My experience of Istanbul

In 2010 I went to Istanbul. As I got a regular not touristic bus from the Asian part of “the city”. I was blocked by a lefty manifestation about a referendum Erdogan wanted in order to make the Country closer to EU standards. Europe was looking at it with not so much attention. I had to reach the Karaköy, the line of the sea, guessing the way for a couple of kilometers. To stay sat down by the river-sea of the Bosporus and to see another continent so close and no not-reachable on foot was to me so frustrating! I decided to shop something to eat and go walking (with no maps at all, like often I still do, Viviana can witness) until a bridge I was able to see from there. “It’s not so far” I taught. It was indeed. The point is not this. The bridge we are watching these days on Tv is huge and it stretches much more beyond the shores, and even to follow carefully the two shores was an endeavor. As I found a way to climb the bridge to cross it with my baggage, I realized it was not for pedestrians at all. A young man, aged no more than 16-18 y.o., with a rifle almost longer than him (a regular soldier), told me in Turkish to go back and catch the bus (I think he said so…). I was trying politely to explain myself in English, and I understood that he was genuinely not understanding a single word.

During the first night in a not-to-be-suggested hostel I was schooled, as my passport told I was from Florence, that Constantinople had its Michelangelo, but Western historians were too biased to recognized it. I suddenly realized that my week over there would have been tough…

Along one week I searched in vain museums at the standard of a city like Istanbul, and I considered me disappointed. I fought to have real fun, but at least people don’t bother you if you sleep after the noon on a bench.

Likely and unexpectedly Istanbul was hosting just in those days the Basketball World Championship. What a luck! Yep, I spent many afternoons in watching games sat down in some of the many bars. One mint tea for a whole afternoon was not such a big affair for the Turkish bartenders who always looked at me in a very bad temper. I sincerely had few money to spend, I swear.

I remember during the finals of the Championship, USA team vs. … Turkey. Turkish things happened, such as a player shot some free throws replacing the player who was fouled (supposedly much less able to score). The most important game held each four years with international referees was subjected to what in Italy we call “Turkish things”. Not such a big detail to tell by the way, I think people are not anymore surprised by these things.

I also remember that while I was going to the international bus station I had to help an old woman who was trying to cross a massive street in high traffic. Other people were around but I was the only one helping. The woman said “thank you” and a lot of other things; she was also assuming I was understating all. As I spoke in English, a man confirmed she was saying thank you, but I would bet money she was saying something like “In this messy city there is still some good Muslim”. In Italy a woman would have said exactly the same, provided that “Christinian” would have replaced “Muslim”. What’s the difference?! I felt necessary to say to all the people around waiting for a cheap bus I was Italian. The woman made a very Mediterranean gesture with her hand that meant: “Italian? It’s 0k, we are not so different”. I agree sincerely still now.

I also went to Bulgaria, a trip I’m not going to tell in details, but for the splendid image to see the ancient Byzantium white and red walls at the sunrise coming for the deep European side. What surprised me was an enduring sense of superiority Turkish people had over Bulgarian. History gives some reasons to them, but currently the relations appear reversed: Turkey is the place from where many people (I can tell about Iranian people who get somehow Turkish passport) try to go away in order to access the real land: European Union!

Coming back to the Airport I found that the indication for the Formula1 Turkish Grand Prix were unreal: who were going to attend Formula 1 in Turkey? And in fact the Grand Prix lasted few years…

Once at the queue to embark, I had my last Turkish experience: a Turkish man purposely kicked my baggage because he felt walked by me (I was going a little on his side to be honest, but only to make the queue shorter). He also hit me with a very aggressive sight. I was happy to be Italian: a couple of guys aged like me with Roman accent were joking about  iconoclasm, miming a fight for this dispute. Irony is much better, although to know the real terms of iconoclasm satisfies better my nerdy life. They could have the same irony mode, I’m sure, but they are walking some reasons across the wrong path in this epoch, and they are getting step by step on the wrong side of History.

This Turkey will never enter the European Union, and billions of tons of water in the Bosporus have to pass until someone will have the possibility to cross the Istanbul bridge for tourism and in safety. That day Turkey will be free, really balanced between secularization and its identity, and ready to talk about the Armenian genocide.

