Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

Tag: switzerland

Bike rides in Switzerland

I took fifteen minutes of my time to draw a map of Switzerland with the mountain climbs I would like to ride on my bike. Those I have done already have a circle around the dot: Chasseral, Chasseron, San Gottardo, Neufenen, Furka, San Bernardo, Grosse Scheidegg, La Tourne. The others I will hopefully do at some point in the future.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Eià

My Swiss train from Zurich is late, my dad’s German car from Trento is on time. We meet in Zuoz on Friday evening: fourteen hours away from La Diagonela. We check into our stylish B&B in Zernez, we take a lavish dinner, and we wax our skis. ‘It is going to be an easy race, cold, long, but easy‘ my father tells me ‘An excellent training for next week’s Marcialonga: a couple of climbs in the first half, but then it goes down nice and steady‘.

The next morning we meet two other guests from our B&B for breakfast. They are young guys hailing from Basel, probably my age, athletic bodies, cool fellas. One of them has already completed many races before. He says this is the hardest one he has ever done, by far. ‘I have done even the Vasaloppet in Sweden (note: so has my father and so will Niels, later this year). That one is longer but it is easier because it is flat. This one is a killer. It goes up and down, up and down, it is never over. I cannot believe this is your first one. Good luck!’.

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We leave the B&B at 8:15. It is a sunny day in Lower Engadine, with the temperature down at about minus 20°. We arrive in Zuoz at 8:45. My dad greets some other die-harders. Carlo from Tirano looks a bit like Maurizio Corona and wishes me luck. ‘In the end what matters is to get to the finish line but it won’t be easy: you are young and do not have much experience!‘. We stretch before the start. ‘OK, game plan‘ my dad goes ‘We start slow, you do not worry. We will catch up over time. It is a long race‘.

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Five-hundred people have signed up for the event. Based on my estimations, some three-hundred are professional athletes and one-hundred-and-fifty are pensioners who go skiing on a daily basis. The remaining fifty are reckless individuals who have no idea what they are getting into.

Start!

Meanwhile, at the very bottom of the group, I look confused: what the hell am I doing here?

9:30, km 0, boom, start. We are at the very bottom of the group. My dad asks ‘Are we the last of the bunch?‘. I turn. Behind us only two figures: an old man who seems to be limping on the skis and a dwarf. (An actual dwarf, a strong man who is giving it all, but still: he is about one meter high). ‘Not yet, keep going‘. The old man catches up with us and moves on. Then the dwarf catches up too and keeps our pace. Together, we are last.

Three km down and I look exhausted already

Three km down and I look exhausted already. Far on the back you can see the dwarf chasing us.

9:50, km 3, twenty minutes into the race. I hear a noise behind us. It is the sag wagon: the support motor vehicle following long races to pick up athletes who are unable to complete the event. The guy on the wagon, which is actually a sled but let us call it wagon for the sake of the story, stays right behind us for five minutes; then he gets on my side and tells me we are too slow, ‘You have to retire, I am sorry!‘. I translate for my father and ask him what our next move can be. ‘Tell him to go fuck himself‘. I translate diplomatically: we go on with the sag wagon behind us. The dwarf retires.

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10:00, km 4, half an hour into the race. The sag wagon passes us and then stops, as to halt our journey. The driver gets down: I stop to parlay with him while my father carries on. The organisers want us to get out, we are already five minutes overtime. I give him my electronic chip and tell him that we if we continue being too slow we will retire at the first feeding point situated at km 7. He lets me continue.

10:10, km 5, forty minutes into the race. We reach the first feeding point. The driver of the sag wagon and some other staffers want us to stop: we are seven minutes overtime. My father explodes ‘I had a stroke one year ago, if I have another one now vi denuncio!‘, he  slashes through and makes his on way. He reminds me of Bernard Hinault, 1984. We carry on.

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10:30, km 9, one hour into the race, our first overtaking. It is Beaud: you can see her in the picture of the start. She did not look very good then and looks even worse now. I imagine she is about to spend one long day in hell. We then take a second and a third participant. Farewell to the last positions. The bystanders cheer for us: Eià, eià! We are now getting into a good pace.

10:45, km 11, one hour and fifteen-minutes into the race. We reach the second feeding station and, surprise surprise, we are now back in the official time of the race.

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11:30, km 18, two hours into the race, first climb. We are riding with a couple from Sweden and with Franco from Bologna. ‘Dai che glie la facciamo vedere a questi svizzeri‘.

12:30, km 25, three hours into the race. We reach St. Moritz ten minutes ahead of the sag wagon. The driver catches up with us and hands me my electronic chip back. ‘Well done guys‘. We keep passing participants who are slowly but surely going adrift. I pity them.

St. Moritz

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14:30, km 42, five hours into the race. We are in Samedan: it is the beginning of a long, lonely flat. It feels like we are crossing the desert. I pity ourselves.

