Weekend Dog Watching in Italy

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After a pretty long hiatus from blog posts, I’m back! When I first started this blog I posted every day, then gradually started tapering off. I was busy launching Pantofola, my brand of dog accessories that are made in Italy, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking that I really need to resume my blog posts. There were some blogs I followed and when those posts started dwindling I always felt sad, and wondered what happened?! So if anyone has wondered that about me and/or felt sad, I promise to get back to some regular posting.

A few weeks ago I spent a week in Italy meeting with my factory for some new items and collections, and also to attend the semi-annual mega leather fair in Milan. I always try and attend the fair because it’s easier than traveling all over to visit tanneries and other suppliers. Anyway, the first part of my trip was getting over jet lag and becoming reacquainted with life in Italy. It seems I’ve made the city of Varese my home away from home, and since I prefer smaller cities it’s become quite comfy. My first post about Varese can be found here.

One of my favorite things to do is stroll around the center of the city and since I was there over a weekend I was able to do a lot of people watching, and dog watching of course. It seemed as though everyone was out, meeting and greeting. This sweet Golden Retriever was more than happy to get neck and belly rubs from passersby…

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And these two guys were happy to check each other out, although one seems not quite as thrilled as the other…

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Of course there was no shortage of kids, and kids and dogs just seem to go together…

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This one I especially liked because he looked a lot like my dog Chappie, who I was missing already…

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Big ones, small ones, no one can escape the crazy American dog lady with her iPhone camera in hand…

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Of course there were other things going on during the weekend. There were markets both days, with everything to eat that you could possibly imagine. From the point of view of the dogs that were strolling around, I suppose this seller would have been a popular hangout…

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…and wouldn’t it be so easy just to quickly help yourself to some wild boar sausage or a slice of prosciutto on a Saturday afternoon? Why not? It’s la dolce vita after all.

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For me, I prefer something more along the lines of this seller…

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Actually, the best thing of all was already on my radar: the famous gelato chain Grom has opened a Varese location which was very close by. So, like a moth to a flame I went…

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That was Salted Caramel and Coffee together. It was so tasty, the next day I went back for a cup of Salted Caramel and Nougat because, when in Rome…or Varese…

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Not a bad way to spend the first few days in Italy, enjoying a weekend in a lovely city and strolling along with the locals. I’m sure that I blended right in, apart from that pesky iPhone camera.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

Il Cucciolo

Agriturismo Il Cucciolo

This post is about a lovely 25-acre agriturismo in Italy called Il Cucciolo, which translates to “The Puppy”, but first I have to own up to the path that brought this place to my attention: the credit goes to my cat Ponyo. Yes, I said it, a cat. In the way that cats climb on bookshelves (and everything else), Ponyo knocked a book down that I had forgotten about. Crafty girl, it was a good suggestion. And that’s where I’ll begin.

I bought Philosophy Dog, The Art of Living with Man’s Best Friend by Breon O’Farrell many years ago in San Francisco at the now defunct Stacey’s Books on Market Street. It caught my eye because it’s beautiful and the topic is dogs. It’s loaded with great photography and typography, oh and it’s about dog training but clearly that facet was lost on me and mine. Maybe Ponyo was giving us a suggestion.

Philosophy Dog by Breon O'Farrell

 

Pages from Philosophy Dog by Breon O'Farrell

While becoming reacquainted with this book, I discovered that Breon O’Farrell had been a successful dog trainer in New York with talented dog-loving clients and friends like photographer Bruce Weber (which comes in handy when you’re putting a book together). Then I found that Mr. O’Farrell along with his Italian-born wife and kids now operates a great little gem of an agriturismo in the heart of Perugia called Il Cucciolo. You can take your dogs on holiday there for fun and training, with classes taught by Breon O’Farrell himself.

Breon O'Farrell and dogs at Il Cucciolo

I haven’t visited Il Cucciolo yet, but I sure plan to get there one day. I’m smitten by the whole idea of this place. Most of my trips to Italy (okay, pretty much all of them) are for business and I’m primarily up in the north, but I would love to venture down to Il Cucciolo, and why not? Cooking classes, mushroom and truffle hunting, yoga, hikes in the hills, hanging out with dogs! I’m there. Beautiful.

Il Cucciolo Agriturismo

I think Mr. O’Farrell had the right idea to leave the crowded city for a gorgeous place like this. I’m willing to bet there are quite a few people daydreaming of a life like this right about now. If that’s true and this post inspires someone somewhere to make a big life change, it can all be traced back to Ponyo’s bookshelf climb that day. Crafty girl.

If you’d like to contact Il Cucciolo, you can visit their website here. You can also check out their Facebook page with more photos and info here.

