Lorenzo & his humble friends

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

Tag: switzerland

Bis di montagne

Saturday morning: Bevaix, La Fruitiere, Le Soliat, Couvet, Gorge de la Rose.

Sunday: Jean-Thomas, Alexis, and Jeremie. The latter is a living example of how not to dress when hiking in the mountains: I love papa Francesco t-shirt with a fresh coffee stain, sneakers, light socks, and Gandalf-like stick. Broc, Dent de Broc (1828), la Trême, Gruyères (Jean-Thomas says it looks “just like Tuscany” because you can clearly see “la mano dell’uomo“: I am not convinced), Fribourg, Marco, Deg, Thibaut, fondue moitié-moitié, fondue fribourgeoise, and double créme.

 

 

 

Roccia solitaria

Vicino a Scex Rouge, Glacier 3000, con Yvan, Jean-Thomas, Maria e Quinn, ultimo fine settimana prima della quarantena (8 marzo). Dietro alla roccia c’è un rifugio, talmente piccolo e nascosto che non riesco più a ritrovarlo nemmeno su Google.

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Books I have read in 2019

I first saw The Schopenhauer Cure in Luxemburg, Torino, next to a dozen other books by the same author. Irvin Yalom is a psychiatrist who turns philosophy into a work of fiction. Arianna gave me this book towards the end of 2018. For some reason, I remember reading it on two distinct occasions: in a café on the hill leading up to the Sacré-Cœur during a cold December night; and at the RER stop in Gentilly, on my way to the Maison Doisneau on a grey January afternoon. I would suggest this book to those who are curious about psychotherapy, meditation, and pain.

Arnold Odermatt, worked as a photographer for the Nidwalden district police in Switzerland from 1948 until his retirement in 1990. He was initially trained as a banker and took up photography as a hobby. His work, which I discovered at Images Vevey, is gracious and ironic. I read and smiled over On Duty in Arianna’s temporary apartment in Marcadet, Paris, courtesy of Mavi. In the future I would like to add to my humble collection his other books, Karambolage and Off Duty.

At some point in January I had to go back to Switzerland, but all trains were full. I remember reading La photographie sociale at 6 in the monring inside Coffee & Friends (a cozy café in the train station of Geneva) after a seven-hour bus ride. This little book is one of the gems of a wonderful collection by Photo poche, Actes Sud. (In Italy, these books are available as Fotografia Contrasto and can be easily found in most museums).

I read most of Waiting for the Barbarians on the train to the Diagonela; then I lost it, found it, lost it again, found it again, and finished it once and for all. I am happy to keep it on my shelves because it reminds me of Florence: I took this book when I left the apartment in Via Ponte alle Riffe, where we (Ada, Dani, Jonas, and I) originally found it in 2013, abandoned there from the previous tenants. The story is not really Florence-like, though: harsh, matter-of-fact, existentialist, with a desolate atmosphere of imperialist denial and defeat. It reminded me of Il deserto dei tartari and Mad Max – weird combination, ain’t it?

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I listened to The Human Stain following Alkistis’ suggestion to dig a bit into the work Philip Roth. I started in Cuba, in 2018, during my wacky journey with Thomoose. However, the general mood of the vacation did not bode well with this book. I stopped for a few months and then resumed. I listened to it mostly on the plateau next to Neuchatel while training for the Marcialonga. This is why it reminds me of these valleys. Ironically, one of the most iconic scenes of the movie is set in a place that could very well be La Sagne, Eglise. This is a difficult book with some truly extraordinary pages. I recommend it highly, although it takes some time to get into the flow. It is a story about public morality and political correctness.

Back in Trento for a couple of days after the Marcialoga I read Il gusto del cloro (which reminded me of Turin, when I used to go swimming quite often ), 100 Brani di musica classica da ascoltare una volta nella vita (this, too, I had first seen it in Luxemburg, Torino), and another book on classical music, Twentieth-Century Classical Music: A Ladybird Expert Book (I remember buying it at Shakespeare and Co.). What a waste, having moved out of Florence where in Winter I could – and often did – go to classical music concerts at La Pergola every Sunday evening. I did not understand a thing, sometimes I fell asleep, but I enjoyed every single session. These are simple books that you can read in-between breaks. Did I learn something new? Probably not, but I felt more intelligent while reading them.

In March I listened to The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception. This is my fourth Emanuel Carrere book, and hopefully not the last. The story is relatively short, so it only took me one lonely, pleasant day skiing in Les Portes de Soleil. (Sometimes you have to take yourself out on a little date on the snow). This book is mesmerising; but if you want to get into the heclectic prose of Emmanuel Carrère I would humbly suggest to start from some other books he wrote.