16:00, km 54, six hours and a half into the race. We are back in Zuoz with some 10 km to go. Last feeding point. The sun is about to set. ‘Are you the last?‘ one bystander asks me. I would think so: the sag wagon is behind us again. All those whom we have overtaken in the last few hours have been excluded from the race. Here we go again: fighting against overtime. We catch up two skiers who are very happy to see us. I assume that is because they are happy not to be the last (‘Ah, ma guarda, c’erano ancora altri due stronzi dietro…‘). It is only the next day my father tells me they were the cool fellas from breakfast.

Right before sunset. We are heading towards the end. Behind us, our friends from breakfast, also the last two men standing in the race.

16:30, km 59, seven hours into the race. We have passed S-chanf and we are finally heading back to Zuoz. The two skiers are 50 meters behind and we have caught up another guy. We are giving our best to get to the finish line before they close it down. Sunset.

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17:20, km 65, seven hours and fifty minutes into the race. The final climb in Zuoz is done. We reach the finish line 432nd and 433rd. The sag wagon stops and the guy jumps down to congratulate us. I meet Carlo from Tirano. ‘I cannot believe you were slower than I was! You are young, you should have been faster!

The next day we bid farewell to our hosts, who have treated us handsomely, and we stop in Zuoz in a big shop. We are having a look around when the owner comes to us and congratulates for the race. ‘Good job, I did not think you were going to be able to finish on time! Well, I hope you are not going to call a lawyer now‘. He is the driver of the sag wagon. We take a picture with him, our mental coach, and we head to Samedan. Grisons are a magical place. If we survive another week, next Sunday we will be at the starting line of the Marcialonga.

Cross country skiing

I have promised my father I will complete two traditional classic cross country skiing competitions with him: the Diagonela and the Marcialonga. The Diagonela takes place on January 19 with starts and finish in Zuoz, Engadina Valley, Switzerland. It is 65-kilometre long. The Marcialonga takes place on January 27 with start in Moena and finish in Cavalese, Dolomites of Trentino, Italy. It is 70-kilometre long.

I have never done classic cross country skiing before. My previous experience with cross country skiing is limited to skating, with one participation to the regional championship of junior students when I was 17. On that occasion, I inadvertently took a huge shortcut of about one third of the race and yet ended up only 8th out of 16 participants.

 

 


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Training:

November 7: Trento-Lavis, 10 km roller skis
December 5: Martignano-Montevaccino, 10 km, roller skis
December 23: Lavazé, 18 km, skis
December 25: Passo Coe, 10 km, skis
December 28: Viote, 27 km, skis
December 29: Lavazé, 24 km, skis
January 12: La Tourne, 22 km, skating skis
January 13: La Sagne, 15 km, skating skis
January 15: La Vue des Alps, 20 km, skating skis
January 19: La Diagonela, 65 km, skis
January 20: Morteratsch, 6 km, skis
January 23: Moonlight Classic, Alpe di Siusi, 15 km, skis
January 25: Predazzo – Lago di Tesero, 12 km, skis
January 26: Marcialonga, 70 km, skis
February 2: Petit Martel, 15 km, skating skis
February 5: Les Rochats, 17 km, skating skis
March 9: Andermatt, 10 km, skating skis

 

 

 

Direction Istanbul à vélo

François came to Neuchâtel in the 1990s. He worked here and moved back and forth to Montpellier, although he likes Aix-en-Provence better. In 2016 he started looking for a new apartment and in the end he took the room I was about to leave.

When I came back, one year ago, we became part-time flatmates. He, like Jean Thomas, was away most of the time; but the few days we spent together were good. He is calm, thoughtful, youthful, curious, careful. When I think of him I think of expensive mattresses, verbena, sheeps, maps, and big white afro hair on a white man.

François left Neuchâtel in June last year. He has now embarked on new projects. One of these is a long ride from Montpellier to Istanbul. It began already a week ago and you can follow his steps on his new blog. Daje François.

 

Post scriptum. Before publishing this blogpost I asked him consent: Si il y a que des gentils comme Elie, Marco, Jean-Thomas, les filles allemandes, alors ça va!

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.

Zinal

Un buon weekend.

Books I have read, 2017

January. Cold, grey, busy Torino. After celebrating NYE with my dear Canadian friends, I fall sick. Marco, Leila and Etta come to my rescue. On Sunday January 6 I move into my new apartment where I will soon be rejoined by Niels. The place is full of books and I profit from it. I read The elegance of the hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, To the heart of the storm by Will Eisner, The hundred-year-old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and Novecento by Alessandro Baricco. The first is the subtly humorous story of concierge Renée Michel and her strategies to conceal her intelligence. I am not really fond of it; and I am not hooked by Jonasson’s book either. In the end, I drag along with the former and I leave the latter unfinished. Of these four, I would therefore highly recommend only Will Eisner’s comic novel on 1920s Germany and Alessandro Baricco’s short piece on Danny Boodman T.D. Lemon Novecento. Good stuff.

In February I am often on the move. There are two books, in particular, whose memory remains inescapably linked to the rail-tracks. The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian tells the story of the individuals behind the commercialisation of citizenship by a global business elite. I spend most of my time writing about citizenship as part of my research, so it is not a surprise that I find this story a compelling read. However, it is probably the other book I read while train-spotting that I would recommend to you, my friends: The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart. What an amazing story this is! When I read a manuscript, I have the habit of underlining the sentences that strike a chord with me; but with this book it does not make sense, for I find myself underlining everything. It is a bit of a heavy story to read, but it talks about philosophy through the virtues, vices and ideas of two opposite characters.

