The day the Lunar Rover got a parking ticket

Gene’s Lunar Rover has been parked on the moon for 42 years without any particular administrative problems, but Milan is a whole different kettle of fish. On 28 October 2014, Cernan was driving the electrically-powered Lunar Rover – the one that he had driven for 35 km on the moon in 1972 – in Via Montenapoleone, Milan, when a traffic policeman pushed through the crowds, block of tickets and pencil ready, and wrote a parking ticket. But it was all fine, because the traffic policemen were there to provide security for Cernan and the vehicle, present for the inauguration of the new Omega boutique at number 16 of the famous shopping street. Cernan parked adroitly and neatly (not in “Milanese style” on the pavement), disembarked, and held up his left wrist. “This is the watch that went to the moon.”


His watch is of course an Omega Speedmaster. He said, ““The Speedmaster is the only thing we took the Moon that had no modification whatsoever – it was right off the shelf. What’s interesting about my first one is that it’s beat up, it’s never been cleaned, it’s never been repaired and to this day I can take that watch and wind it and it keeps time as well as the day I got it. And I’ve walked in space with it for two and a half hours and worn it on the Moon for over three days.”

Gene Cernan was the last human to set foot on the moon. He spent three days on the lunar surface, and when, on 14 December 1972, he climbed the ladder back into the Lunar Module, it was a poignant moment for him and for the story of man in space. As far back as 1970, NASA and President Nixon had decided to cut short the Apollo series, for which missions were planned up to number 20, in order to concentrate on the Space Shuttle and other programmes. While Apollo 17 was returning to Earth, Nixon said in a statement, “This may be the last time in this century that men will walk on the Moon.”


For Omega, the mission to a boutique in Via Montenapoleone was also a lengthy and complex task. The brand needed a larger space, and found it at number 16, when the Lorenzi family, who for decades had run a store selling knives and shaving accessories, decided to sell to Swatch Group. The boutique is a bright and pleasant space, with curving display units in light-coloured wood and plate glass. All around, the vast Omega heritage, not just watches, but jewellery, James Bond, George Clooney, and the conquest of space.

Celebrations continued in the evening, when Milan’s Science Museum (Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia) inaugurated their new section dedicated to space. The interactive exhibition includes some original objects, including space suits and gloves, and a fragment of space rock. Eugene Cernan was accompanied on the moon by geologist Harrison Schmitt, the only scientist in the Apollo programme, but this piece of Taurus Littrow Valley was collected by Gene Cernan. In 1973, President Nixon gave it to the Italian government, which in turn gave it to the Science Museum in Milan.

I had the opportunity to speak both to Stephen Urquhart, President of Omega, and Gene Cernan. I couldn’t resist asking Mr. Urquhart about Omega and its privileged position as the only watch officially chosen by NASA to accompany manned space missions. “The watch was chosen as a backup, and it was only towards the end of preparations for the Apollo missions that the people at NASA realized that they needed a watch of this type. In Apollo 13 the watch played a pivotal role in timing the engine activation necessary to get them back on course. They used it to perfection, it wasn’t an easy thing to do under that stress.”
Omega’s close connection to the exploration of space is an important marketing tool, and today this is accompanied by other modern techniques such as product placement. I asked Mr. Urquhart about the significance of films such as Casino Royale and Skyfall.

“You mention the names of the films, I mention the name of the character, Mr. Bond. James Bond, even when the films are not that great, has an aura about him. It’s striking that even though the films are set in the present, the actual story dates back to the same era as the race to the moon, in the 1960s. If you buy a watch today, you are looking for sophistication, efficiency, pleasure, and James Bond is the same thing. James Bond is a story and a dream, and mechanical watches are also a dream and this is why they are coming back so strongly. They have that emotion.”

Gene Cernan is an Omega ambassador, and he could also be described as a motivational speaker, such is his enthusiasm. His message to young people is: “The dreamers of today are the doers of tomorrow, they will make the impossible possible. It happened in my life. I lived on the moon for three days.” He described how his initial dream, as a youngster born in 1934, was simply to fly planes off an aircraft carrier, and how one day he received an unexpected call saying that the navy was interested in recommending him to NASA for the space programme, and would he like to volunteer? “If I would have ever told people that I would have thought that ten years after I graduated, I would be walking in space around the world, they would have put me in an asylum. So I’ve always said, nothing is impossible.”

Gene described his relationship with his Omega watches. “This is the watch I flew in space with three times. I wore two watches, one for timing, and the other one I set for the time in Houston, Texas. I would look at the earth, and I would think, ‘the sun is rising on Texas. My daughter has gotten up, eaten her breakfast, she’s catching the school bus.’ Then I would look at the watch later, and it would be 7, 8 or 9 o’clock in Texas, and I would say, ‘hey, my daughter is eating dinner, done her homework, saying her prayers and going to bed.’ That watch was my security, like Linus’ blanket. It was a window through which I could see into my real world.”

At the press conference for the presentation of the new Space and Astronomy section of the Science Museum in Milan, sponsored by Omega, journalist and curator Gianni Caprara asked Gene whether he thought the next destination, Mars, was a real possibility, and whether he would go. To resounding applause, Gene Cernan replied, in his characteristic Texan drawl, “I’d leave for Mars tomorrow morning!”

This article was first published on, click here to read it there

Read more about the new area of Space and Astronomy at the Science Museum in Milan
Read more about the Omega Speedmaster and other chronograph watches


10 buoni motivi per mangiare tanta frutta e verdura fresca

photo 3-2000Non c’è più tempo. E’ ora che tutti sappiano che mangiare tanti prodotti animali fa male alla salute e al mondo, mentre il consumo di frutta e verdura fresca e cruda fa bene. C’è anche la questione etica, ma in questo articolo voglio parlare soprattutto della questione della salute.

1. Si può sopravvivere senza la carne
L’idea che la carne e il pesce siano necessari per una dieta equilibrata è una bugia ancora oggi perpetrata da alcuni nutrizionisti e scienziati. Si trova tutto di quello che serve al corpo umano nei prodotti derivati dalle piante, tante delle quali contengono alcuni aminoacidi (le molecole che servono per costruire le proteine), mentre la soia contiene addirittura tutti. Milioni di persone sopravvivono benissimo come vegetariani o vegani. Alcuni sono sportivi olimpionici.

2. Un armamento di composti organici
La frutta e le verdure fresche contengono tantissime sostanze interessanti quali vitamine, provitamine, enzimi, catalizzatori e altri, molte delle quali dedicate pochissima attenzione da parte dei ricercatori. Queste molecole sono utilissime al corpo umano che ogni giorno è impegnato nella costruzione e ricostruzione di tessuti e nella lotta contro i patogeni, le malattie e le cellule mutanti. A volte il corpo possiede già le risorse che servono per combattere la malattia, a volte invece gli mancano alcuni microelementi e minerali. Sono proprio questi che vengono forniti dalla frutta e verdura al naturale – la cottura snatura le macromolecole e limita, o addirittura cancella, le loro proprietà funzionali.

3. Il corpo ha dimenticato come sintetizzare alcune sostanze
Uno dei grandi misteri della biologia è perché le piante abbiano un numero di geni nella loro DNA molto maggiore rispetto agli animali (tra i quali gli uomini) che sono organismi molto più complessi. Noi abbiamo circa 20.000 geni, mentre le piante ne hanno almeno 50.000. Una spiegazione possibile è che le piante devono poter risolvere certe situazioni negative utilizzando le loro proprie risorse, mentre un organismo mobile come un uomo può gestirlo in modo diverso. Per esempio, se un uomo ha sete, può camminare finché non trova dell”acqua, mentre se una pianta va a corto dell’acqua deve adattare il suo metabolismo per sopravvivere fino a quando arrivano le piogge. E’ probabile che una pianta, in una situazione di stress, attivi alcune sezioni della sua DNA per sintetizzare nuove molecole che aiutano nelle circostanze del momento. Sembra che durante l’evoluzione, noi animali abbiamo perduto le attrezzature geniche per sintetizzare alcune sostanze, forse per poter privilegiare altre funzioni legate alla mobilità e all’intelligenza, una “dimenticanza” resa possibile dal fatto che queste sostanze si trovano proprio nelle piante. Basta non cucinarli, e mangiarli.

4. Un esempio dagli alberi
Il concetto che gli animali si siano dimenticati come produrre certe sostanze utili perché si sono abituati a trovarli nei cibi potrebbe sembrare azzardato, ma riceve conferma da alcune osservazioni legate al mondo vegetale. Gli alberi di frutta sono soggetti a un’infezione che si chiama ‘cancro rameale,’ che, diversamente al cancro negli animali, è causato dall’attacco di un fungo. La malattia, che può essere mortale, viene frenata dall’albero con l’apporto fondamentale di certi composti chimici prodotti dallo strato di alghe verdi che ricoprono il tronco e i rami. Le alghe sono organismi monocellulari molto semplici, e non fanno altro che appoggiarsi su una superficie, utilizzando l’aria, l’acqua e la luce per sintetizzare tutto che li serve alla sopravvivenza. Molto spesso non hanno neanche bisogno delle molecole che producono e li eliminano secernendoli all’esterno della cellula. L’albero si è abituato ad assorbire queste sostanze attraverso la corteccia e a utilizzarli a combattere l’infezione. Se le alghe dovessero essere rimosse, l’albero rischia la morte.

