Zoosafari Fasanolandia29th May 2009
Yesterday evening finished off with a five hour drive down the east coast of Italy, an exhausting experience despite it being all on the same autostrade. The monotony was only broken by the occasional Ferrari screaming past at at least twice the posted speed limit, though all this really achieved was to remind us of the inadequacy of our rental Nissan Micra. To the best of my knowledge such speeds are only legal on the German motorways, but then anyone with enough money for an Italian sports car probably isn't worried about being fined.
Zoosafari has a ridiculously complicated ticketing system with many different choices. The average coaster enthusiast is likely to want the eight euro Fasanolandia ticket, which allows entrance to the amusement park without the attached safari. This ticket covers the first six rides, with additional tokens available for two euro apiece. As far as we could see there was no pay one price deal available.
One of the new attractions this year is apparently a Gerstlauer Euro Fighter. Its name can be found on the admission ticket and the park map, and posters featuring a car from Speed and the track from Falcon can be seen around the place. Unfortunately all that actually exists in the apparent location is a construction site, and track segments and supports are conspicuous by their absence. Having said that this will be coaster number five for the park, so it's not like guests are short of things to do.
The nearest coaster to the entrance is Spinning Madness (#1366), our second encounter with this design in as many days. This version was making some quite disconcerting squeaking noises, but they had no impact on the ride quality which was exactly as expected. Equally there were no surprises on the Montagne Russe (#1367).
Mirage Rosso (#1368) is one of two Fabbri inverted coasters that remain in operation today. A production design with only a few installations immediately raises a red flag in the enthusiast psyche; after all, one might expect any half decent design to sell in quantity. Despite our misgivings however there were basically no problems; the train tracked smoothly with only the occasional jolt, and there was none of the nasty shuffling that so characterises a certain well known inverted coaster design. The only real oddity was the seating, with three rows of three; can anyone think of any other coaster with a nine seater train?
We had to wait for some children before the operator would run the Bruco (#1369), but with that cleared we used up our last two rides on the ferris wheel and the Castello Incantato, a rather disappointing dark ride. Rather than spend any more money we elected to move on.
Miragica29th May 2009
Miragica, the Land of the Giants, is the first all new theme park to be constructed in Europe in several years. It is located twenty minutes to the north of Bari, a major resort city on the south eastern coast of Italy. Though not a large facility by modern standards, the seventeen attractions therein have been themed heavily, and the result is, in a word, stunning.
The major coaster in the park is a hydraulic launched design from Intamin named Senzafiato (#1370), or breathless. The train makes almost no sound at it crests a sixty foot apex and drops into a twisted layout that keeps its sense of pacing all the way to the brake run. Though an intense experience it doesn't appear overpowering, and indeed I saw one very young looking child burst into tears because he didn't make the height limit. The other coaster, Spaccatempo (#1371), the time-breaker, is the compact spinning mouse design from Zamperla (née Reverchon). Though lacking the flair of its brother it has been spruced up with a fifty foot tall clock resting at an angle next to the queue line.
Two other rides are available for the coraggiosi; a launched tower ride and a Disk-O coaster, both from Zamperla. The latter was sadly out of commission for my visit, though engineers were working on it throughout the day. I did get to see it move for a brief period, but the spinning was interrupted by a mechanical clang coupled with some excited gesticulations that suggested to this casual observer that probably wasn't supposed to happen. Presumably it will have been fixed by the time these words are read.
The park queue lines are fitted with an ingenious display system that ensures that just the right number of guests pass through the turnstiles for each ride. It also virtually eliminates the problem of empty seats, as single riders near the front of a queue can easily fill any gaps.
Any park in this part of the world survives on its water rides, and Miragica features two. Taking pride of place is a spinning rapids ride with a vertical lift that has been embedded into an artificial mountain. The Mangiabiglie (marble-eater) is the only ride of it's type I've ever seen with a lap bar, but the boat spun sufficiently quickly to make me very glad of it as something to brace with. It was utterly unnecessary as a restraint, as riders could barely move anyway thanks to the centrifugal forces. The Strozzagorgo flume looked extremely wet, and thus I decided to give it a miss.
A large amphitheatre at one end of the park is the setting for the Segreto di Miragica show, a twenty five minute acrobatic performance that rivals Cirque du Soleil for its quality. The music is all original for the park, including a particularly catchy Miragica theme that is sung live by a cast of over twenty performers. On my visit it was impossible not to notice a number of management types taking notes as the show ran; it seems that things are still being fine tuned (pun intended). Given the standard that has already been achieved I really don't think there's anything more to do.
The final major attraction is an unusual 4D cinema that features a panoramic 180° display. The movie today was Conch Bay, a film featuring some Italian-speaking fish that owes a lot to Finding Nemo. The 4D effects were used in a particularly effective fashion, as each was only used just once, introducing an element of surprise. The air sprays at ankle height towards the end of the movie produced some of the funniest screams I've ever heard in a theme park.
Miragica is the first park I've been to in some time which has left me seriously impressed. At a time when the world economy is in decline it was refreshing to see a reasonable number of cars in the car park on a Friday in school term, something which bodes very well for the coming season. Best of all, it seems that the team behind this park are building the new Terra Magica park which is due to open near Rome in a few years time. If this park is anything to go by the new one will most definitely be one to watch.