by C. Flisi

Madiba was there as always, waiting for me. Walking from the Cadorna train station in the chaotic center of Milan, I crossed the busy, building-lined piazza as cars, buses, taxis, and trams snaked around. Escaping the claxons and confusion, I took the shortcut onto quieter, pedestrian-only Via Puccini heading toward the Duomo. A yellow ochre theater was to my left and a few cafès to my right, and dog-walkers sometimes in the middle. Then I crossed the street (San Giovanni sul Muro) and followed what became a narrow alleyway flanked by the greyish stone walls of offices. This was now…

by C. Flisi

The man standing in front of me with two small children in tow looked desperate. The three of them — along with more than 100 other people — were waiting in line for the elephant ride, but when the attendant asked him for his tickets, he shrugged.

“We came here to ride these elephants and now they have eaten our tickets,” he repeated. “When we were feeding them fruit just before, one of them grabbed the tickets with her trunk and now they are gone.”

The assistant at the National Elephant Conservation Center in Kuala Gandah, Malaysia (about 100 kilometers…

Few dogs have matched their names as perfectly as this.

by C. Flisi

“In the Odyssey we may liken Homer to the setting sun: his glory remains but the heat of his beams has abated.

Longinus, On the Sublime, c. 250

Few dogs have matched their names as perfectly as Homer de la Pinêde de la Côte. He might have been born to it, though the “Homer” part came about by happenstance. The “de la Pinêde de la Côte” was part of his pedigree, and by purest chance we lived in a villa on the Côte d’Azur called “la Pinêde”. Homer was born in Nimes, France, and every French dog with a pedigree…

foto supplied by La Ninna

Are hedgehogs oenophiles? One might think so, given the location of

Italy’s first hedgehog rescue center, right next door to Piedmont’s most

renowned wine-growing area — Barolo.

But no, hedgehogs don’t eat grape leaves. (They are insectivores). Nor

was I headed to one of the 286 vineyards in the province of Cuneo,

where Barolo is located. I was headed to Novello, a tiny town bordering

Barolo, for an experience unique in Italy and impossible to ;nd

anywhere in the Americas. Novello is the location of Italy’s first

hedgehog sanctuary, The Centro Recupero Ricci “La Ninna” (the “La

Ninna” Hedgehog Rescue…

foto by C. Flisi

Why is Neapolitan pizza so particular the world around? What elevates it from mere leavened bread with a choice of toppings to one of the world’s most revered noshes? Is the cook the key? Hmm, maybe its status comes from its Neapolitan pizzaiolo(pizza maker), for whom a pizza is more than a foodstuff. It can be a memory of childhood, a history of the city, a key to socialization, or a lifeboat of salvation.

Those are some of the reflections I gathered from several of Italy’s outstanding pizza chefs when they came together to showcase both their talents and the…

by C.Flisi

This year’s Covid Christmas is the antithesis of a dream vacation, but it won’t be as negative as my holiday from hell 10 years ago. That was an unforgettable experience, spent alone, trapped between crowded airports and empty hotels in a snowstorm, with my family an ocean away.

The nightmare began on December 22. Our far-flung family had decided to vacation in Turks and Caicos for the holidays. My sons and husband — traveling from different locations — were already there, and I was supposed to join them, flying from our home in Milan, Italy, to Zurich, then Miami, then…

by C.Flisi

The cobras in India were less of a threat than the water buffalo, the elephants commanded as much respect as the lions in Botswana, and mad dogs were the biggest danger in Mongolia.

In other words, trekking on horseback in developing countries means you are not riding in Kansas anymore . . . or the Cotswolds, Canada, or the Camargue. The horses and gear are different, the way the animals are treated is different, and the landscapes, language, and customs are unlike anything you may have encountered before. …

by C. Flisi

Last year at this time, my entire home looked and smelled different. The cabinets were dust-free, the chair covers and pillows were washed and fresh-smelling, the silver candlesticks were polished and gleaming. The kitchen smelled of chocolate cake, browned butter, cornbread, onion with sage. Turkey not yet; that would perfume the house the day before the feast.

One might suppose this was a normal American home preparing for an onslaught of family for the holidays. But no, not one relative among my 16 guests last year, and only one other American. …

I know that our love will continue after my body has gone.

C. Flisi

I have to start preparing Mom for my death. She sometimes mentions how hard it was when my older brother died. She had known ahead of time but only by a few weeks. It wasn’t nearly enough, she would sigh with a sad shake of her head. So I knew I had to start the process sooner.

I began paving the way last year, to keep her from suffering the way she had with him. I got very sick, had to go to the vet for an IV twice a day for a week. I didn’t eat or drink, and…

Wikimedia commons

Few visitors to Romania come to Snagov Monastery. Fewer still have ever heard of it, in spite of its connection to the life (actually the death) of Count Dracula, the country’s most famous native.

Technically, as a fictional character (and a vampire), Dracula didn’t live OR die. But his real-life counterpart, Vlad Țepeș (Vlad the Impaler), did end up at Snagov, maybe.

Vlad the Impaler followed a human trajectory — he was born in Romania and died there. However, where and how his death happened, and where Vlad’s body was laid to rest, is cloaked in mystery. Many historians claim…


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