5. Le piante e l’industria dei cosmetici
Aziende come la Lancôme, impegnate nella ricerca per trovare sostanze che mantengono la pelle giovane, hanno scoperto che la pelle contiene delle cellule staminali specializzate per la manutenzione dell’epidermide, capaci di rigenerare i tessuti. La pelle invecchia perché mentre il numero di cellule staminali cutanee non cambia con l’età, la loro funzione invece sì, dovuto a modifiche dell’ambiente microscopica delle cellule. I ricercatori hanno cercato delle sostanze che potessero creare l’ambiente ottimale per le cellule staminali cutanee, dedicando particolare attenzione alle piante, che contengono anche loro delle cellule con funzioni analoghe. E’ possibile isolare queste fitocellule staminali e coltivarli in un bioreattore in modo che producono una serie di macromolecole che, applicate alla pelle, stimolano la produzione di fattori di crescita che a loro volta incoraggiano la rigenerazione della pelle da parte delle cellule staminali cutanee. Il risultato: pelle più giovane anche in età più avanzata. Le aziende dei cosmetici fanno tutto questo per fare soldi sulla nostra pelle, per così dire, però ci danno un indizio: prova a immaginare l”effetto di inondare tutti i tessuti con sostanze organiche che aiutano il corpo intero a restare giovanile!


6. Radicali liberi e anti-ossidanti
Un’altra area alla quale è dedicata molto ricerca riguarda i radicali liberi, molecole dannose che vengono prodotte nel corpo umano un po’ in seguito ai processi metabolici normali ma soprattutto come risultato da situazioni negativi quali il fumo di sigarette, gli inquinanti nell’aria, e i prodotti chimici industriali. I radicali liberi creano danni che si accumulano con l’età in tutto il corpo. Si pensa quindi che sono strettamente legati all’invecchiamento, ed anche a malattie gravi quali il cancro – è possibile che i radicali liberi provochino direttamente l’insorgenza di un tumore – e l’arteriosclerosi. Il meccanismo è comunque uguale, connesso ai danni al DNA che porta sia all’invecchiamento che alla proliferazione cellulare incontrollata che causa il cancro. Il corpo combatte i radicali liberi utilizzando gli anti-ossidanti, alcuni dei quali prodotti dall’organismo stesso e alcuni ingeriti con il cibo. Un’insufficienza di anti-ossidanti porta allo stress ossidativo, possibilmente legato a malattie infiammatorie quali l’artrite, malattie cardiovascolari e ictus, disturbi neurologici come l’Alzheimer e il morbo di Parkinson, e altri ancora. Gli anti-ossidanti comprendono sostanze conosciute come il B-carotene che protegge la pelle dal cancro e riduce gli effetti delle sostanze cancerogene sul fegato. La vitamina C forse protegge contro il cancro tramite la sua azione anti-ossidante, e la vitamina E è un altro anti-ossidante che rinforza il sistema immunitario e ostacola la proliferazione delle cellule cancerose. In sostanza, si può aumentare la qualità della vita e anche il numero di anni di vita tramite il consumo di cibi che contengono anti-ossidanti. Dove si trovano? Nela frutta e le verdure consumate crude. Aglio, alghe, arance, bacche tipo mirtilli, ribes, lamponi e more, barbabietole rosse crude, le brassicacee (cavolo, cavolfiore, broccoli, cavolini di Bruxelles, cavolo nero ecc.), canella, carote, ciliege, cipolle, curcuma, legumi, limoni, mango, mele, olive, patate, peperoni, pomodori, spinaci, susine, te verde, zenzero fresco e altri ancora. Tutti questi cibi offrono una selezione di sostanze che possono essere considerate dei farmaci naturali. I loro componenti attivi comprendono il zolforafane, B-carotene, licopene e i flavonoidi.

7. Protezione quotidiana
photo 1-2000Se stai bene, un ottimo modo per aiutare il corpo a rimanere sano, giovane e attivo è di assicurare che abbia a disposizione tutti i microelementi e anti-ossidanti di cui abbia bisogno per annullare gli effetti avversi della vita quotidiana. Si può iniziare bene la giornata con un succo fresco preparato con una carota, mezza barbabietola rossa, un arancio, un kiwi, mezza banana, un pezzo di peperone rosso, e un po’ di altre frutte e verdure fresche, che sia lo zenzero o i broccoli. Basta mettere tutto dentro il frullatore. Il succo è molto denso perché contiene tutte le sostanze e le fibre, ed è gradevole di sapore. Io ho notato un aumento generale di energia e un senso di benessere da quando ho iniziato a cominciare la giornata così. Poi insalata mista e frutta fresca a pranzo e a cena per rifare il pieno di minerali, micro-elementi e anti-ossidanti.

8. Malattie gravi
Se qualcosa va storto e si sviluppa una malattia come il cancro, una dieta modifcata con un consumo prevalente di verdure crude può aiutare a combattere il male. Anche se le statistiche a riguardo siano contrastanti, un dato fa pensare: considerando tutti i casi di remissione spontanea del cancro, circa due terzi avvengono in soggetti che hanno cambiato radicalmente dieta, sostituendo in parte o in tutto le proteine e i carboidrati con verdure. Una dieta come quella di Gerson si basa sul fatto che le cellule cancerose hanno un metabolismo che è quattro volte più veloce delle cellule sane, e quindi hanno bisogno di livelli di glucosio più alte. Allo stesso tempo, le cellule cattive soffrono un ambiente ricco di anti-ossidanti. Una dieta di verdure tiene più bassi i livelli di glucosio, affamando le cellule cancerose, mentre gli anti-ossidanti contenuti nelle verdure le combattano direttamente.

9. Il codice dei colori della natura
Le frutte e le verdure veramente utili per la salute e per combattere le malattie sono spesso contraddistinte da colori forti, perché le molecole attive sono pigmenti. Si può quindi pensare a una dieta equilibrata nei colori, per esempio rosso (barbabietola cruda, pomodoro, peperone rosso), arancione (carote, arance), giallo (mango, zenzero, curcuma), verde (broccoli, spinaci, cavolo nero), blu e violetto (bacche), e così via. Comunque le verdure veramente importanti sono le carote e le barbabietole.

10. Gli oceani
Noi siamo arrivati dove siamo adesso dopo milioni di anni di evoluzione, partendo da organismi monocellulari negli oceani. Da quando siamo usciti dal mare e abbiamo cominciato a vivere sulla terra, le condizioni dell’ambiente terrestre hanno continuato a cambiare, e in particolare, alcuni elementi sono stati gradualmente risciacquati dalla terra per finire negli oceani. Un esempio è l’iodio, presente a livelli molto bassi nella frutta e verdura terrestri, e a livelli molto più alti nelle alghe marine. Ed è probabile che ci siano altre sostanze che hanno seguito un andamento simile. Per questo motivo, le piante aquatiche come le alghe e il kelp sono una delle ultime frontiere della ricerca su cure per le malattie oncologiche.

La questione degli animali
Più si scopre come vivono gli animali dell’industria alimentare, più si capisce che vivono male e muoiono male. E’ un’industria che genera sofferenze infinite ad animali che vedono, sentono, pensano e amano praticamente come noi. E’ strano pensare alle cure che dedichiamo ai nostri cani e gatti senza sprecare neanche un pensiero a come hanno vissuto i polli o i manzi che troviamo poi sui nostri piatti. Leonardo da Vinci era vegetariano perché non poteva contemplare l’idea di distruggere un essere così perfetto solo per mangiarlo, e lui viveva mezzo millennio fa. Oggi le fabbriche di animali per la nutrizione umana sono diventati mille volte più terribili. La sostituzione totale o parziale dei cibi di origine animale fa bene alla nostra coscienza, oltre che alla nostra salute e a quella della pianeta intera.



Top ten reasons for eating lots of raw fruit and vegetables


It’s about time. More information in the media should be dedicated to the fact that eating lots of animal products – meat, above all red meat – is bad. Eating raw fruit and veg is good. Good for you, good for the world. But in this top ten it’s not about the ethical question. It’s about our health as people.

1. You can survive without meat
One of the great lies of many nutritionists is that meat and/or fish is essential for a healthy diet. Not true. There is everything you need in plant-based products. Many plant products contain some amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), soya contains all eight of them. Millions of people survive on vegetarian and vegan diets. Even some sportsmen and women.

