Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

Category: lorenzo

Il cerchio chiuso della miseria

Nel Cinquecento, la strada prese il nome di via delle Poverine, dal nome del corrispondente istituto religioso femminile. Attorno a Seicento il nome fu cambiato in corso dei Tintori, ceduto poi a un’altra strada. Questa zona infatti era nota anche per le attività produttive meno nobili e più maleodoranti, che richiedevano l’uso dell’urina, quali appunto la tintura delle pezze e la conciatura delle pelli. Non è un caso che poco oltre si trovi oggi via dei Conciatori.

L’Arte dei Tintori teneva lo Spedale di Sant’Onofrio. In questo tratto di strada sorgeva anche il convento di San Girolamo, tenuto dall’ordine delle Poverine Ingesuate. Più verso piazza Cavalleggeri si trovava poi l’ospedale dei Santi Filippo e Jacopo, della compagnia di San Niccolò, che nella prima metà del Cinquecento divenne delle monache di San Miniato.

All’angolo della strada sorgeva inoltre uno spazio per le “Sepolture dei Giudei”. È stato scritto che nella strada si compiva così un “cerchio chiuso della miseria”: le anime venivano soccorse dalla fede, poi curate negli ospedali e infine sepolte.

Oggi il quartiere è silenzioso, i rumori arrivano ovattati. Quelli che furono cimiteri, ospedali e conventi sono oggi caserme militari. Da una di queste partì l’84º Reggimento di fanteria che prese parte alla conquista della Libia. Quando i militari partirono, la via si chiamava ancora via delle Poverine; quando tornarono il nome era stato cambiato in via Tripoli, su delibera dell’amministrazione Corsini nel novembre 1911.

E’ qui che Arianna e io ci siamo appena trasferiti.

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.

Engelberg and clouds

Exactly one year after our last free ride trip, on 7 March Jean-Thomas, Yvan and I were back together for what looks like the only journey together on the Swiss snow in 2021.

In the Swiss canton of Obwalden, the cable ride took up all the way up to Mount Titlis (3,238 m). In the afternoon, the clouds rose from the valley, creating that heavenly impression of skiing on the sea. The other mountain tops looked like little islands on the horizon. I had to think about this other time, almost ten years ago now.

You gotta love my contradictions. I hate the gentrification of mountains, yet I am part of it. I am dubious about the ethical implications of keeping the lifts open (Italy and Switzerland shut them down during the pandemic), yet, again, I take my seat and ride on.

Interlude

This year marks the tenth anniversary since I met Iris, Thomas, Jasper, Stephanie, Suuz, Anouk, Lisa, Joe, Andrew, Nicolas, Mette, and Pernilla. We celebrated NYE for nine years in a row: UtrechtInnsbruckFirenzeDen Haag, Berlin, TorinoStockholm, Paris, Bordeaux (we also met in Fanø once, in the summer of 2011 or maybe 2012).

Our group grew larger along the way. Some of us had kids, others broke up, boyfriends, girlfriends, and husbands joined the team. We will meet again, soon.

Deuxième confinement

Niente più tramonti sontuosi e gemme fiorite sul vigneto di Montmartre, come questa primavera. Al loro posto, le corse si svolgono ora nel buio della mattina, con traffico ed escrementi ovunque (mi rivedo nel signore che si lamenta in una famosa canzone di Elio). Rispetto a questa primavera, lavoro più spesso in sala e con un secondo monitor portato, di contrabbando, dal mio ufficio svizzero. E’ raro che io lavori in cucina. Ogni tanto ci finisce invece Arianna, per i suoi consulti serali.

Non c’è più bisogno di stampare decine di auto-certificazioni: ora si può fare tutto tramite un’app sul cellulare. A proposito: ho un cellulare nuovo. Quello che avevo in primavera era rotto e non mi permetteva di fare praticamente niente, se non accedere a Whatsapp. Paradossalmente, rispetto al primo confinement ho smesso di giocare a Subbuteo online usando il cellulare di Arianna per vestire i panni del Peru contro Dani (Messico), Giallu (USA), Matte (Uruguay) e Fabio (Iran). Mi accorgo, però, di passare molto più tempo davanti a questo piccolo schermo luminoso.

