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.

Saving Stephen Huneck’s Dog Mountain

Woodcuts by artist Stephen Huneck

I wanted to feature the artist Stephen Huneck’s work and the incredible Dog Chapel he created on his Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont for a while now. And so here we go, but unfortunately when I began doing research I was shocked to discover he passed away a few years ago. I think that perhaps I didn’t hear about it at the time because I lost someone very special on the exact same day: January 7, 2010. Stephen Huneck took his own life that day because he was distraught over having to lay off his staff. In an ironic twist, the staff was hired back following his death because of the renewed interest in his work. However, things have once again taken a downturn and the future of Dog Mountain is in serious jeopardy.

Stephen Huneck with Lab, Woodcuts and Post

If you’re not familiar with the art of Stephen Huneck, the majority of his work consists of wonderful woodcuts and carvings, usually with dogs as subject matter. The pieces often depict true dog moments and observations with minimal text, but the dogs always retain a certain sense of nobility (as they should!). In addition, he became a NY Times bestselling children’s book author, with many of the books featuring his black Lab Sally as the main character. Following an illness and two-month coma, Mr. Huneck had the idea to create a special place where people could come and visit to honor their spiritual connection with their dogs, Dog Chapel. There is a sign outside the chapel that reads “All Creeds, All Breeds Welcome. No Dogmas Allowed.” People have come from all over the world to visit Dog Chapel, many of them posting notes to their departed dogs on the walls inside.

Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain

I think that Stephen Huneck’s art is absolutely wonderful, but I also think that maybe his most successful piece is the living, breathing one we can all share: Dog Chapel and Dog Mountain. Every dog that visits, every person who comes with a heavy heart and a special message to send, every afternoon spent laughing and playing and enjoying life is the essence of this living piece. I hope that Dog Mountain can stay open, providing so many with the comfort they need after suffering a loss or celebrating life with their friend. If you’re planning a trip to Vermont for the fall color this year, maybe make a stop in St. Johnsbury and visit Dog Chapel and the Stephen Huneck Gallery. Or if you’d like to begin holiday shopping early this year, visit their website‘s online shop because every little bit helps. You can find anything there from keychains to books and puzzles for mobile devices to signed original woodcuts and sculptures.

You can find more information on Stephen Huneck in these articles:
Puppy Love, by Rosalyn Graham
Stephen Huneck, Artist of Dogs, Dies at 61 by Margalit Fox

Most images copyright and courtesy Stephen Huneck Gallery; dog post image, Ann Dabney via Flickr

Marta of Villa Antea in Florence

Marta from Villa Antea, Florence, Italy

On a quick trip to Florence, Italy (I know…who makes a quick trip to Florence?) I stayed at a hotel called Villa Antea that I just happened to find by chance. When I checked in, hotel owner Diletta Lenzi’s little dog Marta was playing with some toys under the desk and of course immediately I felt right at home. Which is good because this hotel used to be the home of Ms. Lenzi’s family, going back to the late 1800’s when they built it. I’m thinking that hotels that have a dog on the premises should list it with their services as a benefit to travelers who miss their own dogs: “We offer laundry services, cable tv, wifi, room service and a dog.” Or something like that.

Villa Antea has a lot of other good things going for it. For one, it’s located in a regular neighborhood, not inside the crazy center of Florence but you can walk there in a few minutes. There’s also parking, which I was glad about since I had been driving all over the place in a little Fiat 500 and wanted to use my legs for a while. When staying there you can pretend that it’s your family’s home from the late 1800’s, the high ceilings and decor help that fantasy along. The rooms are spacious, the bathrooms are gigantic. They provide you with a helpful (and well designed, imagine!) little guidebook with local restaurants, bars, sights, bus info, etc. It’s not crazy expensive, which is a really good thing when it’s business travel and it’s your business. So I would highly recommend Villa Antea if you’re going to Florence and prefer a smaller well-appointed hotel. If you do make the trip, please tell Marta I said hello!

Villa Antea : Via Puccinotti 46, 50129 Firenze, Telephone +39 055.484106

Villa Antea, Florence, Italy