2. An armoury of organic chemicals
Fresh fruit and vegetables contain all sorts of different substances, complex vitamins, pro-vitamins, enzymes, catalysts and more, often dedicated little attention and little research. They are very useful to the human body, which every day has to construct and reconstruct tissues, and fight pathogens, disease and mutant cells. Often the body already has the resources it needs to combat disease, but sometimes, there are micro-elements and minerals in short supply. Fruit and vegetables can supply these and give the body the weapons it needs.

3. The body has forgotten how to make some substances
One of the great mysteries of biology is why plants have far more genes than humans who would seem to be far more complex. We have around 20,000 genes, plants have at least 50,000. Why? One theory is that plants have to have their own resources for many situations which a mobile animal such as a man can solve in different ways. For example, if a man is thirsty, he can wander around until he finds some water. If a plant gets into a drought situation, it has to adapt its metabolism. It does this by switching on some different genes and manufacturing new proteins that help it to survive. Over the course of evolution, the development of animals and humans has been accompanied by a reduction in the number of genes, presumably something that is beneficial to an animal’s way of life, and made possible by the variety of organic materials that an animal can take in as part of the diet to make up for those missing substances. These substances are in raw fruit and vegetables.

4. Proof from the plant world
The idea that animals have ‘forgotten’ how to make certain substances because they have become accustomed to sourcing them from the plant world is confirmed by an analogous process in the plant kingdom itself. Fruit trees can suffer from a fungal infection called canker, which would be fatal to the tree without the contribution of certain organic chemicals synthesized by the green algae that colonize the trunks and branches of trees. Algae are very simple, monocellular organisms, and they just sit on surfaces and synthesize everything that they need to survive. Most of the time, they don’t need the stuff that they are making, so they simply secrete it. The tree, far more advanced than algae, absorbs these organic macromolecules through the bark and uses then to combat infection. They have become so accustomed to getting these bonus substances from algae that without them, they are at risk of succumbing to canker.

5. Plant-derived substances that combat ageing
The objective of cosmetics companies such as Lancôme is to keep the skin youthful, and their research shows that skin has its own stem cells capable or regenerating young skin tissue. Ageing occurs because while the number of skin stem cells doesn’t change with age, their function does. This depends on the micro-environment in which they live. In the quest to find substances that can help create the right environment for skin stem cells, researchers have dedicated their attention to plants, which contain their own stem cells which can be isolated and cultivated in a bioreactor. These cells generate a range of molecules which, when applied to the skin, prompt the local production of growth factors which in turn stimulate tissue regeneration by the stem cells, ultimately keeping skin younger for longer. Cosmetics companies are doing all this to make money. But just imagine the same effect on the entire body! Imagine flooding all the tissues with substances that help the body fight disease and stay young!


6. Free radicals and anti-oxidants
Another area of research is on the effect of harmful substances called free radicals, which are produced in the human body both by normal metabolic processes or by adverse situations such as cigarette smoking, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals. Free radical reactions produce progressive adverse changes that accumulate with age throughout the body. But free radicals don’t just cause ageing. Cancer and arterioosclerosis are “free radical” diseases, and it seems that free radicals can directly cause tumour formation. The mechanism is the same for both: ageing is caused principally by accumulated damage to DNA, and cancer is also the result of uncontrollable cell proliferation caused by DNA damage. How does the body fight free radicals? Using anti-oxidants, some of which are produced by the body, and others that are taken in with food. A deficiency in anti-oxidants produces oxidative stress, which is now thought to contribute to all inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, heart diseases and stroke, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and many others. Familiar antioxidants include B-carotene, which helps protect the skin from cancer and also reduces the effect of carcinogens on the liver. Vitamin C also seems to help prevent cancer in part through its antioxidant effects. Vitamin E is another important antioxidant that increases immune resistance and helps fight the proliferation of cancer cells. The conclusion is that quality of life and even life span can be improved by taking in enough antioxidants in the diet. Where do you find them? Raw fruit and veg. Algae, apple, beetroot (raw), berries, brassica, broccoli, carrots, cherries, cinnamon, citrus fruits, curcuma (tumeric), garlic, ginger, green tea, legumes, mango, olives, onion, plums, potato, red peppers, spinach, tomatoes and others. All these foods are like a natural pharmacy. Their active ingredients include sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol, B-carotene, lycopene and flavonoids.

7. Daily protection
photo 4-2000If you’re well, a great way to help the body stay well, young and active is to ensure it has the microelements and oxidants it needs to deal with the metabolic stress of everyday life. I think at a great start to the day is a fresh juice made by peeling a carrot, half a raw beetroot, an orange, a kiwi, half a banana, and whatever else I have in the fridge, whether fresh ginger, a bit of red pepper, or some broccoli, and chucking it all into the liquidizer. The resulting juice is very thick (because it has everything, fibre and all) and pretty tasty. I have noticed a positive difference in my energy levels and general well-being since I started this habit. Then top up with more minerals, micro-elements and anti-oxidants with salad and fresh fruit at lunch and dinner.

8. Help during serious disease
If things go wrong and you develop something like cancer, one thing that seems to help in the fight against the disease is by changing diet. That generally means vastly increasing the proportion of raw fruit and vegetables in the daily food intake. There are conflicting statistics here, but one piece of information I found particularly striking: if you consider all the cases of spontaneous remission of cancer, about two thirds were accompanied by a radical change in diet. Juicing regimes such as the Gerson diet are based on the idea that cancer cells have a metabolic rate that is four times higher than normal cells, and so need more glucose, and that cancer cells suffer from an antioxidant-rich environment. So a diet in which peaks in blood sugar levels are controlled by eliminating the intake of sugars and by reducing the intake of carbohydrates and fats, helps starve the cancer cells, while at the same time, the antioxidants from fruit and veg help fight cancer cell proliferation directly.


9. Nature’s colour code
The really useful fruits and vegetables useful for maintaining good health or combating disease are often strongly coloured, because the effective molecules are pigments or linked to pigment. So, all you have to do is think about a balanced colour palette: red (raw beetroot, tomato, red pepper), orange (carrot, oranges), yellow (mango, ginger, tumeric), green (brassica, broccoli, kale), blue and violet (berries), and so forth. The really important ones seem to be brassica, carrots and raw red beetroot.

10. Back to the oceans
We have reached our position in the animal kingdom after millions of years of evolution that began in monocellular organisms in the oceans. From when we crawled out of the waves and onto dry land, the conditions of the ecosystem have continued to change, and some substances have gradually been leached out of the land back into the oceans. One example is iodine, which is present at very low levels in fruit and vegetables, and at far higher levels in marine algae. There are probably other substances that have suffered the same fate. This is why marine plants such as algae and kelp are one of the most promising frontiers for research on diseases such as cancer.

Animal welfare
The more you find out about animal food production, the more you realize that most farm animals – the meat we find in the supermarket – live badly and die badly. It’s an industry that creates untold suffering to animals that see, hear, think and love pretty much like us. It’s bizarre to think of the care that we lavish on our dogs and cats, and at the same time eat chicken or steak that are the end products of a horrendous story of ill-treatment. Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian because he couldn’t contemplate the killing of such wondrous beings just for the purpose of us eating them. That was five hundred years ago: today, the industry of animal-based food products has now become infinitely more horrifying. Reducing or eliminating the consumption of animals helps us stay healthy, helps our conscience, and helps our planet.



10 reasons why cycling is good for you

Image courtesy of Leonardo da Vinci, Codice Atlantico, Biblioteca Ambrosiana
Image courtesy of Leonardo da Vinci, Codice Atlantico, Biblioteca Ambrosiana

It has its down sides. When you get to the office, you need to freshen up and perhaps put on the fresh shirt that you’ve brought with you in your bag. Your bag has to be a backpack. You’ll get a few bumps and grazes over the years. But all considered, you’re better off cycling. Here are my top ten reasons why.

1. You feel better and get fitter. This is obvious, of course. After a few months, your heart rate at rest will have dropped from the normal 72 to about 60. This is something that I find amazing, that the ancients chose a measure of time that corresponds exactly to the heart rate of a fairly fit individual. If you’re in a city, you’ll be inhaling car fumes and stuff, but learn to breathe in through your nose and you’ll filter out the worst. And doctors say that the benefits far outweigh the risks caused by pollution.

2. The bicycle replaces a psychotherapist. If you’ve had a rough day in the office and you’re enraged with your boss and your adrenaline is racing, after half an hour’s vigorous pedalling you’ll get home and nothing of that rage will be left.

3. Repairs and maintenance are cheap. I am an ex-car-owner, and one of the things that I love about going to the bike repair shop is that changing the tyres costs just a few euros instead of the hundreds that the car used to cost.

