Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

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.

Tables and chairs

There is a reason why all of my recent posts were about Paris: from 1 April 2021, Arianna and I no longer live there. In this post I will tell you about our final 24 hours there.

On the late afternoon of Sunday, we ride to Saint-Denis. This is our last chance to visit Atelier Baptiste and Jaina, our two neighbours we got to know thanks to the pandemic. In Spring 2020 we looked out of our windows clapping, at 8pm sharp. This is when we started to wave at them, since they live right in front of us. Then, in June, once the lockdown was lifted, we met at Patakrep, in Place Petrucciani, during a warm early summer evening. It has been almost one year since they first invited us to visit their Atelier. Finally, we go.

The Atelier is an incredible place: located along the Canal de l’Ourcq, in front of the Stade de France, in the first banlieue north of Paris. The Atelier is part of an old abandoned factory, with four rows of low, red-brick houses, each occupied by a group of artists: sculptures, cartoonists, web-designers, painters, blacksmiths, etc. There are two large streets with small tables where scattered groups of people sit to drink a beer and smoke a cigarette at sunset. Baptiste and Jaina welcome us in the house they share with eight other artists. They work on the clay, and guide us through their latest creations. We leave the Atelier late in the evening.

Monday is our last day in Paris, and it is sunny. We finish painting the apartment and we leave outside our furniture: it is gone in less than thirty minutes. Same story for the food that we deposit in the Frigo Solidaire outside La Cantine du 18e: an initiative to learn from. We go to have lunch along the Canal Saint Martin, near Place de la Republique, with Marco and Estelle. In the afternoon we bid farewell to the owner of the house. She has been rather unpleasant with us for some time now, but shortly before leaving she opens up about her troubles. Each person travels with their baggage, and sometimes it can be very heavy to carry.

The house is pretty empty now. We dine on the small table, one of the last things left in the apartment, right next to the window. In front of us we see Baptise and Jaina, and wave at them one last time. When they close their window, Arianna notices a reflection. It looks like there is someone walking on the roof of our house. Isn’t that weird? Curious, we leave the apartment and walk all the way up the stairs. There is a small ladder that leads to a manhole. When we put the head out, we are mesmerised. We can walk on the roof.

Sunset in Paris, a view on the whole neighbourhood, Butte Montmartre bustling with little lights. Four people are having drinking beer and smoking on the roof. They welcome us there. (They are down-to-earth, funny, half-French, half-Russian, half-Swiss, half-Argentinian. Could have become fantastic friends, if only we’d met earlier). This is quite a shocker. I spent much of the last twelve months complaining about the lack of space and light in our apartment. I did not know that we had one hell of a terrace at our disposal. I could cry about it, or laugh. Arianna and I decided to take it as a final gift, our grand Parisian finale.


Con circa 10 milioni di visitatori all’anno (prima dell’inizio della pandemia), la Basilica del Sacro Cuore di Montmartre a Parigi è il secondo monumento storico più visitato in Francia dopo Notre-Dame de Paris. Tanto per capirci, l’afflusso di persone che salgono in cima a butte Montmartre, dove si trova la Basilica, è superiore a quello di persone che si recano al Louvre e alla Tour Eiffel.

Fino a poco tempo fa ignoravo che questa basilica è particolarmente divisiva nel dibattito francese. La struttura che vediamo oggi fu eretta dopo la Comune di Parigi del 1871: secondo un decreto dell’Assemblée nationale del 24 luglio 1873, la costruzione dell’edificio serviva a “espiare i crimini della comune .. e affermare l’ordine morale”.

Non a caso, il diciottesimo arrondissement è uno dei quartieri più popolari di Parigi e anche il luogo in cui il 18 marzo 1871 il popolo parigino si era sollevato. Il 24 maggio 1873, François Pie, vescovo di Poitiers, avanzò il desiderio di rinnovamento spirituale della Terza Repubblica, espresso attraverso il “Governo di Ordine Morale” che collegava le istituzioni cattoliche a quelle laiche, in “un progetto di rinnovamento religioso e nazionale, le cui caratteristiche principali erano la restaurazione della monarchia e la difesa di Roma all’interno di un quadro culturale di pietà ufficiale”, di cui la basilica del Sacro Cuore avrebbe dovuto essere il principale monumento. Vista da questa prospettiva, l’imponente struttura che domina sul diciottessimo arrondissement assume un significato vagamente minaccioso.

Grazie ad Aurélie, ho scoperto che tre anni fa un parigino propose, nel quadro di un bando partecipativo della città di Parigi, di radere al suolo la basilica. Fu il progetto più “likato” di sempre. La sindaca Anne Hidalgo non diede però seguito alla proposta.