In March I went to Brussels where Arianna and I were elegantly hosted by Delina and Giacomo. During our short stay I bought some high-quality bande dessinée: Le Chat, Tome 21 : Chacun son chat (you gotta love Belgian authors); and Egon Schiele (beautiful: brought me back to the exhibition I had seen with Arianna in 2018, Schiele and Basquiat, Fondation Louis Vuitton).

In early April, before spending a few days in Iceland, I wrote to Leonardo, a talented writer and avid cycling fan whose work I throughly enjoy. He answered promptly and most kindly with a list of readings. I only managed to read one: The Good Shepherd. This slim book tells the story of a man who goes looking for lost sheeps together with his dog – Leo – and his wether – Gnarly. The book smells like snow. In case you want to read other Icelandic books, you can start from Leonardo’s own book, Il libro dei vulcani d’Islanda, Luce d’estate ed è subito notte, or the other suggestion by Leonardo: Sotto il ghiacciaio.

Back in Paris at the end of April I went for the first time to Arianna’s new apartment, which is also a little bit mine. Nearby we found a good bookshop, Librairie l’Humeur Vagabonde, and we bought Un anglais dans mon arbre and Orwell. Both of them are elegantly drawn, but not particularly original in their story telling techniques.

In May I spent one happy weekend in Rome with Arianna. I was amazed by the exhibition dedicated to Mapplethorpe at Galleria Corsini, where the provocative pictures were thematically blended with other paintings in the crowded galleries. Shortly after I read Mapplethorpe Rodin that, I believe, I found in one of the boîtes d’echange in Neuchâtel.

There are a few books that I read in my Swiss apartment and on the lake shore sometime between late May and early June: Adieu La Suisse ! Construction Et Deconstruction d’Un Mythe (I saw this book at the museum in Winterthur and bought it shortly thereafter), Marx, Freud, Einstein: Heroes of the Mind (this was Arianna’s gift from Shakespeare and Co) and La ragazza con la Leica. I had great expectation on this latter volume, but it turned out to be boring, unexciting. It was a disappointment. Gerda Taro, whose story inspired this book, truly was an exceptional character.

During a short visit to Florence in June I discovered a strange place: Galleria Immaginaria. I was walking in via Cavour and looking for a quiet spot to work and I bumped in this gallery, wine place, and bookstore. The guy who was there invited me to stay ‘but I have to leave. Here, take my keys. My colleague will be back in half an hour‘. And he left. I was slightly worried this would turn out to be some sort of an insurance scam, but I went with the flow and stayed, a lonely kid managing a shop he just discovered. The colleague who arrived half an hour later was happy to find me there and invited me to a full Chianti tasting, which they have on the menu. In exchange I bought from their library I colori nell’arte. Sweet book. If you visit this place, remember the door is made of glass – I did not realise it and smashed right into it upon leaving the place fully drunk.

In late June I read L’ombra del vento at the Circolino. It was a suggestion of Fabio. Probably a younger version of myself would have liked this book better. Then, just before traveling to Portugal, I read Donna di Porto Pim; in the Azores I read Viaggio in Portogallo; and upon returning from Lisbon I read Poeti di Lisbona. If you have to choose, read Tabucchi and some of the poems written by Pessoa.

 

Ricordo di aver letto Cacciateli!: Quando i migranti eravamo noi nei giorni in cui ero a Murren. Del libro mi ha colpito la desolante descrizione delle domeniche svizzere per gli immigranti italiani, nella quale mi ritrovo ancora oggi. Però nel complesso non raccomanderei questo libro, a differenza di un altro lavoro di Concetto Vecchio, anche quello molto personalmente sentito, che invece regalerei volentieri ad amici e conoscenti.

On the train before my hike on the Pale di San Martino with Giallu I read this collection of essays by Susan Sontag. It is one of the greatest classics in the field of photography. You are likely to find a copy in the bookshops of all photo-museums and exhibitions. For me, this is one of those books that I could easily read over and over again because of its depth and beauty. I was genuinely happy to able to recognise most of the examples used by Sontag, mostly because of the many photography books that I have skimmed through over the last three years. I reckon the essays might not be as interesting for those of you who do not care that much about photography.

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Back in Paris in October, I remember reading the following three books. First, a short but powerful collection of essays: Sull’Iliade. This is a poetic and profound text for all my friends who like epical tales like I did as a kid. Second, quite unrelated, Modigliani: Prince de la bohème. Bought it in Madrid at the market next to the Buen Retiro, I read at Le Village in Place Michael Petrucciani. The third book is another comic text on an artist from the twentieth century: Capa. L’étoile filante. I must have bought it in Brussels. This is a good one, although I recommend Capa’s own ironical autobiography or his and Magnum’s biography by Russel Miller.

