Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Siddhartha with a camera

In a book on photography I recently read, the act of taking pictures is described as ‘pleasure, instinct, and freedom‘. If you asked me, I would add ‘contemplation‘. The beauty of photography is that of taking time, going slow, waiting for the right light, and then waiting a few days for the film to be developed – of course, the latter does not apply to modern cameras and phones. The slow rhythm of photography contradicts the imperatives of modern life.

What is more, it seems to me that there are several connections between yoga and photography. The pursuit of abstraction, the importance of being an observer of something bigger going on around you, and the idea that you can find joy simply by taking the time to look around.

Of course, I know little about photography and I know even less about yoga. Take these scattered notes with a pinch of skepticism.

Nicco’s Fundraising Challenge

This is Nicco and his new slogan is Let’s turn diabetes type 1 into type none!

Nicco was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years ago. Now he wants to complete an olympic triathlon whilst fundraising for JDRF. As he says, this gives him motivation, strength, and sense of purpose. On August 8, he will be running the London Triathlon 2021 to fundraise for JDRF UK, a global organisation funding research on treatment and cure of type 1 diabetes.

If you would like to support JDRF in their work and the broader type 1 diabetes community, please give a donation through Nicco’s JustGiving page.

Trento Film Festival

My parents continue to give me good tips. This time, they wrote me to say that the Trento Film Festival has a separate online section.

The Trento Film Festival kicked-off in 1952 thanks to a joint initiative of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) and the Municipality of Trento. It takes place once a year, at the beginning of May, featuring a multi-faced selection of movies about mountain, nature, the environment, and travel. I attended a couple of times, in 2010 and 2011, and it was an absolute delight.

The main beauty of the festival is the possibility to roam around from one cinema to the other, visit the stands, and talk to the movie makers. But if you are away from Trento, as I am, you can get a digital pass that gives you limited access (till May 17) to a selection of movies that you would not normally find online. Alas, you can only use it if you are in Italy (but you may want to use a vpn, which would allow you to access from all over the world).

The movies we watched and recommend are:

  • Black Ice, following a crew of aspiring ice climbers from the Memphis Rox gym to the frozen wilds of Montana.
  • Haeberli, the story of a house falling apart and his genial inhabitant stuck in his paper jungle in the middle of posh St. Moritz: quintessentially Swiss.
  • Godspeed, Los Polacos, the chronicles of a group of Polish students who, in the 1970s, escape the Iron Curtain through a kayak expedition in South America with very little technical knowledge of how to survive in those environments: the ultimate roadtrip.

All of them have a subtle touch of irony.


Jesus and his family, Dante, Camille Pissarro, Karl Marx, Joseph Conrad, Sigmund Freud, Marc Chagall, Vladimir Nabokov, Vladimir Lenin, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Anne Frank, Thomas Mann, Albert Eistein, Hanna Arendt, Bertold Brecht, Walter Gropius, Fritz Lang, Piet Mondrian, Henry Kissinger, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury, Madeleine Albright, Rigoberta Menchú, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Mona Hatoum, Isabel Allende, Wyclef Jean, Tenzin Gyatso, Edward Snowden.

What are you thinking about?

The photos we take reflect the way we look at the world, which is very subjective.

Give a camera to three persons who are looking at the same landscape. They will take completely different photos, even if they have the same technical skills. The first person may want to capture the grey and threatening clouds on the horizon and take a picture in the style of Pentti Sammallahti. The second person could zoom on the thoughtful pedestrian walking with his dog, a much more humanistic approach of the kind of Susan Meseilas. The third may decide to boost the colours, emphasise the contrast between the green pullover of the pedestrian and the red house on the right, creating a magical atmosphere à la Alex Webb’s. Through a camera we decide what we want to see and how we want to portray it.

Much of this craft disappears with modern phones. Their standard images are often beautiful, but less intimate than those you can take with a normal camera by playing around with the exposition, the zoom, the focus, the width…

La prima cosa

Arrivati a Firenze, quello che subito salta all’occhio è il bianco dei capelli. Siamo circondati da persone anziane. Sarà forse il contrasto con Parigi, dove la popolazione è mediamente molto giovane, tra hipster in bicicletta e famiglie con le borse sotto gli occhi. E sarà anche perché adesso a Firenze non ci sono turisti, che almeno di poco l’età media l’abbassavano. (Un inciso per chi leggerà questo post tra qualche anno e non ricorderà il contesto: siamo ancora nel mezzo di una pandemia mondiale e il governo italiano ha chiuso tutti i negozi. La gente passa gran parte del tempo a casa, il turismo non esiste più e alcune città ne escono completamente trasformate. Le vie del centro sono vuote, silenziose, ed è un privilegio poterle vivere così).

