Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

Tag: stefania

Hello mister, pleased to meet ya

When I opened this blog, one of the main purposes was to keep track of the people, the places, the things. Pictures are a good way to do that. Then I realized it was getting harder and harder. Systematically sharing pictures became impossible. We now have such a proliferation of images and I receive daily feedbacks from Instagram, Facebook, Picasa, Twitter… It has become impossible to keep one tidily ordered library with all the pictures I would like to remember.

So my selection here on the blog reflects this feeling of rhapsodic disorder. It is a scattered collection of pictures that help me focusing on what happened between January and now. Not too much, honestly. There are pieces of Stefania, Anna, and friends. A lot of time in the house, maybe because I love it and I love my flatmates. And then some beautiful places blossoming in Spring between Florence and Ferrara. Summer will be more hectic, anyway.

Stuff I’ve been reading before moving here

It took me a while to get over the notion that I wanted to go and live in Florence and I’d only just become resigned to my lot there when the local football team radically evolved to reach what supporters consider a surely to come first stage in the Italian championship that has yet to begin. All in all, it’s been an unsettling couple of months and my appetite for books has been grossly discontinuous.

Back in February in rainy London, when sitting my interview at King’s College, I bought a few books. Most of them were political essays and I never had the guts to read them. The only purchase that really appealed me at the end was a collection of stories that accurately recall the grey atmosphere of Victorian London. Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes looked life a safe harbour to protect me from the perils of deviated political minds writing about social capital and individualism. However, I did not manage to read it all. Good old Sherlock turned out to be a harder read than I expected, some fifteen years later the last time I discovered it as a child. (Furthermore, talking about Sherlock Holmes, I seem to remember that I used to like A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles much better than this one book).

Arthur Conan Doyle once said that Edgar Allan Poe’s stories were “a model for all time“. As to honour this connection, and in a sense of guilt for not having finished the book, I started Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, the only complete novel by the famous American author. I finished the book in a few days but, well, to put it simply I would not recommend it.

I would, instead, recommend another book I read when in Brussels, between March and July. Stoner was a present from my father. It is difficult to find anything special about this plain psychological investigation of the university career of an imaginary character who engages a consuming struggle against the apathy that surrounds him. This is a hell of a sad book; yet, I it is also a powerful story that made me – more- willing not to compromise, to pursue my passions, and to be coherent.

Talking about coherence, I did not finish two other books I got as presents from Stefania and Iris. I intentionally left Charles Schulz’s Ce la possiamo fare, Charlie Brown! unfinished, as I enjoyed to progress little by little, reading a couple of strips every day. I still have to finish it. Dimitri Verhulst’s The Misfortunates was a bestseller in Belgium. Iris brought it to me as a present when she came to visit. Ironically, the book is about alcoholism and wild parties, something that was completely alien to our habits when Iris and I spent time together in Canada. The whole concept of the book is hilarious but – as for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, there isn’t any story behind it, just a series of short novels which, at the end, all look alike. For this reason I never managed to finish the book. I did, however, adored the one chapter entitled The Tour de France, in which an extraordinary drinking competition is created by one of the characters. In line with the famous bike race. 19 stages with 5km equal to a standard glass of alcohol, meaning that “even a reasonably short stage of 180 kilometres would involve drinking 36 standard glasses of alcohol. Against the clock“. There are even three jerseys to earn: “the yellow jersey was for the leader and eventual winner…the greenn jersey for the explosive sprinter: the neck-it king. And the polka-dot jersey could be captured in the mountains, where you proceeded by guzzling strong drinks like whisky and vodka“. This brilliant idea will soon be translated into practice, as soon as I will find the athletes ready to accept the challenge (Alvise, TLA, Joe, Andrew, Fabio, Mindo, Stefano, James…?).

Perhaps because of a sense of childish curiosity, just before leaving Belgium I felt the urge to read Herge’s Les Aventures de TinTin: L’Ile Noire. I suppose I cannot really consider this comic novel as a book. I did, however, manage to finish it in only one day – quite surprisingly, as it was in French, a language I am still far from mastering.

