Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

Category: travellin

Like a Karius pass

Okay, time to confess: between May and June I went to Cuba with Thomas. It was the first time we spent time together since our Tuscan farewell in 2015. Apart from the rain that escorted us for the first seventeen days, these are the words that I will remember from this experience: Casa particular, tabacco con miel, Malecón, Capitolio, El Nacional, arroz con frijoles, ron collins, mojito, daiquiri, cubanito, Floridita, finca la vigìa, coco, bucanero, montecristo, robusto, cochiba, Rom de Santiago. Comisión, yuma, jinetero, hustlers, scam, campesinos, todo está fresa, 26 julio, 1958, José Marti, Camilo Cienfuegos, René Portocarrero, realismo sucio, bloqueo, yoruba.

In bold characters the things I liked about my three-week vacations in Cuba. All the rest, we highly disliked. I do not feel like explaining why right now right here.

If only I could read the signs: I should have known better.

Swissmaking, one year later

Jean Thomas and François, Rue de la Côte, the mattress. Unine, SUN. Escrime on Tuesday and Wednesday, tennis with Salomon on Thursday. Gruyere and freshly baked baguette at the Saturday market. Xamax with Elie and Raffaele. Genève. Giulia. Les Bains des Pâquis. Pasta fresca with Marco. The morning breakfast with le dinosaure at the Boulangerie de la Côte. Football with Michael and the ‘Savoir Faire a Manger‘ team. Santiago. Salsa, tango. Johanna. Mail. Dinner chez Maria, Damaso, Guido. Come si chiamano le tartarughe? Basel with Annique, carnival. Valais, Zinal. The lights of Zurich. Chasseron, alpine skying. La Fée verte ou absinthe du Val-de-Travers. Chasseral. La tartare a Yverdon. The Italian Consulate in Bern. Gaetan, Fribourg. Interlaken. The Aar from Thun to Bern. The Black Office and Cyclop. La Case à Chocs in Fall, le Chauffage Compris in Winter, Univers in Spring.

Peyragudes

The Tour arrives on the Pyrenees today and one year ago I was there to watch it together with Giallu en route from Marseilles.

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We did not know what to expect there. We found a colourful and enormous circus that cuts across national origin and social class. This was stage 12 of the Tour with the peloton arriving in Peyragudes at 1,590 m (5,217 ft) and below you will find my photos of the day.

Lagom

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.

Black Office

When I arrived in Neuchâtel last year I was going through a big cycling mania: I had just finished the Strade Bianche and I was preparing for the Gran Fondo di Fiesole. The Black Office, or the atelier libre for fixing and setting up bikes, looked like the ideal place to hang out.

One big problem, though, is that I did not speak French at the time. This was a significant obstacle. People at the Black Office would speak English to me, but then I was unavoidably excluded from all the group conversations. It was frustrating. I left Switzerland in July 2016.

Then I moved back in September this year. I went back to the Black Office only last week – not sure why it took me so long. It was a casual Saturday afternoon, but I found there Romain, Cyril, and Cyril. They recognised me. I then met some new guys who were not there last year – Ralph and Gaetan. I like the place. This is a little jewel of anarchist creativity in conservative Switzerland.

 

Bianchi, Scott, Carrera

The best present I ever got was a Bianchi bike from my father after riding up the Col de la Lombarde together in 2009. Then my father decided to double on that and gave me another Bianchi in 2015, the celeste, so that I could bring it to Florence and start training with it. That bike never left Florence and is still there under the custody of Giallu. In 2016 I moved to Neuchâtel and bought a second-hand Scott at the bike market that takes place twice a year. I used it to go from home to work but also, occasionally, to reach some crazy mountain passes. The bike now lies with Jean Thomas.

Two weeks ago I bought another bike. It is a second-hand Carrera that a guy used for a fundraising ride between London and Paris. We put it in the car and went to Arvier, close to Aosta, me, my mum, my dad. What a wicked valley that is. After sleeping there, my father and I rode up the Gran San Bernardo. This is a region where I must return: the Roman ruins in Aosta, the valley leading to the Piccolo San Bernardo, the Hospice at the Gran San Bernardo. That day we rode down and then went all the way to Neuchâtel.

I guess for me home is where my bike is; and my bikes are now spread between Florence, Trento, and Neuchatel.

Trains that I have lost

Post written on Friday, the 2nd of June.