Speaking of Magnum, in October I read Magnum Mountains, which I bought at the related exhibition in Le Locle where I went with Arianna on a grey Swiss Sunday. Around the same time in Switzerland I read Dalla mia Terra alla Terra and Quino’s Manger. Quelle adventure, which I bought in a little Neuchâtel bookshop when Iris came to visit me.

I found the book below in an exchange box in Neuchâtel. I have not read many female Italian writers, so I jumped right into L’indomani. It is a short story, intimate, melancholic. A few months later, in the same exchange box, I was to find another book that probably speaks more to my feminist conscience – more on that at the end of this verbose text.

After reading about Mordillo’s death I recovered some of his books at my parents place, and a bought a couple others from second-hand retailers. These are strongly recommended to all the readers of this blog: All’arrembaggio, Lovestory, and Football.


When I went to visit Alberto in Milan, I had a couple of hours to kill, so I visited the Mondadori store in Piazza Duomo and bought Storia d’Italia in 100 foto. My suggestion, if you go to Milan, is to visit the Hoepli bookstore instead. Do not read these random books put together rather haphazardly.

Di ritorno a Parigi in ottobre, mi sono letto d’un fiato le Settantacinque poesie di Kavafis, un regalo di Arianna. Valgono per questo libro le stesse cose che ho scritto per Sull’Iliade e, non a caso, quelle che scriverò poi per le Memorie di Adriano. Un tuffo elegante nelle gioie e nelle contraddizioni della cultura classica. Negli stessi giorni ho letto anche L’arte di essere fragili: Come Leopardi può salvarti la vita. Era sulla mia lista dai tempi di Torino, dopo aver ascoltato un volontario che ne leggeva alcuni paragrafi al circolo per i non- vedenti. Sono rimasto piuttosto deluso: ho trovato il libro ripetitivo e, a tratti, stucchevole quanto il blog che state leggendo. Magari le condizioni non hanno aiutato: lo ho letto nel treno notte verso Parigi, un’esperienza particolare. Ricordo di essere salito pensando a Grand Hotel Budapest. Prendo una birra nel vagone ristorante con Jack (autore di questo bel podcast). Poi lui mi saluta: buona fortuna e buona sopravvivenza. Cosa avrà voluto dire? Prendete anche voi un treno notte e lo scoprirete. En Cuisine avec Kafka. Letto a Reinitas, simpatico, snello.

It is time for the book of the year: Mémoires d’Hadrien. This was a present from Eliana. I started it in 2017 when I was doing research for my Ph.D. thesis in Spain. I dropped it half-way through, because I became unable to find any pleasure in reading. I started again this year, when I found a used copy in this little bookstore next to our house in Paris. I read it and read it all over again. This is a wonderful work, historical, philosophical, poetic, all at the same time. I highly recommend it to all of you, my dear readers, and I suggest you find a version that has the author’s notes with it. Yourcenair’s diary is as poetic as her prose. There is one example that I have posted in a separate space. It is a long quote, but it is magnificent.

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I bought Koudelka: Zingari: bought in Milan when I was with Anna, Jonas, and Irene – right after visiting the Museo del Novecento. This is not an expensive photography book as others. Get a copy. It is a wonderful collection of portraits made in different European countries. I read in Paris together with other photographic classics: Bill Brandt: Shadow & Light; Sebastiao Salgado’s Kuwait, a Desert on Fire and Terres de café, voyage au pays de l’arôme.

La prima guerra del football: ho letto questo libro a Trento, in maniera intermittente, tra giugno e dicembre. Mi ha fatto pensare a Giacomo Zandonini e alle sue avventure con Francesco Bellina. Particolarmente belli i racconti sull’Algeria, Nigeria, e Sudafrica.

Chiudo l’anno con due libri in italiano. Il primo è L’inverno del disegnatore, riprendendo in mano un fumettista strepitoso. Questa storia relativamente è corta; come per tutti gli altri autori che già conoscevo non è la migliore, ma disegnata benissimo e con un taglio storico originale. Se però volete conoscere Paco Roca iniziate con i suoi libri che ho letto nel 2016. Il secondo libro, che si legge piuttosto in fretta, lo ho trovato una delle bussole di scambio libri a Neuchâtel. Invoglia a cercare antichi testi arabi di letteratura erotica.