Continuiamo ad essere fedeli clienti del verduraio di Montmartre e della pescheria, ma ci sono due importanti novità in ambito culinario. Primo: abbiamo iniziato a ordinare ortaggi tramite un sistema che si chiama La ruche qui dit oui. Secondo: frequentiamo assiduamente la boucherie Letort, anche se spesso non capiscono cosa dico. Una volta provavo a spiegare che volevo due pezzi di vitello e facevo anche il segno ‘due’ con il dito. Niente. C’è voluto il mio amico Martin, dietro, che ha detto ‘deux!‘ senza nemmeno abbassarsi la mascherina. Solo allora hanno capito.

C’è una nuova boulangerie all’angolo est della strada. Credo che l’obiettivo sia fare concorrenza a quella, frequentatissima, dell’angolo ovest. Per il momento non sta funzionando. Ogni tanto ordiniamo invece una pizza da Bijou e ricreiamo i ritmi delle cene al ristorante. Come scrive Tom Sietsema, ‘must maintain civilty‘ .

Facciamo sport al parco vicino casa, Square Léon Serpollet, assieme a Mario il nostro coach capoverdiano. Francamente si tratta di un tema troppo imbarazzante per parlarne oltre.

Un’altra novità importante di questo periodo è costituita dalla presenza poco discreta dell’anziana signora della casa accanto. Evidentemente questa signora non sta bene. Ci spiace per lei. Fatto sta che spesso urla. Questo succede solitamente verso le undici del mattino, le quattro del pomeriggio e le tre di notte. Il suo repertorio è ben consolidato: Oh Jésus, Maman, Ohi-ohi-ohi, Aidez moi s’ils vous plait, Ooooh. Solitamente bastano questi semplici intercalare per produrre una due-ore di urla senza pausa. Abbiamo chiamato un’ambulanza tre volte: vengono alcuni medici, constatano che la signora non ha preso le medicine, se ne vanno. Per noi questa signora è solamente una voce: non l’abbiamo mai vista e non possiamo bussare alla sua porta dato che sta in un palazzo diverso dal nostro. Non è la situazione ideale in cui trovarsi durante un confinement, diciamo.

Dopo un paragrafo dai toni assai cupi sarebbe il momento di rilanciare con qualcosa di divertente, sbarazzino. Invece no: ci tengo a dirvi che le piante comprate in primavera (basilico, rosmarino, timo, prezzemolo) sono morte. L’asparagina, comprata un anno e mezzo fa assieme a Giallu, quando eravamo a Le Grands Voisins, è morta pure quella. Prendendo atto di questa situazione, abbiamo allora cominciato a comprare alcune piante già morte, ma coloratissime. Andiamo in questa piccola boutique che si chiama Les Fleurs Sauvages. Fa strano, e così quintessenzialmente francese – con un tocco asiatico.

A proposito di sapori locali: sto sostituendo l’ascolto di Radio Fip con Tsf Jazz. Non credo durerà a lungo: c’è troppa pubblicità.

Il nostro consumo culturale è mediocre. Il teatro sotto casa, Théâtre des Béliers Parisiens, è ovviamente chiuso. (In settembre eravamo però riusciti ad assistere a uno spettacolo, Le porteur du temps, prima che chiudesse di nuovo). Non guardiamo più The Sopranos: al loro posto la quarta stagione di The Crown. (Siamo terribilmente appiattiti sui gusti delle masse). Continuo ad ascoltare il podcast di Barbero, ma ogni tanto ascolto anche le puntate sulle olimpiadi del passato dal podcast di Federco Buffa. Ho sostituito The Economist, troppo pesante, con The Guardian, più sbarazzino. Purtroppo ho smesso di ricevere (e dunque di leggere) il New Yorker. La grande lettura di questa primavera era stata il romanzo storico Gli Europei. Adesso invece mi dedico, senza eccessivo entusiasmo, a 4, 3, 2, 1 e all’Opera al Nero. Mi distraggo con gli sketch online di Una Pezza di Lundini.

