Alien invasion in Florence?

Exhibition Florence
Looking down a side street in the centre of Florence I spied a group looking skyward and curiosity got the better of me so I  checked out what had attracted their attention – a Super creatures’ invasion in Florence!

Animal statues





It’s a great art installation of white figures with a human body and an animal head that are scaling the wall of the Gallery Hotel, or left swinging in mid-air across the little piazza or poking out from various corners of the buildings that face the square.

Flying statueStatues and me









It’s quite startling and a delight to see onlookers pose, arms around the neck of the tiger man or cute cat woman or continue to look skyward as if expecting superman to fly over!

Rhino statue

The Art Installation is titled ‘Personal/Unpersonal by artist and architect Simone D’Auria and is a tribute to the city of Florence. As the blurb reads: The inspiration has its roots in the past of those great men who have made the city of Florence and its history, and who represented themselves through emblems depicting the head of an animal, followed by a motto that extolled the value and virtue of action. Some examples – the turtle with a sail for Cosimo I, symbol of prudence combined with the power of action, a rhino for Alessandro de Medici to symbolize his strength and strong will, a weasel for Francis I, the symbol of cunning…..the 18 creatures that adorn the Gallery Hotel and the square is a message from the artist to   ” continue to move forward whatever the challenge may be, to climb up, to be innovative and overcome one’s limits.


owl womanClimbing statues








I’m sure we could all think of appropriate animal associations for our current day politicians, but probably best not to go down that track!

The installation is certainly a talking point and great publicity for the Gallery Hotel, not unknown for its artworks and innovative minimalist interior. It is part of the Lungarno Collection of hotels founded by Leonardo Ferragamo – the son of the famous shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo.wild boar statue

Besides it’s such an unexpected surprise in a hidden corner of Florence near the Ponte Vecchio, like walking in on a circus act – amusing and inspiring.

Museum Ferragamo

Judy Garland's shoe

Judy Garland’s shoe 1938







After that you may feel enthused to drop into the Ferragamo museum nearby in the beautiful 14th Century Palazzo Spini Ferroni which has been the headquarters for the Company since 1938. Take a stroll down the designer street of Via Tornabuoni, just oozing with weird and wonderful outfits that you know you would never wear, till the street widens out into a Piazza around the Column of Justice and the Museum lies before you.

Ferragamo buildingFerragamo museum





The Museum displays shoes that look just like what you could buy upstairs in the shop today but date back to 1927 or 1938 the famous colourful cork wedge. Salvatore Ferragamo is captured in old film footage explaining what makes a shoe comfortable and his anatomical study of the foot. It’s an interesting glimpse into a man, truly ahead of his time in design and techniques, as well as a trip down memory lane being able to ogle shoes worn by the stars – like Judy Garland, Marilyn  Monroe and Audrey Hepburn.

Ferragamo handbag

The shoes or the handbag?

Ferragamo window







For more information about the Ferragamo museum, click here







Hiking the high trail San Bernardino – Vernazza

Hiking trailIt’s time to hike another trail in the Cinque Terre, this time from my little village of San Bernardino down to Vernazza via the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Reggio. It’s another high trail, only recently reopened, as it passes across the valley where most of the landslides occurred in the 2011 floods.

Leaving San Bernardino the trail leads almost immediately into a cluster of houses ( Seroa) and it’s easy to think you may be walking into someone’s private space. Women lounge out of their windows, catching up on the gossip, and welcome me through indicating where the trail continues.

Cinque Terre - San Bernardino

San Bernardino

Farmers cottage





That’s not without a question or two as to where I’m from …. “Ahhh you’re in Tin’s old house, well well, he was the boss around here in the old days! Long gone now though.”


I leave them chatting and continue, past a well tended vegie patch and old stone cottage and on into the woods. Most of the trail is in the shade, which makes a nice change, in parts it crosses some tiny streams and every so often the woods open up to vineyards and farm houses. A stray, out of season, poppy waves in the breeze alongside other wildflowers and exotic looking mushrooms, probably poisonous, have struggled up through the undergrowth.


Curiously wire gates block the trail leading through the vineyards, as defence against the wild boar who dig up roots and create a lot of damage to the vineyards and to the Nationa park in general. The gates appear to block the way, but are simply latched at the top, to let you through and need to be closed properly behind you so the wild boar are kept out.

gateGate latch





Vernazza sign





House and vineyards








After the vineyards the trail follows the road, takes another turn or two and then leads down to the shade of the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Reggio. Built in the 11th Century, legend has it that the image of the Madonna was brought from the Orient at the time of the first crusade and it is likely the church is built over a more ancient one.Sanctuary Madonna del Reggio

Locals are very attached to the Sanctuary and particularly enjoy the festival in August when a procession leaves from Vernazza for the Holy Mass followed by a great village picnic. Another excuse for a party!

It is surrounded by secular olives, elms and oak trees and provides a welcome shady spot above Vernazza with panoramic views of the coastline.Madonna del Reggio



Path from Sanctuary





From here the path down to Vernazza is mostly paved, since it was used as a Via Dolorosa and at various stops along the way you can still see some of the Stations of the Cross. In fact it was one of the first paths repaired after the flood, because of its importance to the locals and its general popularity.

ChapelOn my hike, there was no one in sight until I reached the Sanctuary, which did not surprise me that much, as many still think the rest of the trail to San Bernardino is closed.

It is however a very pleasant trail, cool and shady, a few steep parts but not too taxing and some great photo opportunities. Vernazza

Besides I could admire my little village from another angle and appreciate its beauty even more!