11 December: Italo Calvino began writing “The Baron in the Trees” around this time in 1956

What’s a parenthesis? A means of catching one’s breath from the world or from an overly-long sentence, depending on how you look at it. Quite permissible, as long as it’s a visible suspension: let’s say a break from work or a longed-for weekend. A parenthesis is perfect when it comes to self-management and always knows … Read more

10 December: “Suspended Coffee Day” 

In a well-known Italian novel, a certain Professor Bellavista, while giving one of his philosophy classes to his condominium neighbours, explains to them that Mankind is divided in two categories: “men of love” and “men of freedom”. The former prefer having a bath, because it’s a moment when they can let their imagination run free, … Read more

9 December: Clarence Birdseye, the inventor and father of the frozen food industry was born on this day in 1886

Frozen food existed long before this gentleman came onto the scene, but the quality was so bad that New York State even banned it from its prisons. Clarence Birdseye got his breakthrough idea watching fishermen in Labrador preserving their catch for the winter months: the fish was frozen instantly under thick ice, reaching the required … Read more

8 December: The Immaculate Conception

If one considers that the Church has a history of over 2,000 years, today’s feast day is a relatively recent one: it was instituted by Pope Pius IX only in 1854 and established, once and for all, that the mother of Jesus was conceived without sin. Whatever one’s religion is, this date gets the ‘metronome’ … Read more

7 December: St Ambrose 

St Ambrose, the patron saint of Milan is depicted with either a scourge or a honeycomb in his hand: impetus and ambrosian sweetness for a man – a layman, not even a baptised one – who was elected bishop by popular acclamation . Being bishop also meant being “mayor” because Ambrose ruled the city for … Read more

6 December: St Nicholas Day

When talking about presents and reindeer, we should also remember Father Christmas’ medieval ancestor, St Nicholas, whose personal history seems quite distant from that of his jolly successor. Nicholas was born around 270 A.D. in what is present-day Turkey, was persecuted by the Emperor Diocletian and had his nose broken. Among his many, unconfirmed saintly … Read more

5 December: Walt Disney was born on this day in 1901

We like to think that it’s no coincidence that Walt Disney was born twenty days before Santa Claus’s wondrous night; perhaps he was already preparing to share Santa’s chores (as well as the copyright of so many future gifts). But there’s also another side to this story because little Walt could only really be a … Read more

4 December: The hunt for panettones begins

Apart from being the king of Milan, panettone  is one of those few Italian words that requires no translation. We know that in the 19th century, the traditional Italian Christmas cake took on shape that is so familiar to us today, so it’s in the 1800s that we’ll linger a little today. In a letter … Read more

2 December: Maria Callas was born on this 1923

One of the totally forbidden moves in Greco-Roman wrestling is the “neck hold”. And if our Greek prima donna could speak to us today, she might be able to recount several episodes when she either struck, or was herself struck, below the belt: her presumed collusion with German officers during the occupation of Greece, followed … Read more