Di Parigi mi mancano soprattutto le librerie (sono aperte, ma non si può entrare), le mostre, i bistrot, i caffé, le lunghe passeggiate, i parchi. Ogni tanto, però, riusciamo a vedere gli amici ed è veramente un privilegio: Martin, Emilien e Maja, Luca e Jimmy, Laurent e Emma, Baptiste e Jainna, Marco ed Estelle.

Bevo continuamente il té che mi ha regalato Henrietta dal Sudafrica. È a base di roobois e vaniglia. Mi chiedo come farò quando sarà finito.

Drei Zinnen

In 2012 I resolved to hike with friends at least once every summer. It went well for a few years. Then, slowly but surely, the group started to shrink. Last year, Giallu and I were the only survivors.

This year, a lucky combination of two factors that are not entirely unrelated – Arianna’s joining the group and the popular desire to spend time outdoor after three months in a lockdown – revitalised our tradition.

Here we are, eleven of us, when we still thought we were stronger than the rain (spoiler alert: we were not). Giallu, Giacomo, Arianna, Carlo, Delina, Lorenzo, Ludo, Gabo, Anna, Dani. This year’s hike is on the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, die Drei Zinnen.

Fiscalina

We start at Hotel Dolomitenhof (1’465), Val Fiscalina, right next to Sesto. Even with thr clouds, this is a scenic valley. Only now I remember I used to go there as a kid. We do not mind the rain too much. The the trail becomes a little river and we do mind a little bit. At about 2’000 meters of altitude we start shivering. At this point, we mind the rain very much. The Rifugio Locatelli (2’450), our objective for the day, appears and then disappears in the fog. Nerve wracking. It is a good feeling to arrive in our room.

Just like last year, we spend much of the first afternoon napping. Dani overhears another group talking about a “magic room” where clothes and boots dry up quickly. We go on a treasure hunt. We find the room: it does not look that magic, but it is indeed a little warmer than all other spots in the hut.

We have dinner. Very good dinner. A healthy mix of vegetables and meat. Noted down for future hikes. Gloria and Emanuele join us from Brunico, enlarging the Florentine and Milanese sections of the group.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We wake up on a glorious Sunday morning. Gabo walks triumphantly to the dorm: there is a magic flow of air in the magic room and all our clothes and boots will get dry in no time. It is a warm, powerful flow coming from the kitchen. Ludovica throws her boots right into it. Carlo tells the story of when he did the same as a kid and his boots broke apart shortly after because of the excessive heat. We all laugh.

The group splits. Some of us go for the via ferrata to Monte Paterno (Paternkofel, 2’440), others take the lower trail to Rifugio Plan di Cengia (2’528). It is a bright day, and we move up the rocks following the ‘Cling cling’ of our carabiners. Everything is simple and there isn’t much to say.

I took the photo of a bridge and next to it there are the ruins of an old bridge. When my parents did the same via ferrata in the 70s, they had to use the old bridge, which was pretty much like it is today.

From Rifugio Plan di Cengia we hike together to Rifugio Comici (2’224). There we lose Giacomo (who goes for the Via ferrata degli alpini) and Carlo (who has to be back for dinner). This is where Ludo’s boots break. No one laugh. We all think of Carlo.

We arrive to the car a little earlier than dusk. We head to Trento where we want to have a typical dinner. We reserve a table at La Gnoccata. When I ask for the tortel trentino, they tell me ‘Questa è cucina tipica emiliana, qui di trentino abbiamo solo il cameriere‘. And what a waiter. Wild, compassionate, garrulous. We will be back.

Applauses

On Thursday March 12th I went to see Andreas in Vevey. We climbed up a Dent with the skis, ate a soup, and then I headed home and packed some clothes. On the evening I was at the Reithalle in Bern to watch Perro Bomba, as part of the movie series organised by Christina and Lisa. I sneaked out of the room to watch the televised speech by Emmanuel Macron. The next morning, very early in the morning, I hopped on the train from Neuchatel to Paris. I breathed a sight of relief upon arriving at Gare de Lyon. I had spent the entire week worrying that the French government may close the borders abruptly, tearing Arianna and I apart.