It’s a pity, the tv advertisings related to the Basketball World Championship was great! This is an example.


Epitaph of Dave #Cameron #Brexit #BigBye

Go Little Dave

Go if you dislike to stay

Go, cause you can’t arrive to us

Go somewhere if you want to leave

Go if you can’t come into a pig’s ear

Go to European Union, for the last time

And Leave it soon

Then don’t go home, 10 D. street

It is not free from charge for you anymore

Pass perhaps via Panama,

Where the monies wait for you

Go, Dave the Scottish,

To the Highlands

To get the claps from independents

Who couldn’t get a better assist

To leave them the UK for real

Go, Little Dave,

Go to well and equally shared


Go and select well

I recommend the Country that sings

“Paix – Travail – Patrie”

Where for others and your safety

People won’t understand you

As they speak frog-French,

unless you got with you

Monsieur Farage too

Who’s leaving the EU stipend soon

Go, Dave, to Cameroon


p.s. Please people from Cameroon accept my apologizes if I used your Country as a term of joke. I truly respect the “Country of Lions”, at least since 1982, when Italy and Cameroon had a draw in Spain during World Championship. You also have a wonderful flag.

Brexit & Schengen. The costs of being already outside Europe.

If you are a European (Union) citizen and for some reasons you have to become mother/father abroad, but still in Europe, you have good chance to manage all as if you were in your own Country. This is true for the welfare state (hospital and medical issues), but even to travel. In our case, we have very few things to complain about the British NHS. Something quite weird we have to say about travelling. Now we got Rosa, an Italian citizen like us but born in London, UK. As she is Italian, she is a European Union citizen in a (so far!) European Union Country (UK). Why can’t we travel to Italy and come back? Because UK (and Republic of Ireland) are the only two Countries belonging to European Union that don’t share the Schengen treaty. It is quite strange if one consider for a while that proudly not European Union Countries like Switzerland, Norway and Iceland (Liechtenstein as well) are however in Schengen.

What we have to do to enjoy my wife’s maternity leave in Italy and let relatives meet Rosa is to issue a passport. Rosa, in fact, is waiting for a special passport whose validity will last three years. This procedure implied the following costs:

  • £89: Cost of passport
  • £11: costs to pay the postal way to pay the 89£ (a mighty taxation over taxation)
  • 2 stamps (£7,25 to ship documents to Italian Consulate + £14,50 to make the passport come back to us as a special mail)
  • £30 (+ other 2 stamps, £1 each) to legalize the birth certificate (sic!)*
  • £4: a Birth certificate from Camden
  • £12,90: pictures for the baby

Gran total:

  • £171,40 (220€ approximately)

I’m happy Rosa is having her first passport so soon, and I hope we will be able one day to visit Cuba, the Republic of Togo, and many other places. Nevertheless, the most annoying fact is that all this has been a big loss of time and a variable in booking flights to travel. For instance: do you know how much time and patience you must have to have a suitable picture for passports for a just-born baby? A lot!

Another consideration is the following: if the “Brexit” is commanded by such urgent anti-immigration issues and should be sustained by hard-but-rational reasons, why do people want to leave the European Union if you are already out in the most important of the immigration related framework? To oblige Italian and other people to use a passport instead of a national ID card in airport frontiers is so important to the UK public opinion? A vignette can be told about this. In 2013 I landed in Bristol and I presented my Italian National Identity Card. The Officer at the frontier just told me: “I don’t like your document!” As I explained that she shouldn’t express any dislike and that I had the right to enter England with that document, she replied slightly better that “a passport is quicker to be processed”. Quite an impolite for an Officer, a British one.

Coming back to 2016, explanations from neighbors walking in the streets of Hampstead Heath with the “Leave!” pin are welcome. Who is exactly going to leave? And where? To achieve what, exactly and ultimately?


* The “legalization” of an already legal document, whose actual consistency is made up of a row little hard-cut rectangular piece of A4 glued on the rear of the Birth Certificate, is the utmost of meaninglessness: Italian Bureaucracy wants Italian citizens to have a document, that itself would be already legal, obliging to pay money to another State. It does not seem to me smart at all.


