Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

Tag: jean thomas


At the beginning of September I moved back to Neuchâtel to work on a postdoc project with Jean Thomas and the rest of the crew that I had met in the Spring of 2016. I must admit was skeptical about the place – never had I been in such a small and lonely community before. But life unravels in unexpected ways: the first weeks of September have been a real springtime in autumn, as Thomoose used to say.

Back in March. I remember a cold, rainy morning in Torino. Niels was about to leave. We had breakfast together and he gave me one piece of advice: hit the ground running. During my first days in Neuchatel I signed up for pretty much anything one could think of. And to be honest with you, the place has been treating me really well these weeks. Much of it, of course, has to do with the people: not only Jean Thomas, but also the other colleagues whom I knew already, and those who arrived after I left.

A couple of stories about my inburgering. When moving to any Swiss town you have to register with the commune – it really reminds one of 1984. In exchange, you are given a permit, an introduction to the life in the local community, and a voucher to buy some medicines in the pharmacy. True that: since Neuchâtel is next to a nuclear production site the government has decided that all inhabitants must have in their houses a box of pills that will save us in the event of a nuclear holocaust. And until that happens, we distract ourselves with football. Last Wednesday I went to watch the match of the local team, the Neuchâtel Xamas, playing against the Geneva bunch, Servette FC. Those of you who have my age will know both teams, since they played against some Italian sides in the UEFA European Cup during the 1990s. Now they are on top of the Swiss second division. Good match, everything considered. Neuchâtel Xamas won 3-2 with a winner at minute 92’. On the same day, Djanni got a humanitarian permit to stay in Italy, so we celebrated.

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.

Great will be your reward…

… in the Kingdom of Heaven

Jean-Thomas; Giallu, Gianni, and Paola; Pietro; Martina; Marco and Leila; Pedro; Dani and Anna; mum and dad; Alberto and Marcantonio; Marco, Francesca, Isabella, and Camilla; Fabio and parents. These are the people who hosted me at their place over the last twelve months.

Value art more than success

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?

Brexit: a new beginning?

Non ho parole, quindi mi limito a condividere commenti intelligenti.


Jean-Thomas. How did Churchill say again? If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Marie. And here is what happens when mainstream parties structure their political project on populist narratives. Congratulations to the Tories for creating a monster they can no longer control.

Old Tom. Ti dico la verità: dipende. Dipende da che piega prende la cosa. E’ chiaro che se passa la linea Farage è la fine. O la linea May, che è molto più insidiosa. E’ abbastanza chiaro che i Brexiter hanno almeno due visioni incompatibili. Da un lato c’è un nazionalismo little englander tendenzialmente protezionista e populista, molto anti-establishment e anti-londinese. Dall’altro c’è l’idea di trasformare UK in una specie di Singapore. O una super-Svizzera. Queste visioni NON sono conciliabili e fanno riferimento a costituency del tutto diverse. Per come la vedo io Farage è da un lato dello spettro, Johnson dall’altro. Osborne ora si ricollocherà con Johnson.

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Cristiano. Sinceramente sono contento che il Regno Unito sia uscito dalla UE. In primo luogo perche’ non e’ possibile che esista un paese che vuole stare dentro la UE e allo stesso tempo continua a pretendere concessioni. E in secondo luogo perche’ finalmente sara’ possibile vedere le conseguenze dell’uscita di un paese dal sistema comunitario: se affonda, smetteremo di ascoltare lo stronzo di turno che ci spiega come si stava meglio quando si viveva con una moneta che non valeva nulla; se rinasce, allora sara’ la dimostrazione che la comunita’ europea e’ ormai un grande sistema burocratico che deve essere riformato.


Pédaler avec charme

I have received a few messages from readers complaining for the abrupt interruption of publications on this blog. To be honest, it is mainly relatives worried about my health – a reasonable concern in light of recent events and previously expounded theories. Unlike my blog and Aston Villa, I am still doing fine. In the last few weeks I have been traveling. Let me sum up so I myself can keep track.

