Jane on the hunt for Tarzan

With a surname like mine and an adventurous spirit – Jane has forever been on the look out for Tarzan!? On that note I accepted a rather unusual invite to go to the Adventure park in the nearby hills of Florence, and was not disappointed! Bundled in amongst oodlesSue Jane of kids raring to go as soon as the Park opened, we joined the queue to be equipped with the necessary harness and helmet.

While anxious parents looked on as their children were being given instructions we stood at the back but with a keen ear to catch all the info so we could do the test run without making a fool of ourselves.

Kid Tarzans

The most encouraging part is that you remain locked onto the cable for the entire time, so in the case of any mishap the worst that can happen is you’re left dangling like a dummy…not very Tarzan like!

There was a buzz of excitement amongst the kids,  a few apprehensive looks and reassuring glances from parents and grandparents and we were off on the test run.

Nimble bodies clambered up the tree trunks, tangling and disentangling their harnesses, in their eagerness to get going, while the rest of us learnt from their mistakes. Such fun to be part of their giggles and chatter, and the continuous shouting of ‘Geronimo’ as they clicked onto the flying fox and swooped to the base line.

And then it was us Tarzan and Jane! Not to be outdone, we followed the kids trail, slowly working our way up to higher and more difficult trails – meaning we started  with the Sloth trail, commandeered the Dormouse and Ladybird trail and last conquered, in a rather wobbly fashion, the Cricket trail! That still leaves the Squirrel, Bat, Gecko and awesome Monkey trails to do next time round!?

It was encouraging to see that most of the youngsters were looking pretty fit as I had just read an OECD report on childhood obesity and was staggered to find out that Fat childwhile Italy has a low rate amongst adults, it was now rating SECOND behind Greece amongst children!. An incredible 36% against a 30% rate in the USA which I had presumed would be first on the list!

Perhaps a result of the move away from the healthy Mediterranean diet, the influx of takeaway food stores, and the sedentary nature of computer games. The report also suggested that the financial crisis “is providing incentives for consumers to switch to lower-priced and less healthy foods,”  and Italians are spending less on fruit and vegetables. Oh my!

I was heartened to see that Italy was toward the bottom of the list of the 40 countries in adult overweight and obesity. Let’s hope that’s because some common sense prevails after the teen years and Italians go back to the good old Mediterranean diet and get more exercise. Since Italians love to be ‘peacocks’ and preen and parade in their best gear, the pressure is on to be in shape.

In recent months there has been a lot of discussion with the opening of Milan Expo –  whose theme is ‘Feeding the Planet.’ Michelle Obama has been over more than once and fighting the battle in the USA against obesity together with an old time favourite of mine, chef Jamie Oliver. His call for practical food education to be on school curriculums and regular exercise programs has been a global campaign with already some successful outcomes. He forced MacDonald’s to eliminate the use ofpink slime’ beef filler in hamburgers in the USA and continues to push for healthier food and home or communal vegetable gardens.

But this is not a blog about Jamie, just an awareness of what fun it can be for allZipline ages to be outdoors, getting some exercise. The Adventure Park is a test of concentration, stamina,  determination and coordination skills. Exhilaration and satisfaction on finishing each course ‘Geronimo‘ like.The badgering parents below, shouting “go on you can do it, it’s easy..”  need to get up and amongst it.

So as Jane wobbled and wavered amongst the trees  hunting for Tarzan ( the proof is here ) Tarzan had his feet firmly on the ground doing the video!






Humans invade the Fort in Florence

Human statuesWe had the Alien invasion last year and now Humans have invaded Forte Belvedere in Florence! Sir Antony Gormley’s exhibition of statues is  perhaps not as amusing as the Aliens but curious enough and the view over Florence from Forte Belvedere is breathtaking. In the current heatwave we have had this Summer it’s not surprising that the only Humans left standing are these….and even some have ended up in a heap, just like the rest of us!