In merito alla recente approvazione definitiva della cosiddetta Legge Cirinnà che regolamente le “unioni civili” vorrei esprimere anche io un pensiero politico, soprattutto in riferimento alle polemiche che alcune componenti della Chiesa Cattolica, siano esse gerarchie o società civile.


“Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer”, di Caspar David Friedrich*
Olio su tela, 1818

* Pare che fosse lì, Caspar, dal 1818 ad aspettare questa Legge. Lo testimoniano Messner e quelli della pubblicità Cioccolato Novi.

May First vs. Bank Holiday 0-3. Capitalism wins

In 2008, just moved to Spain, I noticed that May the Second was much more important than May the First. It was somehow right (definitely not leftist!), as it was the bi-centenary of the defeat of Napoleon in Madrid, and Madrid was really set up in a party mode. Mood was great, weather too. I wrote a post about it but the blog is no more online, alas. However my point was that El Dos de Maio beat May First 2-1.

Today is a day off in London: “Bank Holiday”.

After 8 years, I have to acknowledge another big defeat of the May First, the workers’ day. This time is a net 3-0. In England, and of course in the rest of UK, there is no passion for “red” day-offs and symbols of workers’ battles, I may guess at a first attempt. Probably they think like the Americans that May First stinks with communism (in US they have their May First in a different place in the calendar). As a matter of fact to extend a day off to people working in a bank to any workers is cool and itself pro-workers. But one semantic vector runs below the facts: what you have is due to capitalism (and not to unions, for instance). Few other places on Earth may owe more to capitalism than London, actually: anything looks connected to the financial core of the City and estates are wealthy despite of weather and hard convincing building and furniture just because of the pushing vital capitalism. And even if you are a clochard, you may thank capitalism if you can refuse one penny or two pence coins, as people do around here: what could you buy with such amount? And if you don’t have money for nowadays bread & butter because the City is squashing you, you may always rely on 10 times cheaper bread than Italy (!) and a whole butternut squash both from Morrison’s. (One might even speculate about the expression “Good Friday” to mean the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but perhaps I’ll talk about it next year)


So in principals and in hard facts, this semantic message is not totally wrong: capitalism gives wellness around here like in few other places, such as Switzerland where Bank Holiday applies too. But I continue to see it as weird as driving on the left.

The Brits are convincing all the way: they don’t only give you the first Monday of May. They give you even the last Monday of May, which implies two long weekends, or bridge-week as Italians like to nickname an —at least- three days in a row of no work. This justifies the second goal. But what about the third?

Well, it’s an unlucky year for the people in the Left: May First fell on Sunday, and this equals an own goal!

“There is a pair of red tiny shoes” (C’è un paio di scarpette rosse) by Joyce Lussu

This is a translation of mine of an Italian poetess from Florence, Joyce Lussu, awarded during the civil war against the Nazi-Fascist with a silver medal. Today, April the 25th, the Italian people celebrate the fall of Mussolini – the very last of sentence to death in Italian history – and the final ultimate (with and without weapons) insurrection of civil people against dictatorship, along with the Allied Forces, in 1945.

May this be a comment of the yesterday elections that took place in Austria.

There is a pair of red tiny shoes
number twentyfour (1)
almost new:
on the internal sole you can see
still the brand name
Schulze Monaco
there is a pair of red tiny shoes
on the summit of a pile
all of children shoes
in Buchenwald
not so far there is a heap of blond curl hair
of black and chestnut brown locks
in Buchenwald
they were used to make blankets for soldiers
nothing was wasted
and children were undressed and shaved
before to be pushed into the gas chambers
there is a pair of red tiny shoes
in Buchenwald
they belonged to a child three years old
perhaps three and a half
who knows which were the colour of eyes
burnt in the ovens
but about the cry
we may imagine
all know how children cry
his tiny feet too
we may imagine
shoes size number twentyfour
for the eternity
because the tiny feet of dead children
don’t grow up
there is a pair of red tiny shoes
in Buchelwald
almost new
because the tiny children feet
don’t get the soles consumed

(1: seventh in UK)