Other contact information:
Agriturismo Il Cucciolo, Vocabolo Figlino n. 31, Petrelle, 06010 Città di Castello (PG)
Tel/Fax: (From USA 011-39)-0758504138, (From Europe 0039)-0758504138
Cell.: (From USA 011-39)-3331877849, (From Europe 0039)-3331877849

Email: info@agriturismoilcucciolo.com

Agriturismo photos: courtesy and property of Il Cucciolo

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

 

Hachikō visits Montréal

Hachiko in Montreal

The Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal 2013 is taking place this summer at the Montréal Botanical Gardens and I’m so glad someone had the brilliant idea to create who else but—Hachikō! If you’re not familiar with this event, it’s similar to Pasadena’s Rose Parade held each New Year’s Day here in America, except the sculptures aren’t floating and bobbing down Colorado Boulevard. And the horticultural artists seem to use more leafy plants versus flowers. Each one has a cultural theme that stems (oops, a plant pun) from the artist’s country of origin. There is also a catalog of plants that must be followed in your design.

Hachiko in Montreal

I think they did a great job with Hachikō. Besides capturing his classic pose, they also recreated the platform at the train station where he would wait each day for his owner to return. (For background information on Hachikō, here is my post with his story.)

Hachiko on Platform, Montreal

Another dog that made it into the show is this one, companion of Elzéard Bouffier who was the main character in the tale The Man Who Planted TreesL’homme Qui Plantait des Arbres by French author Jean Giono. The story is about a man who reforests a valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century, so this was a great choice for the exhibit. An animated short of the story by Frédéric Back was released in 1987 and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, I would love to see it.

The Man Who Planted Trees

Of course there are many more amazing sculptures on display with all kinds of animals prominent in the theme. Below are examples from Montreal, Okinawa, Shanghai and Madagascar.

Montreal Botanical GardensOkinawa at the Montreal Botanical GardensShanghai at the Montreal Botanical GardensMadagascar at the Montreal Botanical Gardens

If you will be visiting Montreal before September 29, why not spend a few hours checking out these beautiful sculptures? Here is the event website for more information.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

Photos courtesy Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal 2013 and flickr.

Giving Our Regards to Broadway

Pantofola collars & dog

So happy and honored to be donating an official Pantofola collar to this year’s annual Broadway Barks fundraiser taking place July 13th in the heart of New York’s theater district!

Now in its 15th year, Broadway Barks was started by Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters with the goal of raising donations and awareness for New York City animal shelters and adoption agencies. The event takes place in Shubert Alley (located between 44th and 45th Streets, between Broadway and Eighth Avenues) from 3:30 to 6:30pm. There are raffles, autographs, and a parade onstage of adoptable animals that are shown by Broadway celebrities and glitterati. This year’s show opens with a performance from the Jersey Boys, which I’m sure will be fantastic. You can see the full list of stars and events here.

So, all together now—

“Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square,
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street, that I will soon be there;
Whisper of how I’m yearning to mingle with the old time throng;
Give my regards to old Broadway and say that I’ll be there ere long.”

Edward Tufte is a Dog Guy

Edward Tufte Sculpture & Dog Photo

On my recent trip to New York, I made it a point to check out the gallery of Edward Tufte in Chelsea. If you’re not familiar with Edward Tufte, he’s kind of the worldwide father of information design, among many other things. I was lucky to attend one of his all-day lectures back in 1996 in San Francisco, and boy was it fascinating. I’ll never forget watching him zip around the room, passionately pulling imaginary pixels from the air. Most of his career was spent as Professor of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science, Senior Critic, School of Art at Yale University, from 1977 to 1999, and he continues there as Emeritus Professor. But what I didn’t know is that he’s a practicing artist, mostly sculpture that’s dotting the Connecticut countryside. It was his apparent love for dogs in his work and personal life that caught my eye.

Edward Tufte Gallery, Chelsea

So the first thing I did in New York (although I did briefly pass through Eataly) was to make my way to his gallery and see some of the dog works in person. I didn’t see this “dog friendly” sign at the time, but I did notice there was a bowl of fresh sparkling water at the gallery’s entrance for thirsty patrons of the arts that might be out and about cruising the Chelsea arts district on a warm June day. Mr. Tufte gets another point from me.

Edward Tufte's dog sculptures, Chelsea

This sculpture is the one that I wanted to see most of all, and I was able to see both the large one at the top and the “mini-me” version below, which also appears in the first photo in this post along with Porta the Portuguese Water Dog, the real life model. Porta appears to be giving it the critic’s review. There is some great information and photos about the process on his website here.

The piece below was also on display, and I’m hoping it’s a dog…I assumed it was at the time, but I was too caught up in the moment and now I’m not completely sure because it feels a little equine. Apologies if I’m wrong.

Edward Tufte Sculpture

There are also some great photographs by Tufte on display, and he appears to have a good sense of humor:

Sorry I Bit the Christie's Guy photo by Edward Tufte

I pulled this photo from the official Edward Tufte website. It shows his dog Ace visiting the gallery and taking stock of the dog works on display. I think it would be really great if he could be wearing a black turtleneck here. With maybe a pipe.

