Monday, 14 January 2013

iMajella - Review of the App

As one with an attention span of a newt who’s always looking to move on, to go, to do, I wanted to launch into the app and find out, right, what can I do, where can I go, what’s to discover.  My first stop in the app was initially a disappointment: Discover the Park!  Hoorah, let’s jump straight in!  But no.  Just a lot of words about  “Why is the Park so unique”   Yeah, yeah, I know all that, just tell me something I don’t know.  And it did.  Almost immediately.  Bite sized morsels and a few stats that reminded me why we feel such a pull to this deeply fascinating and endlessly changing area of the Appennines.  From the 118 species of butterfly, the rare spectacled salamander, the 6 brace of golden eagle and the 39 municipalities, I was left wanting to learn more and to get out there and discover.

For the first time visitor to the Majella, the app is great to start you off.  It highlights where the key Visitor Centres are (a must visit for any first timer), the Botanical Gardens, Information Centres, Museums and where to find the enclosures to view the wildlife (red and roe deer, otters, chamois, wolves).  

The map itself has very useful colour coded pins showing the location of all the visitor centres, accommodation providers, agriturismos, restaurants, etc, and the main road network through the Park.  But it is not a hiking map, there are no trails on the map.

With the section on the trails, again the app is perfect for anyone new to the area as it gives good pointers for the best trails to begin with, both on foot and on horseback.  There are 22 trails listed for hikers (6 for horse riders), ranging from  the 20 minute hike up to the hermitage of San Onofrio here in Serramonacesca, to the 12 hour round trip from the Blockhaus to the Majella’s highest peak atop Monte Amaro (2793m).    

Be warned, however, that this section should only be used as a suggestion from which to plan any excursion.  It provides a summary of distance, difficulty level, where to start and when to go, but that is all.  Do not try to rely on the app alone, but plot your route in conjunction with a detailed map (available from the Visitor Centres or online (, and stay within your level of fitness, experience and mountain awareness.  

Should you get into difficulty the app has an ingenious feature for emergency signalling: to activate, simply shake your device!  Personally, I’d be terrified that any movement would result in being swooped on by search and rescue helicopters and a load of burly mountain men.  

Hmmm... on second thoughts, I might just have to test it out....

The only section that did disappoint me, was the section on the flora and fauna.  As it states in the summary, the Majella “has always been considered a privileged place for the richness and quality of its flora”, so if there are over “2100 species” why limit it to 21?  The same goes for the fauna, 12 species listed?  I would love to see more.  In our explorations of the Majella we are constantly seeing new plants, new animals, new birds.  Yes, we have reference books at home, but to have a comprehensive section for quick reference and identification on this app would be fabulous.

But, hey, it’s a free app that you don't need a wi-fi connection for, and it's in English as well as Italian.  In summary, it’s a great way to begin exploring and discovering this beautiful wilderness.  As it probably won’t be long before you’ve outgrown it, maybe a more detailed (paid for) upgrade should be made available?  I’d be happy to pay for one if it listed more flora and fauna.

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