C’è un paio di scarpette rosse
numero ventiquattro
quasi nuove:
sulla suola interna si vede
ancora la marca di fabbrica
Schulze Monaco
c’è un paio di scarpette rosse
in cima a un mucchio
di scarpette infantili
a Buchenwald
più in là c’è un mucchio di riccioli biondi
di ciocche nere e castane
a Buchenwald
servivano a far coperte per i soldati
non si sprecava nulla
e i bimbi li spogliavano e li radevano
prima di spingerli nelle camere a gas
c’è un paio di scarpette rosse
di scarpette rosse per la domenica
a Buchenwald
erano di un bimbo di tre anni
forse di tre anni e mezzo
chi sa di che colore erano gli occhi
bruciati nei forni
ma il suo pianto
lo possiamo immaginare
si sa come piangono i bambini
anche i suoi piedini
li possiamo immaginare
scarpa numero ventiquattro
per l’eternità
perché i piedini dei bambini morti
non crescono
c’è un paio di scarpette rosse
a Buchenwald
quasi nuove
perché i piedini dei bambini morti
non consumano le suole…


È nata Rosa | 玫瑰 出生 了 | Rosa was born | Nasceu Rosa

It is with deep utmost joy that Viviana and me announce that Rosa came to the world today, April the 10th 2016. The labour has been long but Viviana and Rosa made a great job in what could be defined “the labour” of human kind.


We would like to express our gratitude to all the personnel so far met at the Royal Free Hospital, Pond street, London (and midwives from the NHS as well of course). They all have been extremely both professional and humane, especially the midwives.

(Perhaps soon more pics will follow over facebook)


The video posted here from the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica” is worth of attention for any person committed in science worldwide. Giulio Regeni’s mother explains at the Italian Senate some points regarding the torture of her son. The video has English subtitles.

For someone who is not Italian reader/speaker and is eager in following the issue, some news follow. Some Egyptian officers have been sent to Italy in order to give to Italian police new evidence. The last one collected by Egyptian police in Egypt in March were manifestly fabricated and therefore offensive for any Italian citizen. Namely, Egyptian police murdered some ordinary criminals showing personal Regeni’s items supposedly found there. A satchel was not his and some of the items were tentatively alleging to homosexuality (it is considered relevant in Egypt, what a fascinating country…).

At this moment it looks that Egypt is recognizing that its intelligence started to shadow Regeni since the beginning of his last stay and now they maintain that they never said it was a ordinary criminality affair (how things can change rapidly in a case! It looks a CSI tv series episode). The reasons of the shadowing are obscure since it is very clear that the Cambridge PhD student was not a spy nor a real political threat whatsoever (he was in touch with people recognized by Egyptian police as dangerous, but he was not organizing anything, just attending some meetings). Any researcher in social sciences may be seen as a strange animal, as one tries just to understand things instead of taking part in it. A big effort without getting any advantage. For many persons this is stupid, I see it. On the contrary, the step from not seeing the point in an disinterested study and the necessity to torture this person goes beyond my skills. Perhaps some intelligence force wanted to communicate messages with this over reaction, or they wanted to pour out their frustrations in not being completely able to patrol the Country. These are just my free guesses (message to the few visits I got from Egypt and other similar countries: yep, in Europe we can guess anything so far).

For what I may have understood in the last days from a Western citizen living for years in Egypt, currently Al Sisi’s regime is much better than Muslim Brotherhood regime. During the latter regime, people may knock at the door of regular people asking things like “why we don’t see you regularly in the Mosque, bro?” Incursions like these are not pious denominational policies, nor annoying invitation to join some pseudo-religious movement. They are totalitarian acts that may end in a very brutal way or being the warning that you live in a place where brutal ends may occur anytime for a minimal spread from “normality”.

However today, it is said to me, people come from places like Qatar with just overnight bags full of currency. The kind of leverage by out that people from the other part of the Red Sea may do is up to our imagination. Yet, professional militia from other countries with no uniform may not anymore patrol regular streets like Morsi’s times. However, beyond the regular touristic streets, life is still far from being normal, and any teacher is probably filed somewhere. If you go in touristic places life is not so pleasant anyway, sure. Al-Sisi’s grip is not totally accomplished, though his is a stiff hand. Any realpolitik would suggest to see in Al-Sisi the best of the possible partners at the moment, but so far it is hard to follow this principle. (The very last news is that Egyptian police is postponing a further visit as they, I think, don’t like tight arguments from Italian side).