***

The moment I write this post I am leaving Berlin. I flew here two days ago to teach a master’s class on the multilevel governance of immigration in Europe. The campus and the hotel where I was staying are situated in a stunning neighborhood outside the city: Wannsee. This morning I went for a short walk in the forest and I swam in the lake. There were many joggers around, most of them aged 60 or 70, some younger at around 30 or 40. Ah, beauty.

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But the problem is that in the last few months I started suffering from insomnia. The disease is getting worse day by day. I can now count the hours of sleep I have had in the last week on the fingers of two hands. This makes it very hard for me to enjoy all the beauty that I have around, even when I walk around Florence or Berlin at 4AM in the night.

Yet, there were a few moments I could still appreciate: the class, the meeting with Felix on the Klunkerkranich (the improvised bar on the roof of the shopping centre Neukölln Arcaden with the special charme of Berlin imperfection) and the two evenings out with Jonas whom, by the way, successfully defended his Ph.D. the day I arrived.

Appunti di quaderno su Torino

I rumori. Brulichio soffuso. Passeggiare. Pavimenti, portici, lungo il fiume, piazze.

 

Ordine e magnificenza; eppure c’è delicatezza. Montesquieu (1728): ‘Torino è piccola e ben costruita‘. Armoniosa e proporzionata, giochi di luci e colori, scenografie – soprattutto Piazza San Carlo, nota. Le lunghe strade che sembrano condurre in linea retta verso le come nevose. Nietzsche (1888, sei mesi a Torino):  ‘raffinata delicatezza‘. Tutto fluisce.

Le persone. Goldoni: ‘molto cortesi e molto civili; e vedendo arrivar tra loro un Milanese, un Veneziano, o un Genovese, hanno il costume di dire: questi è un italiano‘. Gian Giacomo Casanova: ‘fra le città d’Italia Torino è quella nella quale il bel sesso ha tutti i fascini che l’amore gli può desiderare‘.

Le piazze grandi. San Carlo. Vittorio Veneto. Castello. Statuto. Le piazze meno grandi. Palazzo di città.  Consolata. Emanuele Filiberto. Nietzche: ‘qui tutto è costruito con liberalità ed ampiezza, specialmente le piazze, così come nel cuore della città si ha un senso superbo di libertà‘.

La cittadella e Porta Palazzo. Secondo Edmondo de Amicis, uno Zola torinese potrebbe mettere lì la scena di un romanzo intitolato Il ventre di Torino: ‘fra le lunghe fila di baracche di botteghini, in mezzo a monti di frutta, legumi e formaggi, tra il vociare dei commercianti e il via vai delle carrette s’agita confusamente una folla fitta di contadini, di turisti, di massaie. E’ una folla continuamente cangiante’.

Il parco del Valentino e il Monte dei Cappuccini. I tramonti. L’alba.

Il museo del Risorgimento. Il museo del Cinema. Il museo Egizio. Il museo Pietro Micca. Venaria Reale. Il museo di Arte Orientale. La Pinacoteca Agnelli. Il museo di Antropologia Criminale, che splendida illustrazione del genio pericoloso di Cesare Lombroso! Il museo dell’Anatomia. Il museo dell’Automobile. La Galleria Fotografica.

Caffè, cantanti ambulanti, orchestre, teatri, cinema. Primo Levi, Massimo d’Azeglio, Pietro Gobetti, Cesare Pavese, Guido Gozzano, Norberto Bobbio. E poi Antonio Gramsci, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche, Emilio Salgari, Italo Calvino. Proprio Calvino scrisse nella sua autobiografia che ‘Torino è la città ideale per lo scrivere… Invita al rigore, alla linearità, allo stile. Invita alla logica, e attraverso la logica apre alla follia‘.

Le librerie: Luxembourg, il bar Dotto e quell’altra tutta sgangherata non lontana da casa, di cui però ignoro il nome. Le case editrici. Storiche botteghe e caffè letterari. Il Circolo del Lettori. In ogni casa, larghe biblioteche.

Le piole: il Camaleonte, Cianci. Silos, il Pastis.

L’ospedale Mauriziano e la stazione Massaua.

Pal bikery, Affini. I panifici: il pane di una volta. Le gelaterie: La Romana. Le case del quartiere, i Bagni Municipali. Mnur. Le gioiellerie. La galleria subalpina.

Il cineforum Baretti.

Mi mancano completamente le periferie e la campagna. Tornerò?