Back in Italy I read Richard Ford’s short novel The Womanizer. This is a light, yet insightful, read about men and infidelity. During my relatively short trip to Slovakia I decided to dig deep into Czech culture. I read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Other Stories and there isn’t much to say about it: I did not understand much of it, I did not like it, and I gave up. Diluded and in need of something to read during a 7-hour ride on the train, I found an English library in Bratislava and I bought Milan Kundera’s Slowness. I adored it and I read it all the night before taking the train in the hostel. So on the train I had nothing to do. To avoid the same mistake, on my way back I bought Kundera’s Immortality, which is much longer than the former. I finished it one week later, when travelling with Stefania. In this period I eagerly consumed four books in a row. It must be said that on our way we stopped in many libraries and bought an enormous amount of books. I managed to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a collection of Celtic Tales and a biography of John Fitzgerald Kennedy; and none of these is particularly worth a comment. I only started, and not finished, Henry Thoreau’s Walden: Life in the Woods and Niall Ferguson’s Civilization: the West and the Rest. Thus far I will limit myself to saying that these two books have one thing in common: they both come with an heavy subtitle.

Due estremi

Stefania and I were not sure whether we could hit all the locations we had planned to visit when we first drafted our road trip two weeks ago. We tried to do as much as we could on our way back, driving for more than 1000km in two days and one night. It was exhausting, but worth it.

Leaving Puglia was annoying: driving 50km from Portoselvaggio to Taranto took almost two hours just because the road connections are terribly bad. While in the car I was thinking that a society that cannot govern its own time – because all the connections are down: from internet to phone, from roads to railways – is never going to achieve any progress.

We got to Basilicata in the afternoon and we stopped in Matera, as recommended by Sara. The town lies athwart a small canyon and it has gained international fame for its ancient town, the Sassi. These are suspected to be some of the first human settlements in Italy and were used as houses dug into the calcareous rock itself. Many of these houses are really only caverns, and the streets in some parts of the Sassi often are located on the rooftops of other houses. What is most outstanding is that people were living here until the 1960s/1970s, when the the government of Italy forcefully relocated most of the population of the Sassi to areas of the developing modern city. The Sassi were the location of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).

Driving through Basilicata in the night was awesome, though hard. The region is surprisingly full of mountains, which are known as the little sisters of the mountains we have in Trentino. Ours are called Dolomiti, these are called Dolomiti Lucane. It is amazing to see such high mountains just a few kilometers away from the sea. Also, Basilicata is historically interesting for the phenomenon of brigandage, whereby the Church encouraged the local people to rise up against the nobility and the new Italian State. For all these reasons I was fascinated by the region and I am planning to go back for a hike, perhaps to visit Manuel who’s from there. Anyway. I could not fully enjoy the moment as I was sick and we almost hit an abandoned dog on the street.

Abandoned dogs. This was struck me when I came to Salerno eight years ago with my family and once again I was negatively impressed by the number of dogs roaming freely for the streets of Salerno when I got there with Stefania at 10 in the evening. It is a disgrace locals are not able to deal with this problem.

We slept in a small camping near Salerno as the next day we wanted to visit the Reggia di Caserta. The Reggia was constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples and it was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe during the 18th century. There are 1200 rooms in the palace, which is a notable example of luxury and sense of grandness. But what was most impressive to us was the garden: huge and varied, it streched for 120 ha, which is quite a lot.

A proper visit to the Reggia and the Park would have taken one entire day. We had only four hours, as we wanted to be back in Trento that very day. We managed to drive all the way to Florence, where we stopped to get Gianluca on the car, and drove to Trento where we arrived around midnight. Gianluca will be with me for the next few days and we are planning a few hikes.

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A Puccia

There isn’t much that can be said on the last couple of days, mainly because this part of Italy has been literally overehelmed by tourists causing the wifi/mobile connection to crash, thus making it almost impossible to use the internet.

To make a long story very short, the day before we spent one afternoon roaming freely in Torre S. Giovanni, on the coast between Leuca and Portoselvaggio. For once we spent the night in a B&B, beautiful Villa Chiara which had been recommended to us by Angela. We are staying here for two more days. Breakfasts with home-made jam, bread, cakes and fruit are worth remembering. Yesterday we got advantage of the wild rocky beach of Portoselvaggio from 10 in the morning to 9 in the evening. And today we went to Lecce. Locals call Lecce “the Florence of the south”. This, perhaps, is a bit exaggerated. Though artistically interesting, the city was a bit of a let-down. Visiting it on August 15th did not help. Probably on another day of the year Lecce is nicer to see. In the evening of that day Fabio guided us through Gallipoli and showed us all the little details you won’t notice without the help of a local. I was particularly impressed by the frantoi, place buried in the rock below the houses which were meant to press olives to obtain olive oil to burn little lights. There are more than 35 in the whole city and here groups of 9 people were forced to work 16 hours a day for 9 months in a row – without ever going home. Before going to Gallipoli we met Angela’s parents and sister, who spend a couple of months in Portoselvaggio every year. In Gallipoli we had dinner and walked through the city with Sara, Serena, Anna, Simone and Fabio who, as I wrote, was our entertaning guide in Gallipoli.