In further few words, what a person might get from Italian written newspapers looks to me slightly more updated and accurate than what a person may get from UK based newspapers (“The Guardian” is doing a good job by the way). Considering my generally low esteem of Italian mass media system, I expected a little less from Italy – which showed reasonable foreign policy (something forgotten during Berlusconi’s era) – and a little more from some UK mass media since we are talking about a PhD from UK, albeit with a different passport. For instance, “The Times Higher Education” doesn’t publish anything since mid February for what I may see.

For what it may be useful, Regeni’s mother affirmed that if Egyptian police will not provide sound evidence and effective collaboration will show publicly the images of the tortured face of Giulio Regeni: a face his mother was able to recognize only from the point of the nose and that was unnaturally colorful. She said that she saw all the evil of the world concentrated in that face. So far, it looks that this respectful definition didn’t work totally to obtain real collaboration from the “blessed from the Nile country”.



Giulio Regeni’s mother point of view and few other updates

The Whopping Birimbão

What a Birimbão is? Hard to say univocally. It’s a song, an exotic wild instrument, perhaps a place or a particular mood of the soul. Supposedly Brazilian or at least Portuguese-speaking, many would maintain it is Iberic if not Spanish. In my experience Birimbão is a little of all these, but it is above all a nickname-cover of a “young” scholar whose roots are in Southern Italy, a region once upon a time dominated by the Borbonic Royal family from which, who knows?!, maybe the Birimbão came from as an offshoot.

The list of vignettes that Birimbão created is endless, and I’ll try to resume some of them from the memory of my previous blog from Splinder (once known, I got rid of Birimbão, it is a prickly being). For instance, in the name of hippie culture and leftism, a Birimbão is able to share a cab with you paying his half with few Euro nickels-coins (Birimbão is a male, but National Geographic never gave full certainty). He pretends you to work hard while he spends hours at other hippie’s houses for lunch, hoping to find a way to have an affair. In the name of solidarity he might be generous when bargaining a contract, but asks you to leave your office because he is meeting there a woman with whom he has a relationship (although she is not aware of that). Obviously, when talking to other people he is eager to underline the rank distance with you. He may be generous in inviting you in his house for a lunch, but when he complains that you never invited him, he fails to realize that he has an open invitation anytime he is not using: he needs to use this misbalance as a jolly to complain against you. Once he asks you to buy a book, he believes it’s ok not to give you the money in advance: of course he will pay as the proof of the purchase is tangible. When the book is delivered of course he is surprised that you claim the money back (the lunch misbalance is a never-will-be-consumed credit he will show up loudly). Once he finds a way to have a long and stable relationship with a woman, he is devoted in betraying her the most often he can. If a call for a grant is open, you might be quite sure that he will try to find out who is to be his friend in the bureaucratic machine and he will give a genuine present to this person from his countryside (i.e. olive oil). If you wanted to publish a scientific with him (what a crazy endeavor!), it’s better you’d know in advance that you have to write, and he will just correct few things: “cause I am the first author” is his explanation. So far, a funny human being you may laugh at.  [The list might go on, but I cut here]


What is less funny is the behavior I remember when competition grants for students were published still as wallpapers in the corridors of universities, instead of pdf files. In those occasions he used to phone his closest friends giving the details, and a moment later to tear off the announcements in order not to have “improper competition”. Another time he was rammed by people who were police not in service. The story, a tribunal one, was favorable to him at the end… but why policemen did so? Deeds reported he provoked them… Last episode. Once I complained about the small budget we got in cash for the ordinary costs of the module we were working for as adjunct lecturers. He was not adjunct lecturer, he wanted just to use the office for his own purposes and his boldness was very welcome in the name of hippie inspired compulsory etiquette. Well, once told the story of the shortage of money he asked where the money were and – knowing my naïve essence – he ordered me to leave the room for a while. As I was back, by instinct I had to ask why and I felt to need to check the hidden money. He ordered not to check by physical force and insulted me with some pitiful tone by saying “Hey, I didn’t think you were dumb to this extent”. I left the place. The Birimbão’s rule is that of the jungle and when the robbery came out (he stole the money indeed…) it was very embarrassing to me to deduce the events. You know how much money we are talking about? 50€! F I F T Y !

