Ho trascorso sette giornate corte e tutto sommato non troppo fredde tra Stoccolma e Kiruna. In Svezia ho ritrovato il cuore del gruppo canadese con cui ho celebrato sei degli ultimi sette capodanni dal 2011 a oggi, sempre in una località differente: Utrecht, Innsbruck, Firenze, l’Aja, Berlino (non c’ero), Torino e Stoccolma, per l’appunto.
Gennaio in Svezia: le giornate durano poco più di sei ore. In questa stagione dell’anno la capitale è vivibile, ma poco appariscente. L’unica eccezione è la metropolitana, colorata e allegra. Due aggettivi piuttosto inusuali per una realtà sotterranea.
La sera del primo gennaio ho preso il treno per Kiruna assieme a Jasper, Giallu e Nicolas. Dopo quindici ore siamo arrivati in Lapponia. Neve e buio: siamo nel periodo dell’anno in cui, da quelle parti, il sole non sorge mai. C’è, tuttavia, una bella luce crepuscolare tra le nove della mattina e le tre del pomeriggio. La provincia di Kiruna è grande quanto la metà dei Paesi Bassi ed è stata costruita all’inizio del Novecento attorno a un insediamento minerario scavato nel cuore di una montagna. Sfortunatamente per i loro discendenti, i primi abitanti di Kiruna hanno costruito le case proprio sopra la vena mineraria. E così adesso il centro cittadino rischia di collassare nel sottosuolo. Il governo ha da poco cominciato imponenti lavori per trasportare la città e la sua bellissima chiesa in legno costruita in tradizionale stile sami venti chilometri più a valle entro il 2025.
La vista di Kiruna al mattino è memorabile. Una montagna tozza e larga, costellata di luci sfocate nel buio e nella neve. Abbiamo alloggiato in una piccola casetta nella foresta, parte di un insediamento gestito da un uomo finlandese e sua moglie spagnola. Abbigliamento largo e caldo affittato da Patrick – big is warm. Il primo giorno ci siamo regalati una gita con la motoslitta per oltre quindici chilometri fino all’albergo ghiacciato di Jukkasjärvi. Posticino suggestivo: in ogni stanza dell’albergo è alloggiata un’opera d’arte in ghiaccio realizzata da artisti con una formazione molto diversa tra loro: interior designer, scultori, fumettisti, pittori… Ogni stagione, in tarda primavera, l’albergo si scioglie e viene poi ricostruito l’inverno successivo in maniera differente. Apparentemente, la sua struttura è purissima: l’acqua del fiume da cui viene preso scorre alla velocità giusta per permettere al ghiaccio di essere privo di gas.
La sera abbiamo passato alcune ore nella sauna e poi davanti al fuoco. Il giorno successivo abbiamo fatto sci da fondo, poi siamo ripartiti. Altre quindici ore di treno. A Stoccolma abbiamo ritrovato Niels e abbiamo visitato Fotografska: un grande spazio fotografico con esibizioni francamente mediocri.
Vi aspettavate un colpo di scena finale? Peccato.
Romandy: it has been wonderful. And think that I was depressed before moving here.
View from my window, balcony, Konstanz with Cata, Giulia, Vevey, Lac Leman, Hugo Pratt, an elderly couple waling next to the harbour, Palais de Tokyo, Arianna, Berna, a Torino con Teresa, Marco Etta e Leila, Chacom e Brebbia, Forte di Bard con Alberto e Marco, snow in Neuchâtel, fencing, Robin and Salomon, tennis.
May is usually my favorite month of the year. But this time around I could not do as many things as I wanted, caught up in a perennial process of moving, writing, thinking.
I have to thank Giallu, who brought me for a few rides together at the beginning of the month. I am happy I took Doman on a ride to the Giro d’Italia, from Florence to Consuma, for a total of 80km – a record for Doman, who was riding on Daniel’s bike. I’ve spent a weekend in Udine with Fabio and Giallu, between the Sacrario Militare of Redipuglia, Villa Manin, and Viarte in Cormòns. There we also met Giulia and Mattia, with whom we spoke about the Brussa and we ate fricco. And that is pretty much it.