I remember going to L’Odeur du Book on Saturday. It is a small bookshop managed by an Italian couple. I bought a big volume, Visions du sport – Photographies 1860-1960, and read it at Le Timbale. Three young men on the table next to mine were drinking Belgian beer and playing a complicated board game. Outside it started to rain.

It was an open secret that the French government was going to impose a lock-down soon. The rest of Europe had looked at Italy with contempt when the government introduced draconian measures in the weekend of March 9th; just like Italy had looked at China with contempt between January and February. That weekend I was skiing in Leysin with Yvan, Jean-Thomas, Maria, Quinn: on Saturday evening I could not get myself away from the phone upon hearing the news the Lombardy was to be quarantined within 12 hours.

The French government had decided to wait before imposing the lock-down to allow the first round of the municipal elections to go ahead. The elections were due the weekend I arrived in Paris. Arianna and I had dinner in the house with Luca and Marco. We bid farewell. The next day, Macron announced the lock-down.

I spent the following two months working on my presentations and indicators. Together with Arianna, we grew a little garden in the kitchen; and we ran up to the Sacre Coeur every evening at 19:00. At 20:00 we would be on our balcony clapping with the neighbours: the young couple in front of us, the elderly lady with a dachshund (Toby) visiting her friends on the ground floor, the elderly homosexual couple with elegant colourful clothes further down the street. Bizarrely (for Paris), the sun shone through the entire lock-down: it felt like we were living in a warm Mediterranean city.

 

A few weeks ago, the lock-down was gradually lifted. The applauses disappeared gradually, too. A few die-harders continued to clap every evening at 20:00. They slowly decreased in number, then one week ago the applauses stopped altogether. The posters advertising candidates of the municipal elections are still hanging on the streets. I suppose that taking them down is not considered an essential activity. Awkwardly, it still feels like that grey electoral Saturday of mid-March.

Earlier this week, the government finally allowed bars and restaurants to open their terraces again. The first day of opening, Tuesday, was magnificent. I realised how much I had missed the feeling of reading in the sun, with people around me. In a classic French ironic twist, on Wednesday evening a thunderstorm brought mayhem on the city. The temperatures have dropped to 10 degrees and it looks like it will be raining for the next seven days or so.

2020: resolutions

Start and finish one cross country skiing race. Free ride on the mountains. Eat chocolate. Remember. Get a sketchbook. Polish up the archive of pictures taken over the last few years. Learn some German. Do some interviews for my research. Experiment with French cuisine in Jules Joffrin. Spend a week in Berlin with Arianna, Anna, Felix, Jonas. Update the blog regularly. Write letters. Organise something with Giacomo and Francesco. Volunteer. Hike on the mountains (via ferrata) with Arianna, Giallu, Nicco, other friends and family. Race a gran fondo. Spend time with Camilla and Isabella. Relaunch the Gingerello s.p.a. Go sailing. Play tennis.  Spend new year’s eve with the Canadians in Canada.

Another website

More professional than this: www.lorenzopiccoli.eu. It has been alive for two years now but I never advertised it anywhere.

lorenzopiccoli dot eu

Looks good?

Books I have read, 2018

I remember reading Annie Ernaux’s Memoria di ragazza on the train during a long, romantic night ride between Stockholm and Kiruna. Outside it was snowing. I felt like I was part of a Swedish noir movie. Next to me, Giallu, and Nicco were muttering indistinct phrases while Jasper was listening to Bubble Butt. We had decided to split two beds and two seats. It all went smoothly until Giallu was locked out of his cabin. The thought of that still makes me smile. The book, which I had bought together with Anna in a little library of Rovereto that we had previously discovered thanks to Martina, is honestly not great. I like its reflexivity and the way in which you can reconsider your own past. It is a bit too depressing for my taste, though.

Memoria di ragazza.png

Between January and February I read one book that had been given to me as a present by Martina during 2016: Jimmy Nelson’s Before they pass away. I remember seeing it in Iris and Erik’s apartment in Rotterdam when I was there six months earlier. Big book. Around the same time I also devoured Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography. I am going to read more books on geopolitics in the next few years.