4. You are riding the most efficient machine in the world. A bicycle is the most efficient way of converting human energy into motion: it’s four times more efficient than running or walking. And of course it is incomparably more efficient than cars, buses, aircraft, even trains. 96% of the force that you apply to the pedals is converted into propulsive energy, and the only thing that keeps your speed down is the air resistance that increases more rapidly as speed goes up: it’s proportional to the square of your speed. A fairly fit person on a bike, using his or her own muscles, can beat Usain Bolt, using his muscles (without a bike). A hundred calories can power a man on a bike for 5 km; the same energy will propel a car for 85 metres. A bicycle is about 58 times more efficient than a car.

5. You discover eye contact with drivers. It’s always a nerve-racking moment when you’re on the road or a roundabout, and you’re wondering whether that other car speeding towards you is going to stop at the stop sign. That’s when you appreciate the eye-contact. It’s something you get on a bike more than in a car because there’s one less windscreen.

6. Parking. In a city, using a bicycle can be much quicker than a car just because you don’t have t spend ages looking for a parking space. This makes it easier to stop off and take a look at a shop window or a museum or anything else that catches your eye.

7. A bicycle replaces those little blue pills. This is for you guys: I know you don’t have any problems in this area, but people who do would well to take up biking, because with all the extra bloodflow in the inguinal region, the need to pop Viagra will soon be a thing of the past.

8. You’re part of the real outside world. If it’s daytime, you see the hemisphere of the sky, the clouds, you feel the breeze and the scents of plants, shrubs and trees with the changing seasons. At night, you are under the stars and bathed in moonlight. In winter, you can enjoy the incredible silence of a white world, and cycle enchanted through a falling cloud of scintillating crystal flakes that have become dislodged from a branch caressed by the wind.

9. You’re doing your bit. This isn’t something that I think about, but on a bike you’re more eco-friendly. No fumes, no oil burnt. Sorry, but there can’t be much that’s more stupid than transporting half a ton of metal just to carry one person from one part of the city to another.

10. A healthy tan. Even in winter, people in the office are envious. “Where did you get that tan?”


Officialdom in Italy

20141106-215248.jpgThis is the true story of how I applied for a place at an Italian academy of fine arts, quite a long time ago: 1980, when I was 19. Things have changed a lot in Italy since then – well, a bit – but it is an example of the way in which a certain piece of office equipment is considered an essential part of bureaucratic procedures in that country.

I had been travelling around Europe in search of an academy that I liked, and having visited the one in Perugia, I asked the secretary if I could apply there and then. No, she replied, all applications from foreigners had to go through the Italian Embassy in the respective country. So I journeyed back to the UK (I was hitch-hiking: in those days it was still a feasible means of transport) and went to the Embassy in London, with all the school certificates that they had told me were needed. There were two people in the office, a dapper man with a perfectly-trimmed beard and an immaculate suit, and a slim woman called Elisabetta with dark hair who chain-smoked an Italian cigarette brand called Merit. She looked through all my documents and looked up at me with a frown.
“Non va bene. There is something missing. Un certificato di buona condotta.” I looked puzzled.
“Mario, come si chiama in inglese?”
“Certificate of good conduct,” said Mario.
“I don’t think we have that here,” I said.
“We need it for your application,” said Elisabetta.
“But how can I give you a certificate of good conduct if it doesn’t exist here?” I said.
“You can do it like this,” said Mario, “go to your parish priest, ask him to write a letter on his official letterhead, in which he declares that you are a good person and haven’t been engaged in criminal activities or arson or anything like that, and ask him to sign it. That should be enough.”

So I went back to my home in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, and next day visited Reverend Rodney Owens (who had also been my school teacher when I was much younger) and asked him to write the letter.
“Mmm, I don’t have any printed letter paper…”
“Don’t worry, just put your name and address at the top, that should be enough.”
The vicar took out a white sheet of paper and a pen.
“Er, Mr. Owens, do you mind typing it? You know, it’s for the Embassy, it has to look official.” So Mr. Owens took out his Remington and obligingly typed out the letter, signing it at the bottom.

The next day I went back to London with the missing document and showed it to Elisabetta. She read it, frowning, and turned it over, and then over again.
“Non va bene. There is something missing.”
“Oh no. What did he forget? The vicar, I mean.”
“There is no rubber stamp. Near the signature, there has to be the official stamp of the parish. Without it, the authorities won’t accept it.”
I had no choice but to take back the home-made certificate and travel back to Suffolk. The next day, I went to the vicarage.
“A rubber stamp? No, we’ve never had one. Whatever would we need one for?”
We were silent for a moment, wondering what we could do. Perhaps I could forge the imprint of a rubber stamp, like the prisoners-of-war in Colditz? But that, I thought, wouldn’t be good conduct, and so the certificate would be a contradiction, and it wouldn’t really be fair on Mr. Owens who had already signed it.
“I know what you can do,” said Mr. Owens, “go to the Town Hall in Ipswich and ask them to put their stamp on it, I’m sure they won’t mind.”

So I thanked the reverend and caught the bus to Ipswich and walked to the Town Hall. I enquired at the entrance and was asked to go to an office upstairs, where I explained the problem to a few clerks.
“That would be no problem at all,” said one, “except for one thing. We got rid of all our rubber stamps last year, because all our procedures have been changed, what with all the new computers.”
I must have looked very disappointed.
“Hey Bill,” he said, “do you know where they took all that stuff? Or did they just chuck it away?”
“Ooh no,” said Bill, “they would never do that. Hang on, I’ll ask Jack, he’ll know.” He picked up a phone and dialled a number. He had a brief conversation with Jack and put the phone down.
“Problem solved. They took it all to the museum. Do you know the Ipswich Museum, on the High Street?” I nodded, it was just down the hill from my old school. “If you’re quick, you’ll get there before it closes.”

I thanked them, ran downstairs, ran up Lloyd Street, turned left into Tower Ramparts, on up High Street, and into the Museum, a brick building. I saw a man on duty near the door, and explained my story, starting from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Perugia, moving on to the Italian Embassy, and then to the Reverend Rodney Owens. “And so,” I said, “it would be great if you could find one of the rubber stamps that came from the Town Hall and stamp this letter from the vicar.”
The man stood with his arms folded, a serious expression on his face.
“Young man, do you really think that we can open one of our display cabinets and use one of our precious exhibits just to put a stamp on your piece of paper?”
My hopes once again changed to disappointment, but only for a moment. His face changed to a grin.
“Go on, I’m only kiddin’, course we’ll let you use the rubber stamp, heaven knows how many documents they’ve stamped, if they do one more, there’s no damage done. And they’re not exhibits, at least not yet, anyway. Hey, George, keep an eye open here for a bit, will you? I’ve got to go and find an exhibit from the future.” He led the way through the main hall, where much of the space was taken up by an enormous dinosaur skeleton. The cases against the wall contained a selection of fossils. “Rubber stamps, soon they’ll be extinct just like these ammonites and the brontosaurus.” I felt like saying that I wasn’t so sure of that, but stayed silent. At the far end of the hall, he took a cardboard box from a cupboard, opened it, and began to rummage through the rubber stamps inside, some with turned wooden handles, some flat. “Hmm, not this one… not this… ah, here we are. Ipswich Borough Council, complete with emblem. Oh, that’s lucky, there’s an inkpad as well. Shall I do the doings? Where’s the piece of paper?”
I took out the letter and gave it to him. He placed it on a table, opened the inkpad, pressed the rubber stamp onto it, raised his hand high, and then paused. I waited, wondering why he had stopped.
“I suppose I’d better test it first. Just to see whether there’s enough ink.” He looked around for another piece of paper, and found a leaflet for last year’s Suffolk Show. He stamped it and examined the result.
“D’you think that’ll do?”
“That’s fine, thank you,” I said, and he inked the stamp again, applying it vigorously to Rodney Owen’s letter with a thud.
“Thank you,” I said again, putting the letter away, greatly relieved, even though I was unsure whether my home-made certificate would satisfy Elisabetta and Mario at the Italian Embassy. I left the museum wondering whether the stamp had to be a certain shape or size in Italy, or a special colour. Mine was a very dark blue, perhaps they wanted it black?

The next day, I was back at the Embassy, waiting anxiously while Elisabetta examined the Certificate of Good Conduct written by the undersigned Reverend Rodney Owens and bearing the official seal of Ipswich Borough Council.
“Mario, pensi che vada bene così per il Console?” She took the certificate over to Mario, who put down his paper, glanced at it, took a second quick look at the stamp near the signature, and nodded.
“Sì, va bene.”
Elisabetta said, “Yes, it is fine. Welcome to Italy!”


Causes of lower back pain after hip replacement surgery

I compiled this information from various sources, because my father had a hip replacement operation, and suffered from lower back pain during convalescence. I posted it here just in case it could be useful to someone else, and it is with great pleasure that I have been able to add some of the reader comments (scroll down to the end).