In the rare moments I am in Torino with some spare time away from my monstrous Ph.D. thesis, I volunteer to read at the Mauriziano Public Hospital. This is possible thanks to a fantastic association. Initially I am a bit lost: I stopped reading short novels when I was a child. So in the first week I only include in my repertoire two books by Stefano Benni: Baol and La Grammatica di Dio. The following week I add a series of books that I collect through life’s best strategy for survival: asking around. Our coordinator Sara puts me on the right track with Francesco Piccolo’s Momenti di trascurabile felicità; the unconventional librarian of the café where I go to write together with Teresa sells me Andrej Longo’s Dieci; and the infallible librarians of my favourite place in the city give me Julio Cortazar’s Historias de cronopios y de famas and Daniil Kharms’s I am a Phenomenon Quite out of the Ordinary. All these books are extraordinary, in their own way.

Already quite a bit of reading, eh? Keep in mind that I am finishing my Ph.D. thesis and I am lonely. Reading is a way to keep my brain going.

In March I leave the apartment. I am officially homeless. In the mountains of Trento I read Martina’s present: Le otto montagne by Paolo Cognetti. This is a simple, fetching book about silence, loneliness, and wilderness. In the same period I read another book that was given to me as a present from Dani, although it had arrived to me through the outlandish hands of Giallu: Tim Krabbé’s The rider. Here again, my friends, what an amazing book this is! If you want to understand how I felt when I was racing my bike back in 2016 you have to read this story. Let me transcribe the incipit here.

Meyrueis, Lozère, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafés. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.

In April I hail to Spain for a series of interviews that are part of my Ph.D. thesis in Madrid and Andalusia. In those pre-depression day I read another book courtesy of Martina: Joshua Foer’s L’arte di ricordare tutto. I finish it, but, for once, I would rather have not.

In May I fall into a depressive anxiety. June, too, is a ghastly month. Giallu, who sacrifices much of his well-being to stay close to me, lends me Cormac McCarthy’s All the pretty horses. I dig into it. I read the book sitting on Ponte Santa Trinita unbothered by the gallivant tourists wandering around me. If you do not care about getting this book, try at least to listen Calexico’s homonymous song.

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In July, again, I am unable to read. But August is the month when I rebound. During some of the most beautiful days of my life high on the mountains I read Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Back home, I read another book from Martina (La casa, written by an old acquaintance of this blog: Paco Roca). She, and he, nail it. Then, on the shores of the lake of Caldonazzo I read a book that will have important consequences my way of living. Magnum: Fifty Years at the Front Line of History. The reason why I read this book is that during the last few months I have visited two Magnum exhibitions: one in Torino, together with Guillaume, upon my very last day before moving out (a sunny day, dawn of Spring time, an yet a feeling of twilight as I bid farewell to the place); and another in Cremona, alone, after interviewing a doctor in the historical city centre. These were remarkable exhibitions that made me think of how photography can be an extraordinary tool to decipher certain customs and conducts that we take for granted. So I read this book and now I just cannot stop. (Note: since August 2017 I visited more than ten photo exhibitions and read countless photography works).

September. I move to Neuchâtel. Fall is coming and I find it fitting to read another book from Martina (You & a Bike & a Road, a comic book by Eleanor Davis), one from J.H.H. Weiler (Un’Europa cristiana), and, as I said, many classics of photography. In my trips to Paris I read Astérix chez les HelvètesAstérix en Hispanie, and Concita de Gregorio’s Cosa pensano le ragazze. I also read Albert Camus’ L’Etranger – in French! I am rushing through now: I realise this post is already too long. Mercifully the best books of the year are already behind us.

In December I spend a few days in London with Francesca, Marco, Camilla and Isabella. In the occasional breaks from baby-sitting I read Darina al Joundi’s Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter. Wonderful present from Giulia. If you want to read about undaunted women in Lebanon, this story would make. I also read 101 Things to Learn in Art School, finally succumbing to a book I have seen in all the bookshops of the exhibitions I visited during the year. (This was The Photography Gallery‘s one: I spent three  hours reading in their cafeteria). Not amazing.

My year comes to an end with an eclectic dab, combining Banksy’s Wall and Piece and Hergé’s Tintin in Tibet. Okay, this is really it. You might have expected a grand finale for this post, but I have used all my creativity and spare time to write it. Let us wrap it up and go.

… but in case you are still looking for something good, pore over my ‘books I have read‘ posts from 2016, 2015, 2014., 2013.

Update, March 2 2018.

Grazie Lore, un gustoso viaggio nel passato recente.

Ecco qui un simpatico aneddoto:
Il libro del Krabbé non era inteso al principio come un regalo, ma come un prestito.
Tuttavia, io sono ancora in possesso del “cavalli selvaggi” di gianlu che considero ormai come un ostaggio.
Si tratta quindi di un chiaro caso di stallo alla messicana letterario.

Un abbraccio

Daniele

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.

 

Stray ashes

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