Fatos Thanas Nano was born 16 September 1952 in the capital, Tirana. His family was Albanian Orthodox Christian, but religion was officially banned in Albania in 1960. However, religious identity persisted in a subtle way, and Christians were a minority, representing an estimated 20% of the population, with Muslims representing the majority (70%). His father, Thanas Nano, was a journalist who directed the state radio and television broadcasts during the decades of Communist control of the government.
Fatos Nano studied economics at the University of Tirana; he graduated in 1975 with a degree in political economy. He spent the following years as a researcher and lecturer in agricultural economics. In 1990, he entered government service when he was appointed by President Ramiz Alia to serve as secretary general of the Council of Ministers (the prime minister's cabinet).
Nano has two grown children. He is fluent in Italian and English, and is proficient in Russian, French, Serbian, and Spanish. In addition, he has some ability to communicate in Greek.