Tiredness and lower back pain after hip replacement surgery

The surgery involves the cutting and manipulation not only of bone but also of soft tissues such as muscles, tendons, nerves, and the capsule that encloses the joint. Such an invasive procedure is tough on the body, and recovering from it takes time. It is normal to be tired; your normal energy levels will return day by day. Don’t be too aggressive in exercising. Your body is working to recover and heal from the surgery even while you are resting.
Lower back pain may be caused by asymmetry in the power of thigh, abdominal and back muscles. Before surgery you were walking asymmetrically (your body was trying to reduce pain by restricting certain movements) and so you will have unconsciously decreased the power of certain muscles, because you used them less on one side. In addition, it is likely that your leg length is now slightly different. This in itself can cause lower back pain. Gradually, as you become more mobile, you will equalize muscle strength and lessen the strain on the lower back.
Something else that happens in hip replacement surgery is that the iliopsoas muscle running from your pelvis to your thigh gets traumatized. This can cause a degree of pelvic tilt for many weeks after surgery, as the iliopsoas remains in a state of contraction, causing imbalance. You may have the sensation of one leg being longer than the other, and this can be caused by this sort of contraction.
In some movements, your low back may tend to bend inwards (arching) as you perform the movement, causing lower back pain. It may help to tighten your stomach muscles during the movement; this helps keep the spine straight.

Often, even two months after surgery, people have pain when getting up out of a chair. The process of alleviating this is lengthy, because your muscles are still compensating for the pain in your hip, even though the operation has removed the source of the pain. Your muscles have been conditioned to misbehave, and many of them have atrophied and weakened in the years before your operation. Your gluteus muscles are weaker, likewise your sartorius, hip adductors and abductors. Quads and hamstrings have to be stretched and strengthened.

Convalescence timescale:

Full recovery: 3-6 months.
Total rehabilitation: muscle re-education will only be complete after a year.
In the early months, some good days and some bad days is totally normal. You should notice a gradual improvement over time.
4-6 weeks after surgery: zimmer or crutches
Next 4-6 weeks: a stick
About 10 weeks after surgery: walking without assistance, almost normally.
About 3 months after surgery: most of the soft tissue wounds have healed
3-6 months after surgery: gradual relaxation of hip and leg muscles.


You’ve been given some exercises to perform during convalescence. Remember to bear in mind all the warnings about the movements to avoid!
Don’t overdo it! Avoid high-impact exercises. Take great care whenever you are moving around to avoid tripping. Be careful going up and down stairs.
Initially you will be doing safe range-of-motion activities and muscle strengthening exercises. Exercises should be performed every day. You should allow 15 minutes, two to three times a day to begin; progress to 30 minutes, two to three times a day by the end of six weeks.
Walking is always good. Try to “walk tall,” as straight-backed as possible.

Stretching exercises:

Before you start doing these, you should talk to a physical therapist at the hospital. You have to be advised on when you can start them, and exactly how to do them. They are for hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, illiotibial band, adductors. Once a day or even several times a day. There are also exercises to strengthen the core abdominal muscles.
These exercises will reduce pelvic tilt, decrease back pain, enable you to walk without a limp, equalize hip-and-abdominal strength.


Iron and vitamin supplements could be useful. Drink plenty of fluids. Try to limit your intake of coffee and alcohol.

Reader comments:
Dear Henry Neuteboom, Thank you. I am recovering from a hip replacement (tripped over a rug). I live in France so the care is great. But I looked everywhere on Google for info on how to be patient with pain and what to do to get better. I only found forums where people exposed their woes. Then I stumbled (didn’t fall thank Zeus) on your blog piece about lower back pain after hip surgery and was completely satisfied by your cogent, clear explanations of what to do or not to do and how long it may take. It has inspired me. No boogie-ing till muscle and pelvis and leg length etc have been dealt with. I will share the link to your piece with my 5000 Facebook friends, many of whom have had this same surgery. Once again thanks and buona fortuna. P.S. For give my dabble into Italian. I am learning Italian with Duolingo. So far I know how to say: “The Tiger is is eating the chef.” Plan to go to Montepulciano in September for a 3 week immersion course. “Tiger eats chef” is more or less preparing me for that endeavor. Cheers, S.W.

Thank u so much for your blog on ‘lower back pain after hip replacement’ I found it very helpful since I had the op on 5/12/2016 I was progressing well with gentle exercises when all of a sudden I could not walk without great pain and my doctor prescribed ibuprofen and sent me to physio. Doctor did not explain my condition as well as your blog did. Thanks once again. C.

Hi Henry I found your article on back pain when I was searching for something to help me understand my own back pain after hip replacement surgery. Honestly, Henry, I have become so frustrated that I broke into tears thinking I may have back pain for the rest of my life. Your article helped me be hopeful that I just need to be patient and continue to strengthen my body. Then I started to look at your paintings and a wave of calm came over me and even some laughter. I like your art. Thank you. J.

I came across your article on lower back pain after THR and it helped me so much. I have made a very good recovery after my operation, but still have stiffness at the base of my spine. I was beginning to worry that all was not well,despite my three month x ray telling me otherwise, You explained very clearly the reasons for this, so thank you. J.

Thank you so very much for compiling that information into one place. Your article was well written, informative, far-reaching, and, well, quite calming. I appreciated your description of why the disruption of surgery itself, as well as years of a maladaptive gait due to hip pain, means that patience, appropriate physical therapy, exercise, and a healthy diet are keys to the fullest recovery. Best wishes, A.H.

Hello Mr. Henry, I had to write to you after reading your article on lower back pain after THR. My mum’s just undergone the surgery and we couldn’t figure out the reason for her back ache. Our doctors asked us to ignore it as being normal post surgery.
Have a few questions, if I could request your answers:
1) when can the patient start bending, for example to touch one’s toes?
2) for how long does the back pain linger?
3) does the lower back (around tail bone) also swell up at the time of pain? We thought the bed/ mattress was responsible (until we read your article)
4) by when can she start sitting in a car (with bucket seats)?
Once again, many many thanks for putting your article out there. It sure has helped open our eyes and I’m am certain it is useful to a ton of other people. Hoping your dad has recovered and is running around. Waiting to see my mom do the same. Best wishes, P.

I had both hips done 6 wks apart Apr then June 2 doing great but begin to have some back pain,but your article was very helpful.I’m athletic so want to get back on my feet time and patience.Once again thank you I will pass this on. S.

Hi I read your article about lower back pain after hip surgery. My friend is having the same problem. And i was hoping you can email me the exercises that your dad did and the frequency and duration. Hes in rehab now but still in pain. He does exercises on good days or when the pain medication starts working. It has been a month since he had the back problem. The first two weeks he did not do pt due to extreme pain. Please help. R.C.

I wanted to thank you for this information I have been searching for days on some answers and you provided me with a lot of relief on this. I had hip surgery 24 days ago and seem to be moving around good other then the lower back pain that seems to be the only thing that limits me and because of that pain I tend to get out of breath but also I’ve been sitting for 3 years too so I am a bit out of shape. I don’t take pain medicine any more but do you think taking Aleve could help? C.B.

Thanks for a great guide on recovery following hip surgery, it was great to find all my question answered on this one page. The waiting time on going back to see the Consultent these days is so long, there’s no one to ask. Great thanks! K.H.


Ferruccio Mengaroni, the artist whose ego was a little too much

Ferruccio Mengaroni’s ideas were always big. Almost a century before the giant lipsticks and hamburgers of Pop artist Claes van Oldenburg, he was making larger-than-life objects using ceramics. There is a giant crab in the Castello Sforzesco Museum in Milan, and a large Medusa in the Pesaro Museum, that possibly represent the pinnacle of his career.

Ferruccio Mengaroni's ceramics works in Pesaro
Ferruccio Mengaroni’s ceramics works in Pesaro

Which had started many years before. A restless and prolematic child (born on 12 October 1875), his father had secured him an apprenticeship with the ceramist Molaroni, Pesaro, probably out of desperation. Young Ferruccio spent 12 years there – from when he was 12 to 24 – learning all that he could about clay, glazes and firing. He was also a great experimenter. He threw all sorts of materials into the kiln with his pieces, and, whether by design or chance, he discovered a way of creating pieces with a very antique-looking patina. Repro Renaissance pieces were all the rage at the turn of the century, but Ferruccio found that he could earn much more by passing off his pieces as genuine 16th century. There are probably still some of his majolica plates in various museums of the world; just one of the documented incidents concerns the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge that purchased such a piece in 1926, only to discover its real origin some years later.

