Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹

It’s a small world after all

Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹

My life could have gone one of two ways:

  1. I find someone who can put up with my odd hobbies and marry them.

  2. I stay single and allow my hobbies to get progressively weirder until I lose the plot and build a miniature version of the world complete with running trains, sprawling cities, country homes, cemeteries, weather systems, cafes, night clubs, murder scenes, nudists, wildlife…and Tour de France.

Fortunately, with HZero - I got to experience both!

Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹

HZero is home to one of the largest model railways in Europe, spanning over 280 square metres. Across five interconnected platforms, you get to experience a big slice of a tiny world.

From the bustling city streets…

Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹

To idyllic country life…

Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹

The detail is insane. Every inch of space tells a tiny story. You see workmen fixing potholes, doctors giving bad news, people missing their trains, hunters stalking their prey, teenagers making out, widows crying, drunks partying and couples arguing. It even has a day/night cycle!

It tickles a strange (but not unpleasant) existential crease in my brain. To see, from an eagle eye view, the minutiae of our existence played out all at once makes you realise how insignificant we really are. We’re just tiny patterns on the tapestry of life.

Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹

Is it dumb to take such an overly existential perspective from something that’s clearly a glorified children’s exhibit?

I don’t think so. I believe it’s the entire point.

HZero began as a pet project in 1973. It was founded by Giuseppe di San Giuliano, an incredibly successful business owner, born into one of the oldest families in Sicily. I don’t have time to cover this in detail, but look him up. He was clearly a deeply intelligent man with many interests from music and fashion to landscaping and model railways.

What started as a small hobby in his living room became a 40 year long obsession. It soon grew to take up his country home barn house, a hangar and eventually a refurbished cinema in the heart of Florence.

As his son said:

Giuseppe did not simply want to assemble a route for train tracks, but craft a setting in which to enable the trains to travel in a realistic panorama.

Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹

This level of dedication inspired some of the most talented model makers in the world to offer their services. The process of moving the model to its final home took over five years of co-ordination. This wasn’t just a kids toy to them - this was their lives.

Unfortunately, Giuseppe passed away before he could see it in its final form. But I like to think he’s looking down on us and enjoying our tiny little stories play out.

Below is an image of the train station he created for the piece. Unsurprisingly, he said it was the best part of the entire model railway:

It’s a true work of art.

I don’t disagree.

Giuseppe is an inspiration to anyone who likes to take their hobbies a bit too seriously.

Olive Pigs - a hungry Italian adventure 🇮🇹