Studying at 70 - for 16th degree

Mr Baietti, a former teacher, got his first degree in 1972, in physical education.
Mr Baietti, a former teacher, got his first degree in 1972, in physical education.

VELLETRI (Italy) • A lazy retirement is not the dream of a cheery but truculent 70-year- old Italian, Mr Luciano Baietti, who lives in the town of Velletri, in the Alban Hills near Rome.

He spends his days pottering around his small house and garden. But at 3am, he pulls out his textbooks and starts studying.

Mr Baietti now holds 15 bachelor's or master's degrees from universities across Italy, and is embarking on his 16th.

"Thanks to books, I feel free," he said.

His certificates hang on the walls of his study, framing a portrait of 19th-century French essayist Louis-Francois Bertin, whom he cites as an influence.

Mr Baietti, a former secondary school principal, made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2002 with his eighth degree, which was in motor skills.

By then, he already had degrees in sociology, literature, law, political science and philosophy - most of them from Rome's prestigious La Sapienza University, one of the oldest universities in the world.

He has since obtained seven more, including one in criminology and a distance-learning credential in military strategy from Turin.

His latest degree, in tourism, is from an online university in Naples and was awarded at the start of this month.

"Each time I set myself a new challenge, to see how far my body and my brain can go," said Mr Baietti, who started life as a sports teacher.

His wife, some 30 years his junior, described him affectionately as "a real character" who is known throughout their town.

Mr Baietti obtained most of his qualifications while working his day job and volunteering with Italy's Red Cross.

His first degree was in physical education, in 1972 - and he instantly fell in love with the academic world.

"As well as the sporting events, there were modules in theory which I liked, and which gave me a taste for studying," he said.

Mr Baietti is already preparing to start the next degree, this time in food science.

Once again, he will be poring over his books by the light of his desk lamp, in the wee hours.

"At that time, the brain is more open to assimilating knowledge - and it also allows me to keep a normal family life," he said with a grin.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Studying at 70 - for 16th degree'. Print Edition | Subscribe