Tufte's dog Ace at ET Modern

And as a reference for some of Edward Tufte’s other work, this photo (also from his website) shows his landscape piece titled Dear Leader I. Three of his dogs are shown in the photo also, according to Mr. Tufte, to provide a sense of scale. But of course I think they make it better!

Dear Leader I by Edward Tufte, 2006

I’m really glad that someone I’ve admired for a long time turns out to be a pretty big dog person. But before I sign off here, I want to say a little bit more about information design, because most people don’t really know what that means. In the profession of graphic design, you will often meet people who don’t understand what it is you do exactly, but it basically boils down to the visual display of information. Sadly, the perception is your role is limited to “making business cards and brochures”. Here is an excellent example of information design, not designed by Edward Tufte but it’s one of his favorites and available to purchase for framing:

Napoleon's March to Moscow

The design of this poster reflects Napoleon’s winter march to Moscow in the War of 1812. On the left side, the top shape indicates the population of Napoleon’s army of 442,000 at the beginning of the campaign. As the march progresses to the right, markers along the route indicate position and the thinning of the band depicts shrinking troop size. When Napoleon’s men arrive in Moscow at the far right, they are down to 100,000 troops and their retreat path is shown in black. This ever-thinning band is tied to temperature and time, ultimately dwindling to just 10,000 troops when they arrive back at their starting point. In Mr. Tufte’s book, he states “it may well be the best statistical graphic ever drawn.” And maybe the most poignant.

If you’re interested in visiting Edward Tufte’s gallery in Chelsea, you can get the info here. Just one thing: I learned on my visit that this is a temporary gallery (they are unsure of just how long) so make your way there sooner than later. The great thing about its location is that it’s just steps from an entrance to the High Line, which I wrote about in my last post.

For information on Edward Tufte, any of his four books, projects, prints or lectures, visit his website here.

Edward Tufte's books

New York

In Pursuit of Magic

Last week I took a trip to New York for some important meetings, but on my first day there I spotted this stenciled message as I made my way to Chelsea. Immediately I realized that although the meetings were very important for my business, the overall reason for my visit was the pursuit of magic. And I found it, I always do because it’s always there. New York never disappoints.

I have to admit something: long ago before my first visit, I really wasn’t sure about New York. Endless reports of crime, filthy subways, crowds of rude pushy people, nasty cabdrivers running people over, etc. But what I found out right away is that’s not really true, and any of those things can and do exist in most large cities. I also found out that New Yorkers by and large are the kindest, friendliest, and most helpful people anywhere. It goes without saying that they are also some of the most resilient.

Of course there are dogs. These first two were waiting for their owner outside a Starbucks. At first I felt special that they were being so sweet waiting for me to get a good photo…then I realized their owner was standing behind me, waiting patiently with her coffee. You can see their eyes are glued on her instead!

Dogs at Starbucks

I saw dogs out for walks near the Flatiron Building, sparkly Mia and Vienna in town for a fundraiser doggie fashion show, dogs and their walker under scaffolding taking a break, and a cute paper dog in the window of Kate’s Paperie wedding shop. Yes, they were everywhere as you might expect.

New York doggies

On the sunny day that I visited Chelsea, I finally took a stroll along the High Line. If you’re not familiar with it, the High Line is a pedestrian walkway elevated above the street that stretches for many blocks. A former rail line, this is now a botanical wonderland that continues to be maintained by the volunteer group Friends of the High Line. Visit the High Line website here for some cool information including animated journeys.

Walking along the High Line

And it’s not just what you see on the High Line that’s spectacular. Equally stunning is what you’ll see from the High Line. And, taking a break from traffic and stoplights is also a big plus. All I needed was an ice cream cone. Drawback: they don’t allow dogs. Boo.

Views from The High Line

So while the sights and sounds of New York make it a great place to visit, I’ve found that its spirit is the most intoxicating element. The dreams that you bring with you, and the people you meet there who already understand that. You don’t have to say very much, they know. I spent a lot of time in the Garment District, seeing the racks of clothing, the hustle and the bustle. Those are someone’s dreams rolling around on those wheels. The fashion design student working in the shop selling zippers and buckles, they definitely get it. The artist working days in a gallery and painting at night, he gets it too. Go anywhere, it doesn’t have to be Broadway, it’s in the air so just inhale it. Just like Frank Sinatra sang, “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…”

Thanks, New York. I’ll see you again soon.

Paws in NY concrete

PS: it turns out the In Pursuit of Magic stencil I saw is a very cool undertaking. From their website: two female street artists on a crusade to elevate consciousness and amplify meaning in the world. Thanks, ladies. You can visit their site here.

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.