Sia come sia, l’anzianità della popolazione è impressionante. E non si tratta solo di un’impressione: l’Italia è il paese con l’età media più alta d’Europa; in Italia, la Toscana è la terza regione per anzianità (47.3).

Le altre cose che notiamo sono i suoni (tazzine di caffé, autobus scalcagnati, panni sbattuti, pigolio di usignoli, pettirossi, cuculi e cardellini), i vestiti di quei pochi giovani che girano per le strade (vistosi, esagerati, elaborati) e dei tanti anziani (eleganti, ragionati, formali), il giallo delle case e il blu del cielo.

Weekend long reads, April 2021

Rachel Aviv, How Elizabeth Loftus Changed the Meaning of Memory, The New Yorker. James Parker, The relentless Philip Roth, The Atlantic.

My professional self, 2021

Since the beginning of April I have officially returned to the European University Institute. I work as Research Fellow leading the activities of the Migration Policy Centre on research and training with the School of Transnational Governance. So many different institutions in one small place!


I spent a good amount of time, over the last twelve months, trying to make sense of the different restrictions to human mobility introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Much of this work has been conducted with Andreas Perret, Jelena Dzankic, Timothy Jacob-Owens, Didier Ruedin, Daniele Pezzatini, and Pauline Lecomte.

I already told you about an article I published with some of my co-authored a couple of months ago. Now I would like to introduced the new website that we have created to present some preliminary findings and make our data easily accessible.

Our argument is that Covid-19 travel restrictions have been a global phenomenon, but their impact has varied hugely, depending on an individual’s immigration status, citizenship, employment, and place of residence. It remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, these measures will outlast the pandemic and establish a ‘new normal’ for global mobility.

Two letters

There are moments when I am not sure sure I deserve to be paid for my work. To counter those doubts, I have decided to save letters of appreciation from students and colleagues. As I am leaving the two positions I have occupied for the last three years, I have two new beautiful letters to store for my archives.

The first letter is for my position as Research Associate for GLOBALCIT. Since 2018, I spent about 25% of my working time in close contact with co-directors Jo Shaw, Maarten Vink, Rainer Bauböck and, above all, Jelena Dzankic. It is a public letter.

Lorenzo Piccoli officially joined the GLOBALCIT team as a Research Associate in 2018, but he has been a much valued collaborator for five years before that. He made a substantial contribution to a number of earlier GLOBALCIT initiatives, including the Conditions for Electoral Rights database, and the ELECLAW indicators.

Lorenzo has a passion for cycling, skiing, novels and film, an immense creative energy and unmatched ‘people skills’. Since 2018, he has done a marvellous job of expanding the Observatory’s communication strategy, especially through social media, infographics, and as an unofficial ‘ambassador’ of GLOBALCIT at events and conferences worldwide.

From 1 April, we bid farewell to Lorenzo, who has become a Research Fellow at the EUI’s Migration Policy Centre, where he will lead the work on teaching and training with the School of Transnational Governance. The whole GLOBALCIT team wishes him the best in this next stage of his career.

The second letter is for my position as Scientific Coordinator of the nccr – on the move where, since 2019, I teamed-up with Gianni D’Amato, the Network Office and, above all, the Administrative Director Nicole Wichmann. It is a letter published on the private channels of the network and I take the freedom to re-post it here.

Dear all,

As many of you probably read, Lorenzo Piccoli will reduce his activity rate for the Network Office in April and May 2021 to 40% and take up a new teaching and research position at the EUI in Florence on 1 June 2021. We are very happy that Lorenzo has been offered this opportunity to invest in his academic career and we wish him all the best in this new position. We are also delighted to continue our collaboration on various research projects until mid-2022.

In retrospect, offering Lorenzo the Scientific Officer’s position two years ago was one of the several very successful staffing decisions we took during the last seven years, which translated into a fantastic strategic asset. Lorenzo managed to give the Migration-Mobility Nexus content and meaning, and he fundamentally reformed all existing platforms and tools created previously.

From the outset, he had the vision of turning the nccr – on the move into a “collaborative network” worth its name. With this idea in mind, he positioned the Research Days, the Neuchâtel Graduate Conference, the Core Courses, and the NCCR Retreats as real exchange platforms. Moreover, he was among one of the first to see in early 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic was to have a fundamental impact on us as a community of scholars, but also on our research, which was why he began working and reflecting on this topic early on, allowing the NCCR to gain visibility.

These examples among many illustrate the strategic foresight of Lorenzo, who in addition possesses the necessary gracious diplomatic as well as communication skills to actually translate his ideas into collective action. He did not only do an incredible job in the visible areas of the NCCR, he also helped us turn the reporting exercise and other more invisible tools into strategic assets of our common project. In sum, his commitment, enthusiasm and professionalism have left a durable imprint on what the NCCR is, and on how we work, both in the Network Office and in the NCCR Community at large.