; Ethiopian field hospital for indigenous) during his first formative years he substituted general practitioners in Summer, he made a long university preparation (Padua, Istituto di Istologia e Embriologia generale, Istituto di Patologia speciale medica e metodologia clinica; Hamburg, Institut für Schiffs- und Tropenkrankheiten).
In 1948 he passed onto hospital career: Consultant at the Hospital of Trent, then at Verona (1954) and at the one of Belluno (1958). At the end of his professional career (1975) he was Emeritus Medical Consultant at Belluno’s Hospital.
He was corresponding member of Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti. He received the honorary citizenship of Forno di Zoldo (1948) and of Zoldo Alto (1980). He was appointed as Honorary member of the Agordo’s C.A.I. branch and of the Zoldo’s one in 1989, of which he was the founder in 1966.
Near to the ancestral house of Astragal in Zoldo, on which is still written “Beautiful is the land where one is born”, in place of the tabià a new house for his mother was built, a place where his family for many years, till it was possible, spent their summer vacations. Giovanni’s Angelini bond with Val di Zoldo born, grew and elapsed throughout his entire life.
Giovanni Angelini learned mountaineering from shepherds and hunters. In his family there was a certain mountaineering tradition: his mother, not long after the construction of the Rifugio Venezia, at the foot of Pelmo, in 1892, when she was more or less 24 years old, slipped away from her father’s control and climbed Monte Pelmo with the Zoldo Alto’s guide Angelo Panciero called “el Mago” and with a primordial equipment: the ascension left her a deep impression.
Only after the death of his father (1922) and during his university studies he started seriously mountaineering. He started, thanks to the friendship of his brother Valentino with a schoolmate and family friend who was of Belluno Silvio Sperti, who came from a family that had a long mountaineering tradition.
From 1923 they became members of the C.A.I. in the section of Cortina d’Ampezzo, they started to learn how to use rope and pitons (that were at first handcraft made pitons that were therefore always carefully recovered). The shoes used to climb were the everyday ones scarpét, tied; a not negligible problem was to transport or to recove the hobnailed shoes, scarpe da fèr, intensely reinforced with iron as it was common at that time.
Very important was the collaboration with Antonio Berti, at that time Consultant physician of the Hospital of Vicenza, who collected information in order to write a new mountain guide of the Eastern Dolomites. With Berti, in those summer seasons he established a true collaboration, that lasted until 1928, date of publication of the fundamental book “Le Dolomiti Orientali”. And it lasted then forever.
At that time there were no sources that were well-grounded, which informed on the mountains of Val di Zoldo: some elementary news on the main peaks were known, but they were very insufficient news. It was a fortune that a mountain climber of the previous generation was interested in this activity, that assumed at that time in the Valley an exploratory characteristic.
“We used – he wrote – an instinctive technique, sharpened by great exercise and that reached high degrees in those years; the acquaintance with the territory was obviously deepened; the physical stamina gave great uneasiness”. In 1931 Giovanni Angelini was admitted to the Veneto group of the Club Alpino Accademico Italiano; but he always practiced a traditional exploratory mountaineering, with absolute predilection for the mountains that encircled Val di Zoldo: the ascensions made on other Dolomite mountain groups of Belluno remained dispersed episodes, like those on the Dolomites around Trento: he was an affectionate member of S.A.T. to which he dedicated the writings “Invito alla storia della montagna”, in the anniversary of the 80 years of the section (1952) and “Sentieri” in the centenary of the S.A.T. (1972). He carried out entirely his alpine carrier and his carefully descriptive activity in Val di Zoldo, this led to the compilation of alpine guides (“Salite in Moiazza”; “Civetta-Moiazza” in collaboration with V. Dal Bianco; several monographic studies; “Pelmo e Dolomiti di Zoldo” in collaboration with P. Sommavilla). A pre-eminent task was also the analyses of the alpine history of the valley (“La difesa della Val di Zoldo nel 1848”; “Invito alla storia della montagna”; “Contributi alla storia dei monti di Zoldo”; “Per il centenario della salita di John Ball sul Pelmo”, news on mountain climbers and guides that worked in the past century; “Cesare Tomè e le sue salite”; “Civetta per le vie del passato”; “Pelmo d’altri tempi”, etc.). Some writings were concentrated on ancient working activities that were crucial for the Valley (fusine, charcoal piles), some on dreadful periods (“Rovine in montagna”). Finally there is the properly historical part concentrated on the history of the valley, developed most of all in the last few decades when he was getting older and he returned to the mountains and to paths. They are different researches on the isolation of the Val di Zoldo (“Le mura di Soffranco”), on the plague of 1629-1631 in Zoldo, on the demographic conditions in the past, in particular on the medieval origins of the controversies on the long border between Cadore and Zoldo (Belluno), that characterized the deep penetration of Cadore in the territory geographically of Zoldo; news, moreover, on the first works of the maternal grandfather, the sculptor Valentino Panciera Besarel (1829-1902), merged in the volume “Gli scultori Panciera Besarel di Zoldo”, published after his death in 2002.
Giovanni Angelini died the 16th of May 1990, and has returned to Val di Zoldo, where he had chosen to be buried.