I am flying above the Alps this very moment and I am trying to remember the names of the places where I have been ski touring in March and April. Your have to know that it has been a tiring start of the year, both mentally and physically. I have been following the priorities set by my work and I have ignored some of the personal plans I had previously being following so rigorously. One of the few exceptions to this otherwise strict rule has been the luxury of ski touring, which I did over three weekends with my parents and with my Tuscan friends.
In early March I went to Rifugio Carlettini, 1300 meters high. I was with Nicola, Birgit, Federica, Paolo, Francesco, or the slowcai group that I met two years ago: do you remember? The first day we made it all the way up to Tombola Nera at 2413 meters; the second day I am not so sure any more (but I think we reached Cima Ravetta at 2266 meters). Those were two days of fantastic weather, loads of food, little snow. Ideas for future excursions in the area: Cengello, Lasteati, Cima d’Asta.
Then in early April I went to Cevedale together with my parents for one day only. The weather was incredible. We arrived on Cima Solda, which is situated at 3387 meters. In the future we will have to go all the way up to the top. For that to happen, we either need to leave our house in Trento at 3AM or get a cabin in South Tyrol.
Getting a cabin in South Tyrol is precisely what we did at the end of April, when we skied on the Glacier of the Similaun, or the place where the found Ötzi. We slept at Rifugio Bellavista, 2845 meters. As a sort of retribution for being too kind to me in the previous two excursions, this time the weather conditions were horrible: cold, snow, and wind. The first day we reached a mountain slope next to the Fineilspitze at 3400-and-something meters. The second day we went in front of the Giogo di Tisa but I cannot really recall the altitude.
Next time I will go up the mountains it will be Summer and, who knows, perhaps I will be with Manuel, Mindo and Giallu again.
I have always liked to have people around, but the circumstances of life are such that I find myself more lonely than I used to be. Fai di necessità virtù, they say. I still dislike loneliness; but there is one specific instance when I can appreciate living on my own (Dee do de de dee do de de I don’t have no time for no monkey business) and that is when I am on a bike.
So here we go again. At the crossroads of Valais and Ticino, the Granfondo San Gottardo is one of the hardest cycling sportive events of the year. For me, this race had a special gist for three additional reasons: (i) it takes place in Switzerland, where I have been living for a few months this year; (ii) it is harder than the other races I have done before, with 110 km and three mountain passes to climb for a total of more than 3000 m of elevation; (iii) Nicco and Giallu had decided to come with me, so we could be together just like last year in Trentino. To this, it must be added that I am in the middle of a tumultuous process of moving out from my home: I was relieved to have such distraction.
Onto our road trip with Nicco and Giallu then! We drove from Florence to Ambrì and we planted our tent in the airport. After a very wet and sleepless night we got up at 6AM, had a heavy breakfast and started our race at 8AM. Up to San Gottardo, Furka, and Novena. This is how my race went on Strava; and this is how it went in pictures.
It went pretty much as we expected. San Gottardo is smooth and pleasant; Furka is long and steady; Novena is consuming and never-ending. But we finished! Even Nicco, who got a flat tyre on the descent from Furka and spent about 45 minutes looking for a pump. I rode my bike for 4 hours and 42 minutes, with two long breaks at the feeding points, crossing the finish line at 2:40PM.
In the evening we drove to Neuchatel and the next day we visited Montreux and cruised through the San Bernardo pass, Aosta and Genova. We arrived in Florence in the middle of the night and I have been packing up my belongings ever since.
Racing a Gran Fondo was one of my resolutions for 2016; I have now raced three. This is it: all my aces are on the floor. In the coming months I won’t have time to train properly and I won’t have the determination to do all the sacrifices that the preparation for a Gran Fondo requires. So farewell to my bike and all of that: what a ride it was.
Neuchâtel, 26 giugno
Giallu, Nicco, Ivan, Alvise.
Quest’anno ho imparato che per prepararmi a una gara è necessario leggere e studiare il mondo della bicicletta. Non si tratta solo di curiosità: lo si fa per motivarsi e vivere con entusiasmo queste scorribande. I giorni scorsi mi è stata regalata una bellissima rivista di ciclismo, dalla quale vi inoltro la seguente citazione estrapolata da un racconto il cui protagonista si cimenta in un fine-settimana ciclistico in Scozia: I was in the middle of a year devoted to exactly this sort of trip – micro-adventures, I call them – and it was proving to be much more rewarding than I had anticipated. Since I began taking on these provocatively mundane expeditions, I had discovered that coming up with an interesting plan (and committing to making it happen) virtually always guarantees a challenging and rewarding experience. All you need is something difficult, somewhere new and a bit of imagination. For someone cursed with eternal ‘fernweh’, a beautiful German word meaning a craving for distant places, the year of micro-adventures was an excellent, regular tonic.
