Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Shanghai Illusion

hl08Who were Maurine Karns and Pat Patterson?
I don’t have much information on this strange duo, but the fact that in 1936 they published a guide to Shanghai that’s one of the most cherished (and fun) pieces in my collection.

The book (which was reprinted a few years ago by always reliable Earnshaw Books) is called Shanghai – High Lights, Low Lights, Tael Lights.
And it is absolutely outrageous.
In a good way, mind you! Continue reading


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The other influential books

bad-business-booksSo, ok, you know the story about the ten books that influenced our lives and all that.
My friend Claire, being complicated*, made two lists – she rightly observed that if there’s some books that influenced our lives because we loved ’em, it’s also true there some books that pushed us in certain directions because we… well, because we loathed them.

So, can I put together a similar list?
Books that made me what I am because I did not like them?
I’m not sure I can make it to ten, so I’ll stop at five.

Continue reading


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Learning Chinese

chineseThey say the first day of September is the true “New Year’s Day”, when it comes to work and projects.
It might well be.
It’s certainly true for me – autumn is always a highly-charged time of the year, as far as I’m concerned.
Pity it’s not the same for my country – so, while I’m still sending out CVs and running around looking for a new job, I look around and I keep busy.

And that’s the reason why, in two weeks, I’m starting a course of Chinese. Continue reading


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Silk Road Memories – Trieste

This is an unexpected post.
Yesterday my blog was involved in the promotional tour for the first volume in a new historical fiction trilogy, called L’Ombra dell’Impero, written by Italian noir thriller stalwart Al Custerlina, and set in Trieste.
Now, I visited Trieste only once, but I love that city dearly, and some of thepeople that live there.
So I wrote a sort of rambling piece about Trieste and the East, and adventure, and mystery.
Here it is.

Trieste is to me, who grew up on the other side of Italy, a city that has the flavor of the Mysterious East.
I visited it once, in a particularly important moment of my life – I was there to hold for the first time uncorso university .
At night, I explored the city – including local furnished almost steampunk 19th century style, breweries , and an amazing restaurant with Chinese dragons rolled up around red pillars at the entrance.
In Trieste land and sea lanes cross.
Everything passed through Trieste, merchandise, ideas, men and women – merchants , crusaders , refugees, smugglers.
For centuries, Tireste was the door to the Orient – first as a stage stop on the most western branch of the Silk Road, then as a Mediterranean port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a sort of northern Istanbul , and finally as a door to that Orient that was beyond an iron curtain .
From here, going east , the traveler left the nineteenth century Europe built on orderly timetables and letters of credit, and entered that confused and exotic Oriental universe, which perhaps he already had had a taste of in Italy.
Beyond Trieste, the roads were dusty, trains and stagecoaches became increasingly erratic, men were unreliable, women mysterious and sensual .
As Constantinople, as Samarkand, as Alexandria or Casablanca, Trieste deserves a place in the imagination as a crossroads of mystery and adventure, as a place where ideas, valuables, genetic material and events mingled freely.
It is high time the centrality of Trieste in our history, and in our imagination, is reclaimed.
Not as a vague spectrum, but as a place that casts its long shadow on what we are, on what we think.