Plates by Ferruccio Mengaroni
Plates by Ferruccio Mengaroni

But it seems that he made his forgeries only between about 1900 and 1910, possibly to help finance his new factory in Pesaro, making fine tableware. In 1915 he opened his ‘Studio delle Ceramiche Artistiche’ in Pesaro, with the trademark of a rampant griffin and the initials SDCA, and sometimes MM, standing for Mengaroni & Mancini (the latter was his friend with whom he set up his ceramics studio). He married and had children, and his family life was relatively happy until he discovered that his wife had had the children bapized, in great secrecy. She was Catholic, he was atheist. When he found out, things were never the same again, neither with his wife, nor his children.

Sugarbowl by Ferruccio Mengaroni
Sugarbowl by Ferruccio Mengaroni

The excellence of his factory’s ceramic products made him a famous figure in Pesaro, and brought him to the attention of the young crown prince Umberto. When a royal visit was planned to the city in 1923, Umberto wanted to visit Ferruccio at the factory. But Ferruccio had made no secret of the fact that he was an avowed anarchist, and court advisors tried to dissuade Umberto from any contact with the ceramist. Not surprisingly, because Umberto’s grandfather, king Umberto II, had been shot and killed by an anarchist in Monza (near Milan) in 1900. But in actual fact, the visit was a great success, and Ferruccio apparently got on quite well with Italy’s future, and final, king.

The marine crab at the Castello Sforzesco museum
The marine crab at the Castello Sforzesco museum

But what Ferruccio really wanted was not fame in society or as an industrialist, but the everlasting fame that can be given by art. He was convinced of his skill as a sculptor, and he used his prowess as a ceramist to create his gigantic animals and crustaceans. He applied his experience with glazes to give his surfaces a life-like diversity, vibrant with countless subtle variations in colour. Those who were unable to appreciate the abstract beauty of his pieces would, he thought, be convinced by their size.

The opportunity to exhibit at a national exhibition to be held in Monza fired his imagination, and he began working on a colossal ceramic sculpture, a Medusa, the warrior with hair made up of intertwined serpents. The theme was a classic in art, with illustrious precedents including Leonardo da Vinci (a youthful work, since lost, painted on a shield) and Caravaggio. Ferruccio decided that the central face would be a self-portrait, and spent long hours in his studio, pulling faces in a mirror, sketching rapidly in order to immortalize his own features in as repulsive a guise as possible. Undeterred even by the mirror falling to the floor and breaking into a thousand pieces, he completed and fired the piece, and had it packed into an enormous circular case made of timber.

Ferruccio Mengaroni and his Medusa
Ferruccio Mengaroni and his Medusa

He was waiting at Monza when it arrived, on 13 May 1925. He was convinced that his Medusa would be the piece that would win him his rightful place in the realm of art and artists, so that he would be revered and remembered forever after. He had forewarned the exhibition staff of the size and weight of the sculpture, and so they had prepared a ramp that would enable the circular case to be rolled up the steps leading to the hall in which it would be installed. Ferruccio watched tensely as the workman began to haul the case up, straining against the weight of well over a ton. When it had reached halfway, the sound of dry cracks from one side of the wooden ramp preluded impending disaster. The massive wooden plank gave way, and the case lurched to one side. The workmen pulling from above were caught off guard and the canvas webbing straps were snatched out of their grip as the case started to roll backwards. The men pushing from below dodged out of the way and fled like frightened rabbits. Only Mengaroni remained, leaping towards the case, his arms outstretched as he tried to halt its downward acceleration. The workmen watched aghast as the case toppled and rolled, lurching downwards towards the balustrade. A moment later, it had come to a relatively gentle stop, cushioned by the body of Ferruccio. He was killed instantly. The work inside survived intact.

So, in a way, Mengaroni achieved his ambitions for lasting fame. By his death, the Medusa with his own face lived on. The accident was widely reported all over the world. Some commentators were struck by the ‘sublime gesture,’ the artist who fearlessly stepped forwards to protect his own work. Others remarked on the symbolic aspects: the artist crushed by his own ego, and the fact that the artist’s image lived on thanks to the death of its creator.

The Medusa by Ferruccio Mengaroni at Musei Civici, Pesaro
The Medusa by Ferruccio Mengaroni at Musei Civici, Pesaro

But Mengaroni’s ambitions for lasting fame were not fulfilled. Today, he is a very obscure figure. Some ceramics collectors know of the story and look for pieces bearing the emblem of his factory, which had become ‘M.A.P. Maioliche Artistiche Pesaresi.’ Today, you can see his large marine crab at the Castello Sforzesco Museum in Milan, and the murderous Medusa at the Musei Civici in Pesaro, Piazza Toschi Mosca 29. It has been affixed to the wall in the courtyard. A suggestion: don’t stand right underneath it!

A close-up of the Medusa
A close-up of the Medusa

Brand history: the incredible story of British luxury luggage marque Globe-Trotter

A unique combination of tradition, secret materials, and innovation

Globe-Trotter is a luxury brand that was founded by Englishman David Nelken in Saxony, Germany, in 1897. In 1901, the company returned to the UK, and it has been there ever since. The values that have always defined the style of this brand are not difficult to identify: heritage and craftsmanship. Typically British characteristics, you could say. However, what is truly unique about this House is its inimitable way of combining traditional techniques with a focus on new design, whether this regards colour, materials or design.

The wonderful period photographs that the company possesses provide a superb portrait of the brand, in the hands of figures such as Winston Churchill who used the 18-inch attaché case while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Queen Elizabeth II, who used Globe-Trotter cases for her honeymoon, Sir Edmund Hilary, who found the suitcases ideal to take his kit up to first base cap during his assault on Everest in 1951, and more recently, Daniel Craig, Kate Moss, Sofia Coppola and Kylie Minogue, to name just a few. Its powerful image has led it to being chosen by other luxury brands who use Globe-Trotter products in their visual communications. Examples include 10 Corso Como, Vogue, Wallpaper, Hermès, Liberty of London, Ross Lovegrove and Junya Watanabe.

The Globe-Trotter factory in Hertfordshire makes the cases by hand on Victorian machinery, in a unique material, “Vulcan Fibre” or vulcanised fibreboard. This was invented in the UK in the 1850s, and it is basically 14 layers of paper that are bonded together and coloured – though the exact process is a patented and closely-guarded secret. It has never been successfully imitated. Vulcan fibre is a very tough but light material, as lightweight as aluminium, but as hardwearing as finest leather. In fact, Globe-Trotter cases are extremely tough, and the company has an archive of suitcases that are up to 100 years old. The frame is in ash wood, while the lining is in fabric, and the trim is of course in leather. Cases are riveted, lined and trimmed by hand. Many of the craftsmen at the company have been working for Globe-Trotter for decades, and this highlights the great satisfaction that is derived from creating high-quality products.

The toughness of Vulcan fibre has featured strongly in the company’s communications over the decades. The image of an elephant standing on a case is not just advertising. A test was actually performed at the Zoological Gardens in Hamburg, with a 1 tonne elephant that stood on a Globe-Trotter case with its full weight. The case withstood the pressure. Still today, the factory sometimes receives 100-year old cases that are sent in to have their linings changed. Globe-Trotter luggage sets fulfil the need for lightweight suitcases in modern travel.

Globe-Trotter applies an original approach to colour. In the early days of travel, luggage was all brown and black. Even then, Globe-Trotter decided to make a splash with some new colours. Blue was one of the first additions to the range, expressing sea and air travel. More recently, the brand has introduced other colours, and original print designs. Today, the classic colours of navy, black, green, ivory and colonial brown, of timeless appeal, have been joined by more modern shades such as Jewel pink, Cruise blue, Centenary red and Orange/Tan. Globe-Trotter has not subscribed to the complex interior pockets that are a feature of many luggage brands, preferring absolute simplicity. This ensures that travellers have the maximum space possible.

Today, the company’s products include the ‘Original’ series, with the signature leather straps and a limited range of classic colours. This range has remained the same since 1897, from when the company was established. The ‘Centenary special edition’ was launched in 1997 to celebrate the 100th anniversary, and it features classic and pop colours, with high quality leather corners and straps. The ‘Safari’ series is based on cases made by Globe-Trotter in the late 1920s, and they comprise ivory-colour cases, resembling those used by explorers who travelled the world by cruise liner. The ‘Cruise’ series is striking in its royal blue colour, with navy blue straps and corner details. Inside, the lining of white cotton with pinstripe blue stripes is a superb expression of summer seaside living. The ‘Orient’ collection features a hand-lacquered gloss finish, created using valuable Urushi lacquer, with fine designer oriental silk linings.
‘Onehundred&ten’ was designed by Ross Lovegrove, and it is hand-made in Japan from 3X fibre, comprising woven carbon fibre and tri-axial woven Kevlar. These two materials are layered and bonded to create the first-ever next-generation Globe-Trotter hard case, weighing just 1.4 kg.

