I Like Varese

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Okay, well I’ve only been here for a few hours, but I think I’ve seen more dogs here than anywhere else in Italy.

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This one was being good hanging outside a cafe, but he really wanted to come inside. It’s difficult for me to capture the scale of this dog, he was enormous. If my dog George who is 92 pounds put on a fat suit, he still wouldn’t be as big.

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Then these two characters seemed like long lost pals. Or siblings?

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Everywhere I looked, there were more.

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For each one I photographed, there were 5 or 6 more that I didn’t. They were inside shops and sharing appetizers in bars. Little ones, big ones, old ones and puppies. So here in Varese, dogs seem to be the thing. I like Varese.

The In-Betweens

Looking out along the Ligurian coast in Camogli

It’s about that time. The time when I get all of my big ideas and crossed fingers (so to speak) packed up for the next trip to Italy for Pantofola. All I have to do is keep my eye on the horizon for inspiration, just like every other explorer ever, reminding myself that anything is possible even when you’re a small entrepreneur with a carry-on bag full of crossed fingers.

Certainly having your own business has its perks, everybody knows that. But when that business involves regular travel to a place like Italy, those perks are pretty darn perky. Sure, there is a certain amount of stress with running around, business discussions, putting your best foot forward and feeling like you’re always on the mark. That’s all pretty exhilarating. But there are also the in-between moments and experiences, and that is the best part.

Images from business travel trips to Italy

Sometimes you can capture those moments in pictures or videos, but not always. It might just be the scent of freshly baked chocolate croissants or a few minutes of eavesdropping on gossip in a café. Or a brief but memorable interaction. On a recent rail journey, I sat in my window seat dreading the moment I’d have to get my bag down from the overhead rack because it was pretty heavy. And it’s not that I couldn’t get it down myself, but I figured it wouldn’t be very graceful and I didn’t want to whack anyone. As we approached my station, I stepped over the guy next to me and stood in the aisle, trying to keep my balance. When I felt fairly stable, I reached above but suddenly a guy on the other side of the aisle (who looked a lot like Viggo Mortensen) looked up from his phone, jumped up and got the bag down for me safely. Embarrassed at the weight of the bag, I thanked him and apologized about it, but of course he said the perfect suave Italian guy thing in the perfect nonchalant manner: “It was my pleasure to help you, so it was no problem.” Swoon. Oh. Okay. Well, that I’ll remember. No photo necessary.

More images of trips to Italy

Thanks, I’m Good Now

Loyal dog waiting patiently outside corner shop

Note: I’ve noticed that posts about travel, Italy, and dogs are pretty popular (yay!). Because a lot of my travel is to Italy for the business I’ve started that’s about dogs, I decided to do some posts with adventures as I follow along this entrepreneurial path. You can read a little more about Pantofola on the About page.

Being an entrepreneur is a tricky thing. Trying to do business with Italian manufacturers and suppliers when you’re a small little upstart, that’s a tricky thing, too. Oh, and not being fluent in Italian is also a tricky thing. Okay, so it’s all tricky. And when I say tricky, that’s a nice way of saying tough, but with an added measure of “I can do it!” oomph. So with a healthy dose of “I can do it!” in my back pocket, I keep going. Plus, by choosing Italy for manufacturing I’m hoping that if an emotional outburst should occur down the road, it’s more likely to be accepted by Italians than another not-so-expressive culture.

One evening after a very long day at a leather trade show I came close. I climbed onto a packed bus with all the other exhausted attendees heading back to the city center. I didn’t have a ticket, and the machine onboard wasn’t working so I decided I should do the moral thing and hop off. I know what you’re thinking: that was stupid. And it was, because I ended up in a zone without many pedestrians, traffic, other buses, street lights, and everything was closing for the night. Oh, I should have taken karate. The other problem is that in Italy you can’t just hail a cab. Well, you can try, but they won’t stop and you end up being the crazy lady flapping your arms around like an angry penguin.

Now I’m not saying Bologna is a bad city but bad things happen everywhere, it was dark and my imagination was in overdrive. I walked and walked, trying to figure out what options I had. Why am I here? Eventually I came to a corner store (also closing up for the night) and saw this loyal dog sitting there waiting patiently for someone inside. Immediately I felt relaxed, calmed, comforted, safe. I was good now. Somehow just by seeing this calm dog I was able to take a deep breath and think more clearly. But not only did the sight of this dog put an end to my panic, it also served as a potent reminder for why I started this business in the first place: the human + canine bond. Thankful for the reminder, I kept walking and one street over I found a bus stop with a map and hopped on the next bus.