 

 

Piove, ed è subito autunno

Torino, one week into

A guy playing the piano upon my arrival at the station. Coffee on the terrace. A warm October light. Wicked Man’s Rest. Sunny parks. Wide roads and surprisingly few churches. Maps. Marco. Moncalieri and its magnificent square. Il Collegio and Carlo Alberto. Il Caffé Città. Long walks in the Valentino park. Marco, Leila, and Etta. Fencing, spada, Carlos. Late nights reading. Jón Kalman Stefánsson. Niels. Caponata. Il Balon. Ardberg. Agriturismo del Canavese. Museo del Risorgimento. Rain.

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Reinventing oneself

Some lessons I learnt after living for two months without a home and spending all my time on trains, planes, and friends’ houses (thanks!). A note for the random visitor: these are just scattered notes I write for myself, not a coherent post.

Communication

People seem to waste too much of their time communicating with digital devices. This is an old refrain, I know, but it is scary how people use their phones nowadays – and for what? I have been on trains where all the persons of a family of four never spoke to each other for the whole ride, because they were all incessantly looking at their devices. Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, emails, sms, Twitter, emails, Telegram: even me, I am inundated by applications to chat. I often think of a line of a certain Passenger’s song, we pretend to be friends on the internet when in real life we have nothing to say. As a reaction I have grown increasingly more inept at communicating with my phone. Forget long messages. Rather, I have elected four simple ways of communicating with you: (1) this blog; (2) a short sarcastic message, picture, or video to laugh about; (2) a handwritten letter, for those of you who really matter; (4) a flight/train ticket to come and see each other in person.

Smartphone apps, more generally

There was a moment of my trip when I was craving for a map of Berlin. Until that point I had been getting around anywhere just fine using googlemaps. Sure, the app was working well; but I realised it was my fourth time in Berlin and I still had no idea of how the city was structured and I could not even remember the name of the neighbourhood where I was staying. The way I use googlemaps is just to get to A to B and, as a consequence, I never memorise the information. I made a resolution for myself to start using old paper maps again – like these. It is not for a case that when I was still in Trento I had the ambitious project of creating one. (I failed, but not for lack of trying).

Being a guest

I received precious hospitality by Giallu, Martina, Pietro, Giulia, Jonas. I learnt to wake up in the sun, listen to classical music, treat wooden objects with respect, prepare a smoothie, separate clothes in the laundry machine. But – hei – I am just not made for being a long-term guest. I feel like I am invading someone else’s space. So this experience confirms that I am a bourgeois deep down in my bones. The word bourgeois, as you know, denotes a person that takes for granted the sanctity of property. This brings me to point 4 of my diary.

Stuff

Niels, who is going to live with me in Torino in a couple of days, says that he wants to have his belongs packed in one simple bag. A-ha: nonsense. Living in Florence for three years I have accumulated an incredible amount of stuff: books, clothes, games, bikes, paintings, a scooter, laptops, tables, all sorts of technology. This stuff -material stuff, really- reflects my personality; in some ways, it is even an extension of it. This is why I feel so strange knowing that it is now scattered around six different houses (err – and I take the opportunity to thank again my friends for their patience).

Home

Material stuff reflects my personality, sure. There is another reason, though, why it is so important to me: it also captures a particularly happy period of my life. So now when I take up Bruti I remember the late evenings playing it with Dani; when I take that one glass of whiskey I remember the night when I was with Thomas and he knew he got into law school; when I look at the little school bus I remember of my improvised journey all the way to Denmark with Iris; and so on: you got the gist. Now – of course you realise I have been bloody sentimental about leaving my home in Florence, but I think that is for a reason. At the moment I doubt I will ever find a place so welcoming, so radiant, so relaxed as that. But then, who knows? When I got there in 2013 I had just experienced Brussels with Mindo, a truly marvellous flatmate and friend. So I was convinced I could not find anything better than that. In fact, half an hour after my arrival in the house Ada and I were fighting -literally fighting- over the consequences of Spanish colonisation in South America, leaving short of words both Jonas, who had rented the cheapest room but was forcefully assigned the most expensive one upon his arrival ‘because you are the last one who arrived and since we have already put our luggages in the other room it be a bit of a hassle to move them now, no?‘; and Dani, who had been accepted in the house at the last minute just because the girl who had been favoured over him turned out to be pregnant. It ended up going swimmingly: they are my closest friends now. So let us be surprised again.