Between February and March I listened to Emmanuel Carrére’s Limonov through Radio Rai’s podcast Ad Alta Voce. Boy, what a good experience this was. Credit goes to Martina, who had recommended me the podcast – and the book: I remember I first saw it in her house, when she gave it to Fabio. I spent two weeks listening to it. Most vivid in my memory is the four hour non-stop session on my way to Zinal with Jean-Thomas and Elie. I also remember I stopped going to the office by bike around that time so that I could walk down slowly and listen to Limonov. This book left a trace.

Limonov.jpg

Definitely less impactful was Jack London’s Martin Eden. I wanted to read a big, classic book again after my entertaining experience with Il Conte di Montecristo. This has not matched my expectations, though. My second weekend in Zinal, this time with Annique and Eva, I read William Boyd’s Sweet Caress. I had previously bought the book in Zurich. Another book by William Body, Any human heart, is definitely one of the best reads I have ever had. Not this one, though. I should have seen it coming: the name of the author is written in way bigger characters than the title of the book on the cover page.

Back in Neuchatel I started a new audiobook, courtesy of Radio Rai: Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rosa. I had read this great piece of art as a kid but I had forgotten everything. When Pedro hosted me for the second time in Madrid in 2017, I remember buying a Spanish copy of the book for him that I found in a second-hand market in El Retiro. It was a beautiful sunny day. This is an extraordinary book that everybody should read twice in their life.

Il nome della rosa

I like to think of my spring in Paris together with Robert Doisneau’s Paris. When the first sun started to kick in in Neuchatel, I followed Francesca’s advice and I read Primo Levi’s, Il sistema periodico. My image of this book is that of the little cabins in Neuchatel’s harbor.

On my way to Cuba I decided to bring two books only: Eduardo Galeano’s Bocas del tiempo (strongly suggested by Jean-Thomas, who had loved the book when he read it in Argentina) and Alessandro Raveggi’s Panamericana (I had read about it somewhere and got curious). When I ran out of books, because we spent too much time reading due to the rain, Thomoose passed me his copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Oh what a pleasure to read it under the sun in El Varadero like a capitalist tourist.

In June I read Daniele del Giudice’s Staccando l’ombra da terra. This was a present by Giulia. Yes, yes, yes – a very good book.

Staccando l'ombra da terra.jpg

In July I celebrated the Tour de France by reading two books by Bidon: Il Centogiro and Se qualcuno viene mi fa piacere. Leonardo Piccione’s career as a writer is quickly taking off and I will forever pride myself with the discovery of his talent before he became known to the big public.

In August I read Emmanuel Carrére’s Il Regno. I remember going through it on the Lake of Molveno, together with my dad who had read it a few months earlier. Two other books I read in July: Paolo Soglia’s Hanno deciso gli episodi, and Augusto Pieroni’s Leggere la fotografia. Not quintessential.

In Croatia I read Emmanuel Carrére, D’Autres vies que la mienne. This is the second book in French I completed after Albert Camus’ L’Etranger, which I read last year. I was proud. This book is way too long though and I would only recommend the first one hundred pages of it. I also read a comic book by Vladimir Grigorieff and Abdel de Bruxelles, Le conflit insraeélo-palestinien, which I had bought in Brussels with Anna.

In early October I read Robert Capa’s Slightly Out of Focus. It was good to read it on the boat with Giallu, Nicco, and Jonas. I told Thomoose to read it. It is entertaining. You read Capa and you can never tell whether he is for real. He just goes like – hei, let’s have a good time. In late October, on my way to Kenya, I read Desmond Morris’ La scimmia nuda. This was a present by Eliana. Nailed it. It was a good coincidence to read it in the country that really is the cradle of humanity.

Between November and December I read Giuseppe Sciortino’s Rebus immigrazione. He was my professor at the bachelor’s in sociology. This is a small and lean book that I read during one train ride from Trento to Neuchatel.  Finally, in December I read Mary Ellen Mark’s On the Portrait and the Moment. This was my graduation present by Iris and Erik. They know how to make their pick. The most charming part of photography, for me, is portraits – of humans, rhinos and elephants. Landscapes are boring.

And this is the end. Reading back the post I realise that my book choices are closely tied to the people I know and the place I visit. I do not do this on purpose. But it feels right.


Read my ‘books I have read‘ posts from 2017201620152014., 2013.