Tomorrow we will begin our journey back to the north. We have decided to head back to Trento through the Tirrenean shore. We will therefore cross theee regions we had not touched on our way down here: Basilicata, Campania, Lazio.

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Incontri / Encounters

Even the most impressive beaches can become the asshole of the universe when invaded by thousands of selfish tourists. This, unfortunately, is the story we got out of the otherwise enchanting seaside spanning from Lecce to Santa Maria di Leuca. It must be said that the hostile masses of tourists at Torre dell’Orsa, Laghi Alimini, and Torre Santo Stefano got us by surprise after we left Alberobello, the relatively peaceful hobbits’ village. Struggling with thousands of people for an illegal parking spot or for a place to sit on largely overcrowded beaches was not an easy task to accept. As a result, the day was quite stessful and in the evening, as in a sign of silent protest, the car broke down. It was a minor thing, for we just had to resurrect the battery, but at least, as for many other unpleasant experiences, this little inconvenience brought us a nice surprise. Matter of fact, in the act of fixing the battery I randomly met Francesco, whom I last saw some five years ago in Florence. At that time I knew him as Killer007 and he knew me as x4nti, but this is another story to be told in different circumstances.

We met for breakfast the next day (which would be today, or the day that just ended) and we found out that both of us abruptly stopped playing online and got rid of our computers altogether. It was nice talking about this before leaving for Otranto – which was nice, although overcrowded – and then for Santa Maria di Leuca – which was not particularly nice, but still overcrowded. These whole coast has an interesting military history, as it was the target of Mehmet the Conqueror who, in 1480, sent here the Ottoman Turkish fleet to launch an invasion to Rome. The army reached the shore of Otranto and the city was captured in two weeks after refusing to surrender. 800 Catholics were beheaded after refusing to convert to Islam. These victims have been canonized by Pope Francis on May 12, 2013.

After paying a visit to the sanctuary of Leuca, the place where the Adriatic Sea meets the Jonian Sea, Stefania and I are now camping on the very top of the hill on which the Italian boot rests. Tomorrow we will drive towards Gallipoli where we will probably see Fabio and finally settle in a b&b. Camping was sweet, though.

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Il calzolaio e la donna coi baffi

Stefania and I are hitting the road for a two week trip through centre and southerh Italy.

Yesterday we drove 480 km and got to Perugia after having lunch at the Abbey over Passignano, on the Lake of Transimeno, where a few centuries ago Hannibal slaughtered the Roman army on his way to Rome. The place is now quiet and full of olive trees.

Perugia is small and pretty – can I use pretty for a city? ‘Beautiful’ would be too much, ‘nice’ too little. It is surprisingly high on the sea, as it is built on the top of a hill and is sorrounded by ancient Etruscan walls and churches.

The same applies to Orvieto, the little medieval town where we drove today to meet Marco and Leila, who were coming up from Rome. The town is small and full of surprises, good food, and tourists. I was quite amazed by the Pozzo di San Patrizio, where you walk 52 meters deep into the ground. I was sure this was the deepest dwell I had ever visited, just to find out from my father I had been here already ten years ago.

We did not have time to visit Todi and Gubbio, but these look like small and fascinating Umbrian towns dominating the surroundings.

Today we added 200km to our count. We will leave Umbria tomorrow: after visiting Assisi we will head to san Salvo in Abruzzo.

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Sopra Monguelfo

Summer plans

When this post will be published I will hopefully be travelling to Berlin. I am going to be there for a few days and then I am flying back to Milan and going to be back in Trento for a couple of weeks and one wedding. On the 22nd of July I am flying to Bratislava, from where I will take a bus to the middle of nowhere-Slovakia to do volunteering work with a local NGO. That experience will take about ten days. Afterwards I will go on holidays with Stefania and we still have to figure out where. We only know we want to do something on the road. I will have to be in Florence at the end of August. See you around, my friends.

Oggetti smarriti

Il più delle volte ce ne dimentichiamo
li sostituiamo
e ce ne freghiamo.

Altre volte proviamo una seccante sensazione di
vuoto
e irritazione.
Ieri c’era
oggi non c’è più.
E se fosse una persona?
A volte la si perde ancora prima di averla persa.
Magari la vedi e ci parli ogni giorno come se fosse ancora lì.

Eppure sono innumerevoli i casi in cui
d’un tratto
ti accorgi che ieri c’era e oggi non c’è più.
stef.

Lo so

Questo messaggio é dedicato a tutti gli amici che ho tormentato nel corso di questa settimana. Spero che mi vogliate ancora bene.

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