First off to Spain. It is a shame I do not have a good camera, because there are so many vivid imagies I should have captured. Instead I only took a picture of a book which I found in a museum of photography. I thought it was funny that it appeared randomly open on a picture of South Tyrollean valleys. Anyways. I was in Madrid for work and I stayed in a room in Lavapies, arguably one of the city’s most vibrant, alternative, and popular neighbourhoods. My stay was courtesy of Pedro, whom I hope to meet soon. Then down to Sevilla, also for work: I could barely appreciate La Giralda, el Alcazar, la Torre del Oro, el Guadalquivir, which I had already seen in 2009 in a torrid day at around 45° when I was living in Granada with Anna. This time my mind was closed, much more closed than it used to be, so I only had a remote glimpse of the exotism, the monuments, the women, the fiestas. As a sentence written in a lost book, todos hellos parecian confabulates para arrastrar a los centavos mas alla de lo que los limited que podian proportioner una domesticate imagination.

Then back to Florence. Unfortunately I had to cancel my participation to the Florence Gran Fondo which took place today (sic), because I am away. However, I still managed to go on a couple of long rides with Giallu and Bjorn. It is probably safe to assume that I have ridden more kilometres in 2016 than in the previous three years combined. And it has become somehow addictive.

Cycling is really becoming a thing for me. I am spending too much money buying fancy outfits, too much time watching highlights of professional races, too much energy studying stories of old champions.

The video above is about the story of a Swiss rider, Hugo Koblet. And it is probably fitting, since I just moved to Neuchâtel to work on my PhD dissertation – hint: that’s why I had to miss today’s Gran Fondo in Florence. Here, again, I have to thank Jean-Thomas, who made my stay possible and provided such gorgeous looks on the lake.


Nation-building and the social world

About a couple of weeks ago I was reading the Ph.D thesis of Jean Thomas Arrighi, which is the most similar work to what I am trying to do, up to date. At page 30 I found a compelling critique of the current social understanding of nation states.

But if nation-building still requires today as much collective amnesia as remembrance, it also relies heavily on a highly questionable sociological understanding of the present, neglecting the inherent complexity of the social world and the plurality of experiences of individuals who together make up a political community.

Then, at page 56, the author points at the necessity to shift the focus on the unit of analysis from the state to the regions. His example is on immigration policies.

For Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party (BNP), Britain should urgently “close the door to more because this is the most overcrowded country in Europe and is way beyond its proper carrying capacity in population terms.” Likewise, the French Minister of Immigration and National Identity [sic] legitimized the need to introduce stricter border control on the grounds that “France’s hosting capacity is simply limited”, which requires putting an end to the “migratory chaos which consists in accepting migrants without restrictions.” Comparable arguments have regularly been deployed in Germany, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, and many other countries where the supposedly uncontrollable influx of immigrants has been presented as exceeding the nation’s capacity to cope with the consequences. But does the BNP leader refer to the London conurbation, where inward flows have indeed been considerable since 1945, or to the English Midlands, Scotland or Cornwall, where the main concern has been protracted emigration? Is Brice Hortefeux solely concerned with the situation in the Ile- de-France and the Bouches-du-Rhône, or with the notorious diagonale du vide stretching from the Meuse to the Landes, where the population density barely exceeds 30 inhabitants per km2, a heritage of the nineteenth and twentieth century rural exodus? Does the right-wing slogan ‘America is full’ encompass the empty lands of the Midwest, or is it meant to halt the ongoing inflow to the five greater metropolitan areas concentrating 60% of all immigrants in the country? By shifting the unit of analysis from state to regional level, migration trends can shift dramatically, not only in quantitative terms, but also in regard to the cultural and socio- economic composition of migrant stocks.

These issues, in a nutshell, are what interest me and what I have been studying for the last two years. Just so you know. I thought these two quotes were an excellent way to provide you a basic understanding.