Eccomi dunque con un programma interessante per una micro-avventura. Il 23 luglio partiamo in macchina alla volta di Airolo. La sera dormiamo lì – in casa? in tenda? Il 24 luglio gareggiamo nella Gran Fondo del San Gottardo (daje!). Speriamo di arrivare in fondo davanti alla macchina-scopa. Poi guidiamo fino a Neuchatel: lì dovrei riuscire a garantire un alloggio gratuito per tutti e forse anche una cena da amici, etc. Notte di riposo e rientro in Italia il 25 luglio. Diamoci come obiettivo quello di fare, anche per conto nostro, almeno 350km nelle settimane tra il 2 e il 23 luglio.
Update, 2 luglio: nemmeno il tempo di rientrare in Italia che siamo già in sella. Alle 6:30 siamo partiti da Firenze, alle 8:00 arriviamo all’Impruneta, alle 9:00 a Panzano, e alle 12:00 siamo sparaparanzati a mangiare schiacciate farcite in questa famosa pizzicheria di Chiesanuova. Vamos.
Lucerne/Olten, June 26
This morning I hopped on a train. I had decided to spend the entire day roaming randomly from one town to the other, familiarizing to a very Swiss habit: living on a railway. I though of this as the proper opportunity to wish farewell to those things and people that have become part of my life in the last three months, since the moment I first moved here. So I am going to do it now: this is what comes to my mind when I think back of my time here.
Trains, indeed. Switzerland is a country of commuters. Trains here are a bit like the tube: people use them every day, because they are so comfortable, frequent, and fast. And, of course, Swiss cities are on average pretty small, so it’s easy to walk everywhere once you are in the train station. So trains, that’s one thing I will miss. I, myself, traveled to la-Chaux-de-Fonds, Lausanne, Zurich, Bern, Geneve, Lucerne, Interlaken, and a lot of small towns. These were silent, peaceful, and scenic rides. I hope more of them will come in the future.
I will remember the army kids in the train stations. They are so many. I guess that is because each male citizen below 35 has the duty to serve for something like three weeks each year. This must be reason why youngsters in their uniforms are a common view in this country. They keep their hands in the pockets and smoke, talk, drink. It is a funny contrast, because their youth and small rebellious acts defy the nature of the uniform they wear.
I will enormously miss the Black Office and regret I did not spend more time there. It is here that I learnt the basics of how to fix a bike and it is also here that I was able to exercise my proto-French without much fear. I have great respect for the idea of helping people to fix their bikes and the sense of community based on good-will I found there.
And then there are all the other small things that are so stereotypical and true: the cows I met during my long rides across Romandie; the watch-makers in La-Locle; the weird blend of languages, which I find somehow exciting; the general sense of hospitality; the rare days of sun on the lake; the local beers, like BFM; the green fields and the mountains, which unfortunately I have not explored; the bizarre monuments in the cities; the Portuguese immigrant community of Neuchatel, providing each morning pastel de nata and coffee; and the counter-cultures, like the anarchism of the Black Office, the bike messengers, the rural communities of Jura, and the urban movements of Zurich.
I will remember fondly the office and the environment that welcomed me there. I got a lot of work done and I like to say that it is because there is not much social distraction in Neuchatel. But this was also because the nccr has provided me with so many resources – it was a genuine pleasure to dig deep into them. Apart from work, many colleagues also proved to be kind friends. Running the risk of not making justice to all, I will remember Marco, Stefanie, Flo, Eva, Valentin, Robin, David, Rorick, and Alice. And, of course, Jean-Thomas, who has done much to integrate me, both professionally and socially. I already knew his attitude; but it is only after these three months together that I have come to know his values and personality. It has been an education.
In the end, my most vivid images are those created during my long rides in the countryside of Romandie. Neuchatel was much more alive seen through the lenses of two slim wheels. Perhaps I, myself, am a bit like a bike: balance only comes when I am in motion. So there I go again, off to new uncertain beginnings. Because without them the heights would not feel so great, would they?