31 December: New Year’s Eve

As if we were catapulted into Hogwarts castle, let’s imagine entering a dark room and, candelabra in hand, illuminate all the scenes of this year one by one. Perhaps for some we deserve a slap (not a slap, not even Boniface VIII). But for others, we couldn’t help but give ourselves a caress. There will … Read more

30 December: Rudyard Kipling was born on this day in 1865

In “The Jungle Book” Mowgli is saved by Kaa the snake who frees him from a tribe of apes by hypnotising them. Some specialists trace our ancestral fear of this reptile back to that felt by primates from whom, non-coincidentally, we are said to descend. The fact is that snakes do hypnotise us: it happened … Read more

29 December: Charles Goodyear was born on this day in 1800

The jazz musician Gil Evans used to say that all art should be an experiment, and that masterpieces were successful experiments. In 1839 Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped some India rubber (compounded with sulphur) onto a hot stove and discovered that this caused the rubber to vulcanize. After that moment, transport would never be the same … Read more

27 December: The play “Peter Pan” received its world premiere on this day in 1904

In “Peter Pan” a crocodile has swallowed Captain Hook’s clock. That’s not going to happen to our clock, so let’s give ourselves five minutes to take a quick trip to “Neverland”… Time has certainly ticked by since J.M. Barrie’s play debuted at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London: a huge success that stretched way … Read more

26 December: Boxing Day – The Feast of Stephen

Holidays often mean outings and so, should you go visiting churches and museums, you might well come across images of St Stephen: you’ll know it’s him because he’ll be holding a stone. He is venerated as the protomartyr of Christianity, and on the day when we often need to beef up the leftovers of yesterday’s … Read more

25 December: Merry Christmas!

On any day of the year, anyone who looks into a cradle basks in reflected glory. Correggio and Jacopo Bassano knew this very well, having depicted exactly this state in all their nativity scenes. We could mention thousands of paintings where the shepherds’ faces are illuminated by a shining light that cannot quite be expressed … Read more

24 December: Christmas Eve

In our grandparents’ days, we Italians were used to observing a strict fast on Christmas Eve. Nowadays, instead, frugality has been left down in the cellar while upstairs in the kitchen everyone is waiting eagerly to tuck in to a Pantagruelian feast. “What’s so unpleasant about being drunk? Ask a glass of water!” writes Douglas … Read more

23 December: Peggy Guggenheim passed away on this day in 1979

Had you been walking around Venice just a few decades ago, Peggy Guggenheim in a gondola would have been a familiar sight. Two distinctive signs would have given her away: her lap dogs and those butterfly-shaped glasses of hers which had been specially designed for the famous American ‘art addict’ by artist Edward Melcarth. It’s … Read more

22 December: Christmas lights were invented on this day in 1882

December means Christmas and Christmas means lights; therefore, lights are Christmas. There’s nothing like a little syllogism to remind us of how consubstantial lights are to this time of the year. From a historical point of view, they arrived on the scene at exactly the right moment in time because wax and candles risked ruining … Read more