How can a person like this still dwell in academic habitat after so many years? Wouldn’t savannah be more appropriate? Am I the stranger if I believe this person is weird in an university?

I hope my daughter will never meet a Birimbão in her life and you can believe me, if I really had to warn her with an exemplification of the Evil, instead of a Boogeyman I’ll cite the “Whopping Birimbão”!

#GiulioRegeni: one of us murdered in Egypt

Giulio Regeni shouldn’t have been murdered. “He was murdered because he was not just a PhD students [a little younger colleague of mine] rather because he was a political activist”. This is what I heard few days ago from some Senior colleagues. I disagree. I disagree from both a moral and methodological point of view. If he had contacts with unionists or any other kind of “rebels”, he was doing that for the sake of his research. If he was also political activist in Egypt, one of them who can talk Arab fluently and therefore more dangerous from Police’s and Intelligence’s eye, this is up to be proved, but all Giulio looks to be but a spy or a person working for some Intelligence. Yet, if he really was a kind of activist, this does not prove any lack of the second of the point: the moral one. It is easy to affirm that “we the Western people” have more “civilized manners” and we assume for granted that torture ought not to be pursued to an arrested man who was just guilty to stay in place in a certain day. This is what a younger colleague aged like Regeni and with a major in Maghreb political activism told me. In other words, a perfect identical profile of Regeni with long stays just in Egypt too. It is too easy to liquid the story in this way, and neither too right: Italian Establishment in 2001, during the Berlusconi era, committed tortures during the G8 summit in the city of Genoa, and we still wait for full justice. Industrial and post-industrial development don’t change the culture of the peoples; I believe more probable the contrary, but this is a different post for another occasion.

Giulio Regeni

Giulio Regeni murder shocked me even for the very simple reason that he was (how hard and bitter it is to use the past tense!) named like me: Giulio. The ashtag #whereisgiulio has hit me because whoever is in pursuit of some truth is facing some degree of danger. Always.

This touches me and let me return on the Egyptian topic I tried last year to process with some irony here and here: our honeymoon was pretty spoiled by the way many people had to do with us. Of course this murder is more sensible of any uncomfortable tourism or any bomb to one’s Consulate.

“Il Manifesto”, a newspaper originally established in late 60s by politicians and intellectual who exited the Socialist Party and went on the left of the Communist Party opening the 70s season of the Left Extra-Parliament Parties, published a couple of articles: by Regeni and about Regeni.

My point is that the way Regeni was tortured and the roles Egyptian Police and Intelligence held showed a critical weakness in ruling the Country. Mubarak, for instance, had done that with much less rude manners. Now the ally al-Sisi seems to stay clinched to Regeni’s corpse like a boxer who has to way to flee from opponent’s punches and looks for a draw. The opponent is not the Italian PM or any other Italian figure. The Al-Sisi’s opponent this time is Truth.

Italy and Egypt shall play a diplomatic game: gas interests, the Libya affair and common terrorism tackling will probably subvert the prompt discovery of the total and truth. Realpolitik will prevail, and I am not even saying that this is not reasonable. But the point but be developed: although some State’s interest must be preserved, we must realize that just to preserve this national interest, Diplomacy must play the role that it looks Italian side is playing: that to claim truth via conjunct inquiry.

I simply see Egypt like a lost Country with a loss and a deficit in identity in this current world. When a Country murder purposively a researcher or any other intellectual like a journalist making a documentary, there is an only evidence: mala tempora currunt and probabilities of wider and more global conflicts appear as more probable. This is the result of this affair, and we must all stand stiff against these events like those, for instance, happening against Turkish scholars in their home Country. It is all tremendously unacceptable morally. This is hugely inconvenient to be left happen without a clear diplomatic reaction.


This is my little homage – besides the sign on The Guardian’s initiative – for Giulio’s memory for the sine ira ac studio sake of Truth: the only end we ought to follow in the endeavor of Research.

Giulio Regeni RIP