foof: Italy’s First Museum of the Dog

foof logo

There’s a new museum in Italy that I would love to visit someday, and it’s called foof (and when I do I’ll have to ask them what “foof” means exactly, but it does sound doglike). Located about 45km north of Naples in the Campania region in a coastal town called Mondragone, this is Italy’s first museum dedicated to dogs and it looks like a really wonderful concept. Of course it’s beautiful, because, well, it’s Italian.

foof Museum in Madragone, Italy

Their focus is to explore the history and intersections between man and dog in the areas of work, play, companionship, technology, art and popular culture. You’ll see everything from a 35 million-year-old fossil of a dog from America to original works of art by Botero and Jeff Koons. They also have adoptable dogs there that visitors can meet and get to know in the play areas outside to make that perfect match. But the one thing that I love most of all is their dedication to educating kids and adults, because it’s only through education that the problems of pet overpopulation, animal abuse and abandonment will improve and become a thing of the past.

foof Museum in Madragone, Italy

For me, foof combines my favorite things under the sun: dogs, design, Italy and good deeds. If you would like to visit foof in Mondragone, you can get the details from their website here. Foof! Foof!

All photos property of foof.

Diogenes “The Dog”

Painting of Diogenes in his jar with dogs by Jean-Léon Gérôme

I don’t know about you, but I find it to be so incredibly fascinating how dogs are woven into human history. It seems that at every turn, there’s something about a dog’s role in our evolution. And I’m not just talking about a caveman with a dog for protection and survival, but the ways that they’ve helped to shape our thinking and philosophy…

Diogenes of Sinope was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. A rebel, he turned his back on his banker father and chose to separate himself from regular society by living in a jar in the middle of town and hanging out with dogs. He was the kind of guy you’d meet and probably think to yourself “What a jerk!” and then realize, well, he’s got a good point. He was known for stunts like carrying a lamp around in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man. When he met Alexander the Great, who was thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, and was asked if there was anything he could do for him, Diogenes replied “Yes, stand out of my sunlight.” Nice. After that, Alexander declared “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes”, to which Diogenes replied “If I were not Diogenes, I should also wish to be Diogenes.” Well, okay then!

Alexander the Great meeting Diogenes

Now hold on, before we go any further, just because Diogenes was a Cynic, don’t start thinking of him as the original “Debbie Downer”. Like a lot of things, the meaning of the word “cynic” has evolved to be something negative in our modern world. According to The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “classical Cynics regarded virtue as the only necessity for happiness. They sought to free themselves from conventions; become self-sufficient; and live only in accordance with nature. They rejected any conventional notions of happiness involving money, power, or fame, in the pursuit of virtuous, and thus happy, lives. In rejecting conventional social values, they would criticise the types of behaviours, such as greed, which they viewed as causing suffering.” And there were other things they stood for, like cosmopolitanism, freedom of speech, a woman’s right to choose her mate, constitutional law, and—as the name indicates—emulating the simple behaviors of dogs. By the 19th century, however, emphasis shifted to the negative aspects of the philosophy, leading to the modern understanding of cynicism to mean “a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions.” Boo.

And what is the connection with dogs? Well, the term “cynic” derives from the Greek word kynikos which means “dog-like”. From Wikipedia: “Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. Besides performing natural bodily functions in public with ease, a dog will eat anything, and make no fuss about where to sleep. Dogs live in the present without anxiety, and have no use for the pretensions of abstract philosophy. In addition to these virtues, dogs are thought to know instinctively who is friend and who is foe. Unlike human beings who either dupe others or are duped, dogs will give an honest bark at the truth.”

So it appears that even way back then, dogs were recognized by some important thinkers as role models for how society should be, and I’m down with that. Well, except for the public display of a few bodily functions. Shine on, Diogenes.

Diogenes statue, with lantern and dog

I realize this was a brisk breeze through the topic of Diogenes and Cynicism, but you can read more here if you are interested. Thanks to Wikipedia for the information and images. 

Images from top: Diogenes, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1860; Alexander and Diogenes, Caspar de Crayer, c. 1650; statue of Diogenes at Sinop, Turkey.

A Beautiful Sunday : Varazze & Genoa


One Sunday in Italy a few weeks ago, a local friend offered to give me a quick tour of Varazze and Genoa. The weather for some of my trip had been drizzly, cloudy and very much like you’d expect to find in the north of Italy in October, but somehow over the weekend the temperatures warmed up to about 85 degrees and that was perfect for visiting two Mediterranean spots. I peeled off my sweater! I took off my socks! It was a wonderful break.

First we went to Varazze, a small city along the coast west of Genoa. People were on the beach in their swimsuits, kids playing, people strolling. There were kids doing their sailing classes, proud parents waiting on the pier. It felt like summer! Eventually I had to stop for the obligatory gelato. A very nice town.


And of course there were dogs, lots of them out and about enjoying the gorgeous weather. Luckily my friend was (sort of) okay with me snapping away with my camera, taking pictures of his countrymen’s dogs. Actually, after noticing more dogs than he normally would, he’s beginning to consider getting himself a dog. :-)


This gorgeous full-of-life boy is Athos, and I just love his stride. You can see that he enjoys cruising along like he owns the harbor (maybe he does?) and occasionally stirring things up with the other dogs he meets.


Next, we jumped into the car and zipped off to Genoa. I was shocked (okay, horrified) to see a dog riding on the Vespa directly ahead of us. It’s not so much that the dog was on a Vespa (although that’s scary enough) but this dog was not in any type of carrier and was free to move around the rider’s feet! At one point his head was sticking out from the right side, and then he completely turned to poke his head out the left side, which is when I took this photo. Look closely and you can see the pup’s brown and white head. Hmmm :-/


Genoa was a much larger city than I’d expected. It was also very interesting, with some of the most beautiful buildings and narrow streets I’d ever seen. My tour guide/friend pointed out lots of interesting places and offered some historical background and facts (for example, the streets are narrow to cut down on strong winds). When we arrived, he pointed out one area in particular near the waterfront saying “you probably wouldn’t want to walk around in there alone at night.” Okay. So as the sun began to set, the reason became obvious: the prostitutes started coming out and doing their thing. What’s surprising about that, at least to me, is that it was still relatively early evening, around 6pm. People were still out with their kids! I think even my friend was a little shocked.


So I have to admit, somewhere along the line (design school? some movie?) I’d heard something less than nice about Genoa. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but I think it was described as nothing more than a grubby port city. I didn’t find that to be the case at all, nothing shabby about Genoa. In fact, the whole seafarer/exploration aspect was evident everywhere and I could feel its adventurous maritime past wafting in the air. After this quick day trip, I’m looking forward to spending more time in Genoa myself, and I’d highly recommend it to you also! And yes, there were lots of dogs (and pesto & focaccia)!