The Burlington Arcade flagship store (54-55 Burlington Arcade, Mayfair, London W1J 0LB, tel. +44 20 7529 5950) is an appropriately refined experience, with interiors influenced by 19th century British architect Sir John Soane. On the second floor, customers discover a totally different atmosphere with respect to the ground and first floor, and can relax amidst plush furniture and a range of images and artefacts from Globe-Trotter’s long and glittering history. Here, bespoke cases can be ordered, unique for colour, linings, leather corners, and personalized initials. Another bespoke feature available at the Burlington Arcade store are cases without wheels – in fact today’s Globe-Trotter cases are made with wheels as standard.

In London, products are also available at Harrods, Selfridges, Browns and The Conran Shop. Products are distributed worldwide by means of selected retailers, which can be seen at the store locator on the company website.

For further information on Globe-Trotter and its products, see

Published in April 2010,


Cultural adjustment

In cross-cultural relationships, a crisis may develop from problems in verbal communications.
An article written with Giulia Remorino, psychotherapist, a specialist in ‘cultural adjustment.’

Today, people are moving around more and more all the time. One of the results of this is more cross-cultural relationships, between people of different origins. This sort of relationship may arise partly as a direct result of diversity, which can have a certain fascination. One of the effects is that the two people communicate using a shared language, the native tongue of just one of them. Often they have to speak using a language that is not the native tongue of either of them: for example, an American man and a Japanese woman living in Italy, who speak Italian together.

In the quest for a partner, one is always looking for difference, not identity: difference to oneself. For this reason, a person whose origin, language and background is different to one’s own will always appear more atractive when compared to someone with similar origins.

But, in a cross-cultural couple, coming into contact with the deepest aspects of diversity can cause a crisis in communication. Problems can arise early on, for example when a couple decide to live together, and only then begin to discover difference in tastes as regards furnishings and interior decoration, differences in minor day-to-day habits, or in the use of leisure time. Some as yet young relationships may run aground in this phase. In this sort of situation, a consultant can help establish points of contact and identify the fundamental connections.

Another obstacle may arise when children arrive. It’s hard enough for a couple from the same background, and so it can be even tougher for a mixed couple. For example, an Italian mother-in-law may be a little excessive in providing advice on how to look after the baby. In this case, the Italian man may find it difficult to defend his partner if this means taking a position against his parents. A man may find it difficult to consider himself no longer as a son, but as a husband and father; while a mother may fear that her child will be completely absorbed into her partner’s family.

Another effect that may arise is due to an incomplete comprehension of the actual situation, inducing each partner to project his or her own aspirations onto the other. When they discover that their counterpart has a totally different viewpoint, they are often incapable of communicating effectively to solve their differences. In this case, ofen the male partner falls into silence, while the woman may react with torrents of words, that are not adequately listened to or understood. The first step in a process of analysis is to learn how to listen, and then to reflect on the couple’s future.

The principal objective in the process of cultural adjustment may not necessarily be to heal the bond, but rather enable both individuals to acquire a clear perception of their identity and their role in the relationship. Both the consultant and the two individuals will be aware that this new perception may lead to separation. The basic concept is that a partner can live a relationship satisfactorily only if he or she can live satisfactorily with himself or herself. Separation could lead to the creation of an extended family, to two new couples, sharing the care for children if the couple have already had them. Whatever happens, it is fundamental to accept the situation and to apply a lot of goodwill.

In this type of consultancy, it is important to establish an atmosphere of empathy, and the consultant has to be able to understand exactly what each member of the couple is feeling. The analyst becomes a mediator and translator, helping each partner to express his or her feelings to the other. From this point of view, Giulia Remorino has an advantage as a result of her personal history: she is herself from a cross-cultural relationship, with parents of different origins and religions. She speaks Italian and English, and has a working knowledge of Spanish, German and Hebrew. Her multicultural origin enables her to understand the deep significance of gestures and terms that may arise, perhaps involuntarily, during a session.

The most positive and satisfying outcome of consultancy is when a cross-cultural couple, after having found themselves in a situation of crisis as a result of disagreements that developed during their relationship, succeeds in finding common ground from which to recommence. This common ground could be simply the desire to stay together. Sometimes the consultant succeeds in identifying and expressing something that exists in the relationship but that neither partner was capable of saying in words, so that from discord develops a new harmony.

Giulia Remorino, psychotherapist, specialist in cultural adjustment.


Cultural adjustment​ ​ ​

Nelle coppie miste la crisi può nascere da problemi nella comunicazione verbale. Di Giulia Remorino, psicoterapeuta, specialista in “cultural adjustment.”

La grande mobilità dell’uomo contemporaneo ha conseguenze molteplici, tra le quali l’aumento delle unioni miste, ossia tra persone di origini diverse. In una coppia mista capita spesso che la storia nasca dal fascino della diversità oltre che dall’attrazione reciproca, e che si comunichi servendosi di una lingua comune ma nativa di uno solo dei due, o anche di nessuno, come nel caso, per esempio, di un americano e una giapponese che vivono in Italia e che parlano in italiano.

Nel cercare il partner che ci complete si ricerca sempre “l’altro da sé,” e così una persona di origini, linguaggio e background diversi dai propri sarà sempre più affascinante rispetto alla situazione evidenziata dal proverbio “mogli e buoi dei paesi tuoi.”

Può però capitare che, all’interno della coppia mista, il contatto con gli aspetti più profondi della diversità altrui dia luogo a una crisi nella comunicazione. I problemi possono nascere già nei primi tempi, quando si decide di andare a vivere insieme e si scoprono, per esempio, diversità di abitudini o di gusti nell’arredamento, differenze nelle piccole azioni quotidiane o nella gestione del tempo libero. Le coppie giovani possono arenarsi già in questa fase, e in questi casi la consulenza cerca di stabilire dei punti di contatto e di identificare il tessuto connettivo di partenza.

Un altro ostacolo può comparire con l’arrivo dei figli, la cui gestione è complessa anche per una coppia omogenea e che, a maggior ragione, mette a dura prova una coppia mista. Per esempio, la suocera italiana può essere fin troppo zelante nel dare consigli alla nuora su come crescere il bebè, allo stesso tempo è difficile per un uomo italiano prendere le difese della compagna, se ciò significa schierarsi contro la propria famiglia. Per un uomo può essere difficile vedersi non più come figlio, ma come marito e padre; d’altro canto, una madre può avere paura che il figlio venga assorbito completamente dalla nuova famiglia.

Può succedere che, non essendo completa la comprensione della situazione reale, i due partner attribuiscano uno all’altro la proiezione dei propri desideri; successivamente, quando si rendono conto che la realtà è ben diversa, non riescono a comunicare in modo significativo: generalmente l’uomo di una coppia in crisi tende al silenzio, mentre la donna può reagire con il cosiddetto “fiume di parole”, che non vengono ascoltate o comprese. Il primo passo nel percorso analitico è imparare ad ascoltarsi e, in seguito, riflettere sul futuro della coppia.

L’obiettivo principale nel percorso del cultural adjustment non è necessariamente il risanamento dell’unità di coppia, bensì la chiara percezione, da parte di entrambi i componenti, della loro identità e del loro ruolo nel rapporto, con la possibilità che questa nuova consapevolezza possa portare alla separazione. In fondo, un partner può vivere bene la vita di coppia soltanto se vive bene con se stesso. La separazione potrebbe portare alla creazione di una famiglia allargata, alla formazione di nuove vite di coppia, con la gestione condivisa dei figli, se ci sono, ed è necessario che alla base di tutto questo ci sia, in caso, l’accettazione della dimensione reale e una buona volontà.

In questo tipo di consulenza bisogna stabilire un clima empatico e il professionista deve immedesimarsi nel paziente. L’analista diventa il mediatore, il traduttore, e spiega esattamente quello che un partner sta tentando di trasmettere all’altro. Per quanto mi riguarda, sono stata avvantaggiata dalla mia storia personale: provengo da una famiglia mista, con genitori di origini e religioni diverse. Parlo l’italiano e l’inglese, e conosco discretamente spagnolo, tedesco ed ebraico. L’origine multiculturale mi permette di cogliere il senso profondo di gesti o di termini usati involontariamente nell’esprimersi in seduta.

Senza dubbio, la situazione che dà più soddisfazione è quella in cui una coppia mista, dopo essere andata in crisi a causa della disarmonia rivelatasi pian piano nella vita di coppia, riesce, grazie alla consulenza, a identificare un terreno comune sul quale ripartire. Questo “common ground” può essere semplicemente la voglia di stare uniti; capita che il consulente riesca a dar voce a qualcosa che è nell’aria ma che non trova espressione, e che dalla disarmonia nasca una nuova armonia.

Giulia Remorino, psicoterapeuta, specialista in “cultural adjustment.”


