Blog: Mission impossible

Thursday, May 9

Emailing and texting my colleagues from the moment I left the house to arrival in hotel in Florence. It felt a bit like that old TV programme – Challenge Anneka. Travel across Europe, find a wifi hotspot good enough for downloading a new full app, and then go on a treasure hunt.

Well that’s exactly what I did. I set off from home near Oxford, email coming in from Jo warning that the app might be too big to download, with David noticing some audio files had been muddled up, with Nicky getting worried she’d sent the wrong stuff over to Jo – that sort of thing. Meanwhile I’m texting and emailing the people in Florence to check there will be some people to trial with and that meeting are set up.

Radio silence as I fly across to Pisa and of course, land, turn on the phone and pick up another load of comments and progress reports. By this point Jo has left the office for other work and Tom has stepped in on app operation control. He’s confident changes are more or less made – but yes, the app containing both walks will be a big baby. 100MB: we’re so proud!

Phoning in ...
Phoning in …

Check in. Dump bag. Look at emails. No sign yet. Set off to phone shop to get a fast SIM card for the iPad to set up a hotspot to download the app. Get that, come out of the shop. Email arrives – ready to go. But I need to rejuice the phone … oh my God, I am such a novice at technology.

So I go to Palazzo Strozzi – there’s a cafe there and I remember being told good wifi. So coffee for me (essential), plug for the phone and wifi. The app is delivered. Its a beauty. Ready to go – and I even installed it on my mini iPad for better visibility.

So, having bought sundry SIM cards to set up personal hotspots for my trial group tomorrow , I made a last minute change of plan and email the trial volunteers to meet at Palazzo Strozzi where the wifi is phenomenal.

Well this is getting tedious to read. But you can see perhaps I found it all quite involving …

Set off out to try the new “route” starting from Ponte Vecchio. The app opens into the Bonsignori map – and then as I get near to our first location, it all fires off. In the crowd of tourists – I almost whooped. Here I am, walking in 2013 Florence, on what looks like the standard Google map shuffle (you know – head down looking at the screen, plugs in ears). Instead I’m an immersive historical experience – I can see the real streets and bridge, but also how it looked in the Renaissance on the map. And then Giovanni starts to tell me to look at the view from 1490 – the barges of goods coming up the river, the procession going by me, the bustle of hat and glove sellers,  and occasional butcher. And so on to the hanging man at the Bargello, the bread riots on Piazza della Signoria, and the street sellers at Mercato Vecchio.

Enough about that.

Friday, May 10

Morning tried out a few bits of the walk again. Palazzo Strozzi (originally missed off – an oversight) was fixed in a late-night marathon by Tom. He’s also moved a few locations and fixed a few gremlins I’d reported back. Thanks Tom.

Then into a meeting with Dr James Bradburne – Director of the Palazzo Strozzi museum. Really very useful; some excellent suggestions. But above all he liked it!

Then a quick “culture break” and I went round the “Springtime of the Renaissance” show in the Palazzo Strozzi – very much worth a visit. Many old friends, including St Matthew (of bankers’ guild fame – listen to the app!).

Then off to the outskirts near the airport for a meeting with the head of the Comune di Firenze tourism office. Again, another very useful meeting. They will help us with publicity. Fantastic.

Back to the centre – Palazzo Strozzi is beginning to think I’ve moved in. Meet my trial group – the heavens open. I’m sure that’s why we end up being quite a small group. Pochi ma buoni (few, but excellent). And patient. After we’ve set up the phones (no android, sigh!), we set off in what has settled in to be a steady rain to try it all out. I ask them to just do a couple, then we’ll go for a drink. They love it and we do almost the whole thing. They love the new navigation features (the map toggle, the instructions) and the content … well, they’d just like to have more!

After all that a few of us go for a drink and something to eat – and I try not to bore for England about the app.

Saturday, May 11

A new challenge. Today I go to a studio, meet Roberto Andrioli – the voice of the Italian Giovanni (Colin Guthrie does the English version) – and we go to a recording studio to record his scripts. Nicky is in England on Skype telling us how to do things, and the very professional Massimo also has ideas. Not good for me to be in the middle as the main interpreter. Anyway, we get things sorted, it takes a bit longer than planned, but we record all 19 pieces in about three hours. It then takes almost as long to get them sent over the internet some how. This is an 800MB “raw” baby … I guess it’ll have to shrink before it joins the final app.

I call all that a pretty busy few days. And I cut it down! Certainly kept some variety there in my diet – you don’t get further from a day in the library. I confess I don’t get there as much as I’d like at the moment. Maybe when this is all over.

Fabrizio Nevola


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