The exhibition “Humans”  is open all Summer and free of charge, with a tempting bar to relax in after wandering the Fort and grounds looking for the hidden and not so hidden sculptures.Humans exhibition Gormley

I was curious to know more about Gormley and took the free tour with a very enthusiastic guide who had met Gormley and explained his philosophy behind the sculptures. Gormley had spent considerable time at the Fort discussing the placement of the sculptures saying “ I want to create stumbling blocks that stop the viewer in their tracks. I want to encourage the viewer to think again about who they are and how they negotiate the spaces around them” The beauty of the exhibition to me, is that the figures are not intrusive, being of human size and blend rather than impose in the various levels and areas of the Forte unlike the Zhang Huan Soul and Matter exhibition in 2013.Florence HumansHuman on the wall

Waiting for Godot





The same 12 figures, which repeat themselves in different positions and locations, are from a mould of Gormley’s body, and left empty so we can place our own ideas ‘inside‘ as to what the formations represent to us.. The first line across the courtyard suggests the evolution of man looking over the past centuries of Renaissance glory. On the opposite side the bodies are heaped in a mass suggesting a massacre of some sort, the ‘negative’ side of man. The guide did cheekily recount that not everyone interprets the heap in the same way as a lady in another group suggested it was a ‘festa, an orgy’!? I let you judge that  for yourselvesBodies in a heap.Gormley statue






Gormley then made another series of digital figures ‘Blockworks’ , pouring the hot iron into polystyrene blocks, which left a rough unfinished look. My favourite would have to be at the back of the Forte where the figure looks toward the countryside, to a better future perhaps…Blockwork GormleyDigital statues

Digital Humans over Florence





Statue acrobat



It’s easy to find visitors exploring unknown nooks and crannies of the Fort in search of more ‘Humans’  spending the afternoon and sunset playing amongst them like children.Three wise Humans

Gormley Human

Photo credit - Catherine Glasser

Photo credit – Catherine Glasser








So make sure Forte Belvedere is on your list of places to visit in Florence next time you are over, whether you are in time to see Gormley’s Humans this year  or another exhibition next year.



Via dell’Amore – not such a romantic beginning

Via dell'Amore

Photo credit Giulia Gosnell Carmignani

For such a romantic trail, known world wide, it may be surprising to learn that the Via dell’ Amore did not have such a romantic beginning….rather an explosive one!

The whole area of the Cinque Terre remained quite isolated until the  construction of the road in 1875 and the railway line at the beginning of the 1900’s. Until then the villages were only accessible from the sea and between each other via the (now)  hiking trails.


View of Riomaggiore

For the railway line Genoa- la Spezia a tunnel was needed between Riomaggiore and Manarola, explosive powder to mine it, and a safe storage area for the powder while construction took place. Hence two paths were built overlooking the sea for access and storage area, joining the two villages in less than 1 kilometre path. After the completion of the tunnel locals saw great value in maintaining the link, renovating it to make it easier to access and it became the major thoroughfare. As tourists came to appreciate the area and this path in particular for it’s romantic atmosphere, it was renamed the Via dell’ Amore.


View of Manarola

Despite major funds being spent on the path, to widen it and place netting to secure it against rock slides, it has had major difficulties. The last accident was on the  23rd Sept 2012 when 4 Australian tourists were knocked off the path by rock falls and very lucky to survive. Two suffered severe injuries with broken bones and head injuries and one had to have her spleen removed.

Rock fall Via dell'Amore

Via dell'Amore Accident 2012The path was closed and has remained so until July this year when a very small portion, 200m, was reopened to the public, from behind the Manarola station.

Costs to repair, stabilise and monitor were estimated at € 2m and €300,000 to repair from Manarola up to the kiosk of which €500,000 was funded from the Liguria region and the rest from the State railways. A further € 8 – 12m is required to complete the repair work and monitor up to Riomaggiore, and it seems likely that the rest of the trail will remain closed for some years.

Cinque terre Riomaggiore

View of Riomaggiore


In Riomaggiore with a friend

It’s very disheartening, as it is a wonderful path hugging the coastline, with gorgeous views, clear blue seas below and very romantic! I don’t know how many times I have walked along it since 1985, I only wish I had more photos to keep as memories until it reopens.



The territory of the Cinque Terre is a fragile one and as the years pass even more so with climatic changes and  concerns about the mass tourism now overcrowding the villages and trails creating a further stress on resources.

But it’s still fabulous to me!