Artistic values

When restoring a prestige building, cultural content is valuable from every point of view.
An article written with Luciano Broglia, architect,

Luciano Broglia specializes in the renovation and refurbishment of historic buildings. This means buildings dating to before 1900, while not excluding later works, such as those by a renowned designer, or buildings that are a good expression of its period. We have to remember a significant statistic: over 60% of the world’s cultural heritage is in Italy. To be more specific, a report published by Pricewaterhouse Coopers in 2009 states that Italy has over 3,400 museums, about 2,100 archaeological areas, and 43 Unesco sites. The latter include, by way of example, 24 Palladian villas in the Veneto region, while in the province of Vicenza alone there are at least another 60 examples of monumental architecture, in the form of villas, palazzi, churches, abbeys and castles. And this is just one province!

So in Italy, it is quite feasible that when you purchase a house, you may find yourself as the owner of a significant piece of architecture. The question is, if you want to make some improvements, how do you ensure that these are not going to damage the artistic value, which could in turn adversely affect its economic value?

The system of state Superintendencies (Soprintendenze) that supervise and protect the artistic and architectural heritage provides some guarantees. Any buildings that are over fifty years old and belong to private or state organizations are automatically registered and monitored. Buildings owned by private citizens may or may not be registered with a Superintendency, and in the former case alone they are controlled – meaning that any renovation or refurbishment operation has to be approved by the Superintendency.

However, whatever the situation as regards Superintendencies, when working on a historical building, the important thing is to preserve its distinctive characteristics, those that express the period to which it belongs. In Italy, the general approach at the present time is to restore what exists, but not rebuild. If any changes or additions are made, they should be treated in such a way as to be able to distinguish the new work from the old. This is a different concept with respect to other countries, such as the United Kingdom, where very often new volumes are built having the same characteristics and appearance of an existing architectural fragment.

Working with Superintendencies may sound like something extremely bureaucratic, restrictive and difficult to handle, but in actual fact the people working in these offices are highly professional, and often have a real passion for their job which transcends their purely official functions. Architects speciaizing in restoration have to work with officials at the Superintendencies all the time, and they are well aware that what seems to be just paperwork can actually become an interesting form of cooperation, a way of developing useful ideas for the case in hand.

Of course, in the private sector there is a vast heritage of ‘minor’ architecture that is not subject to artistic restrictions, but that nonetheless includes prestige buildings, significant in terms of their purely artistic value and for the period in which they were built. In this area, owners are often faced with the decision of whether to modify or even eliminate certain characteristic features in order to make the building more practical, or whether to preserve and highlight them. In the latter case, it is likely that the building will increase in value, both in economic and cultural terms.

In restoration and refurbishment, architects may specify traditional materials, analogous to those used when the building was constructed, or more recent high-tech materials. In some cases, a compromise has to be made, in part due to the need to comply with legislation in areas such as the reduction of energy consumption.

In any case, it is always a good idea to utilize the services of an architect who is accustomed to handling this sort of situation, which can often get extremely complicated. The architect has to identify the terms of the problem, locate contractors who possess the craft skills required, and supervise the work, dealing with the ‘surprises’ that often arise when renovating historic buildings.

How do you find (considering Italy) an architect who has experience in this area? There are no specific registers, and recommendations are generally purely by word of mouth. An architect who works in this sector has, in addition to the normal design, project management and site management skills, other areas of knowledge, including restoration techniques, and a detailed knowledge of the history architecture, so that he or she is capable of identifying the building’s history and context, and successively advising on the type of restoration to be performed, whether philological or scientific.

Luciano Broglia’s final consideration returns to the wealth of the Italian cultural heritage. A purely economic approach to the renovation of architectural works will ultimately have negative consequences on the overall artistic heritage, because the true value of such works (to quote GIovanni Urbani, architect and director of the Central Institute of Restoration, Rome, from 1973 to 1983) lies in people’s sense of belonging to their local environment, and the degree of identity that the resident feels with the building in which he resides.

Luciano Broglia, architect,


Valori artistici​ ​ ​

Nel restauro dell’immobile di prestigio, il contenuto culturale è prezioso da ogni punto di vista.

Quando si parla di immobili di una certa epoca storica – consideriamo quelli risalenti a prima del 1900 (ma anche dopo per quegli edifici che per la fama del progettista o perché sono l’emblema di un’epoca, hanno comunque un valore notevole) – bisogna partire dalla considerazione che più del 60% del patrimonio culturale mondiale si trova in Italia. Tanto per dare un’idea, secondo un rapporto pubblicato da Pricewaterhouse Coopers nel 2009, l’Italia possiede oltre 3.400 musei, circa 2.100 aree e parchi archeologici, e 43 siti Unesco. Questi ultimi comprendono, per esempio, 24 ville palladiane nel Veneto, ma nella sola provincia di Vicenza ci sono almeno altri 60 esempi pregevoli di architettura monumentale, fra ville, palazzi, chiese, abbazie e castelli.

E’ facile quindi che, con l’acquisto di un immobile, ci si trovi a possedere un bene architettonico e artistico di una certa importanza. Come ci dobbiamo comportare per essere sicuri di non danneggiare questo patrimonio con le operazioni di ristrutturazione, preservandone peraltro il valore?

Il sistema delle Soprintendenze e la legislazione offrono già delle garanzie in merito. Per esempio, gli immobili che appartengono a enti, sia privati che statali, sono sottoposti a vincolo se hanno più di cinquant’anni di vita; gli edifici privati di notevole pregio dovrebbero invece essere iscritti a un registro della Soprintendenza e, solo in questo caso, essere soggetti a vincolo. (Per chiarezza, con la parola “vincolo” s’intende che qualsiasi intervento, sull’edificio vincolato, è sottoposto al parere degli organi competenti).

È evidente, comunque, che nella ristrutturazione di un edificio che possiede elementi di pregio artistici o architettonici è importante operare per conservare le caratteristiche e l’essenza della sua epoca. In Italia si tende a conservare e non a ricostruire (gli interventi di modifica o di reintegro debbono essere ben visibili rispetto al contesto preesistente); questo approccio ci distingue da altri paesi, come, per esempio, il Regno Unito, dove spesso si costruiscono nuovi volumi con le stesse caratteristiche di un frammento architettonico preesistente.

Il dover affrontare le Soprintendenze potrebbe sembrare qualcosa di restrittivo o di fastidioso; in realtà i funzionari di questi enti di controllo possiedono una grande professionalità, e molto spesso una profonda passione che va oltre il concetto burocratico del loro ruolo. Gli architetti specializzati nel restauro sanno che gestire i contatti con i Funzionari delle Soprintendenze può essere un faticoso confronto, ma anche una collaborazione ed uno sviluppo di idee.

Vi è poi, nel privato, tutto un patrimonio “minore” che pur non essendo sottoposto a restrizioni o vincoli esiste spesso all’interno di edifici comunque di pregio, sia per caratteristiche che per epoca; e qui entra in gioco la “sensibilità” dei proprietari dell’immobile che devono decidere se eliminare e snaturare questi elementi o se dar loro invece visibilità e nuova vita. Spesso il mantenere sapientemente questi elementi porta lo stato dell’immobile ad un valore più alto (solo ragionando in termini meramente economici), ma è anche un’operazione di recupero culturale che sarebbe sempre auspicabile.

Nelle opere di ristrutturazione e di restauro si lavora utilizzando sia materiali tradizionali, analoghi a quelli originali, sia invece materiali frutto delle più recenti tecnologie.

Ovviamente in talune situazioni è necessario mediare, e bisogna conciliare l’estetica ed il restauro con le più recenti normative (un esempio su tutti quelle sul contenimento dei consumi energetici).

È comunque consigliabile utilizzare i servizi di un architetto abituato a gestire queste situazioni, che spesso si presentano complesse nel miscelare tutte le problematiche connesse; che è in grado di identificare tutte le componenti, di reperire le imprese con maestranze esperte nel settore e di gestire il procedere dei lavori, spesso affrontando le “sorprese” che si presentato in una ristrutturazione su edifici storici.

È domanda lecita chiedere come si trovino architetti con esperienza nel campo specifico: in questo settore, come in molti altri, vige il passaparola. I professionisti che lavorano nel settore possiedono, oltre alle consuete capacità di gestione del progetto e del cantiere, le conoscenze specifiche in materia di restauro e un’approfondita familiarità con la storia dell’architettura, per poter individuare l’anima e la storia dell’edificio ed il suo contesto, e per orientare la scelta del tipo di restauro possibile, sia filologico, che scientifico.

Per concludere, in un contesto di così grande ricchezza del patrimonio culturale come quello italiano, una logica puramente economica applicata al recupero dei beni architettonici è destinata ad influire negativamente sul patrimonio artistico generale, perché i valori veri di tali beni si misurano (per citare l’arch. Giovanni Urbani, direttore dell’Istituto Centrale per il Restauro di Roma dal 1973 al 1983) in termini del senso di appartenenza delle persone al territorio e l’immedesimazione dell’abitante alla cosa abitata.

Luciano Broglia, architetto,