 


Read my ‘books I have read‘ posts from 2018, 20172016201520142013.

Swiss Saturdays

The morning farmers’ market: cheese (Gruyer salé, Vacherin, Brebis), bread (baguette aux olives, tresse tessinoise), vegetables (that changes depending on the season).

The New Yorker at l’Aubier in Winter, at L’Univers in Spring.

Lunch at Le Cardinal.

Fip radio, Thomoose’s Spotify playlists, or KEXP Live sessions.

Pipe and scotch.

My blog.

A bloc notes.

Update: here is the fair comment I received from an anonymous reader: ‘I had to laugh a bit about the random intellectual drops you mention (scotch, pipe, reading the New Yorker, writing in your bloc-notes while staring out of the window – I see you). Let me know when the Philip Roth transformation is complete‘.

 

Una storia molto svizzera

Si dice che Friedrich Dürrenmatt non amasse particolarmente i cani. Egli, tuttavia, ne possedette almeno cinque nel corso della sua vita. Questi animali era fonte di ispirazione per lo scrittore svizzero: nei suoi racconti essi rappresentano la spiritualità e -talvolta- sono portatori di messaggi di morte.

Alcuni studiosi hanno scritto degli articoli accademici, analizzando la complessa relazione tra lo scrittore e questi animali. In questo blog tuttavia vogliamo interessarci dei cani posseduti da Dürrenmatt e da uno in particolare, protagonista di una vicina che ai miei occhi appare assai svizzera, nel bene e nel male.

Tutto quel che sappiamo di questo cane è che si trattava di cocker inglese regalato a Dürrenmatt da un vecchio colonnello bernese poco dopo il trasloco dello scrittore a Neuchâtel. Questo cane fu colpevole del rapido deterioramento del rapporto tra Dürrenmatt e la sua Vicina. Pare che all’epoca di finalizzare l’acquisto della magione, ella avesse chiesto – con uno sguardo scettico seppur pieno di formale benevolenza – se egli possedesse animali domestici. La persona che si era precedentemente interessata all’acquisto della casa aveva intenzione di trasformarla in un canile: la Vicina era riuscita a proibire la vendita, dal momento che odiava i cani, e aveva intenzione di fare lo stesso con il famoso scrittore nell’eventualità di cui egli si fosse rivelato possessore canino. Rassicurata dal fatto che Dürrenmatt arrivasse accompagnato dalla sola moglie, la Vicina aveva approvato la vendita della casa. Un voisinage vaguement aimable s’institua entre nous, à la mesure, bien entendu, de la froideur neuchâteloise, scrive allora Dürrenmatt.

Poi arriva in scena il cocker inglese; ed effettivamente fa molto rumore. La Vicina intraprende una personale guerra. Lo scontro si svolge, tipicamente, per mezzo di lettere raccomandate accompagnate da una buona bottiglia. In queste lettera la Vicina tenta di persuadere lo scrittore ad affidare la bestia a un vero amante dei cani, certo non come lui, che tuttavia iniziava a nutrire una vera affezione per questi animali come risultato di questo bombardamento epistolare.

Lo scrittore raccontava agli amici di aver risposto alle lettere ringraziando la Vicina per le segnalazioni e dicendo che avrebbe parlato della questione al cane, pregandolo di considerare attentamente il problema. In realtà Dürrenmatt non rispose mai a queste lettere; la Vicina gli tolse il definitivamente il saluto e gli fece causa, ma non fece in tempo a vincerla perché il cane le giocò un ultimo tiro e morì di vecchiaia prima che il Consiglio Municipale giungesse ad una decisione.

Col du Sanetsch

I read several articles about the Col du Sanetsch. It has a solid reputation as one of the most spectacular bike climbs in Switzerland. It has long been on my bucket-list. Just like in 2018 I had allowed myself the luxury of climbing up the Grosse Scheidegg, in the summer 2019 I decided that the Col du Sanetsch would be my target.

I hopped on the train very early in the morning. I arrived in Martigny at 9. From there I rode to Sion, stopping along the way to eat the apricots directly from the trees. Apricots from Valais are unique.

From Sion I rode up to Savièse; and then up for 25 km and almost 2000 m of altitude. The climb is endless: it took me about three hours to get to the top. I used the day to listen to the first chapters of The Karamazov Brothers, but at some point I had to stop: I was too tired to follow the subtle philosophical nuances of the story. By the time I reach the Col, I was completely worn out. Never in my adult life had I been so tired during a bike ride.

Luckily there is a mountain hut where I could get a huge rösti. Then down to Sion and train back to Neuchatel.

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.

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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 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.

 

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