The last time I visited Gardaland my overpowering impression was of a nice park marred by awful coasters and the worst customer service known to man. I'd planned to enter the park with an open mind, ready to rescind my previous comments, but my positive attitude vanished even as we approached the park gate. Just ten of the twenty-eight ticket booths were open as we approached, and thus we were faced with a twenty minute queue for the privilege of buying admission to what is the most expensive amusement park in all of Italy.
Having finally cleared the first hurdle, we entered the queue for Mammut (#1362). Gardaland's newest coaster certainly looks the part, with its layout interwoven around faux mountain theming in the way of the best mine trains out there. Unfortunately the ride itself has some horrendous bumps in the track, and the lack of padding in the trains mean that these really hurt. George is fond of saying that you can polish a turd but it still smells, and the maxim definitely applies here.
Given the cost of admission one might have hoped the whole park would be open, but it was not to be; the area featuring the the only decent coaster was roped off with a sign indicating that it was closed until noon. There wasn't enough time in our schedule to wait around, so as a fallback I decided to brave Magic Mountain. The rolling stock on what was a pretty awful coaster has recently been replaced with the latest Vekoma design. The most visible change is a soft padded overhead restraint that owes much to that first introduced on their flying coasters. The alteration completely eliminates the headbanging that rides of this vintage often suffer from, and while a double loop and corkscrew will never be a top ten attraction, the changes do at least move it out of the bottom fifty.
28th May 2009
Fiabilandia is a bright and colourful park geared at young families. To that end, the vast majority of attractions are toddler friendly. The only exception is the new coaster this year, which strangely enough can only be ridden once with park admission, but then again no sane person would ever choose to marathon on Space Mouse (#1363).
The most interesting coaster in the park is probably best described as a particularly big apple. Valle degli Gnomi (#1364) is a terrain coaster that operates two caterpillar trains on a course that undulates its way around some colourful theming, including, of course, several oversized apples. The single lift hill, located half way through the course, is enclosed with a tiny dark ride section. The layout probably achieves a top speed of no more than ten miles an hour, but this doesn't take away at all from what is a particularly neat family coaster.
The overall experience of the Miniera d'Oro (#1365) was largely the same, in that most of the ride consisted of a relatively slow wander through bright and colourful theming. However, in this case a second lift hill leads to a fully enclosed fifty foot drop that is a definite highlight. I'm not entirely convinced by the light show within this tunnel, which doesn't quite go with the rest of the theming, but that marks the only oddity in what is again a top notch family coaster.
The ride operator on the Castello di Mago Merlino dark ride was amused at two adults choosing to try her attraction, and even more so when one of the stunts within the ride caused both of us to jump out of our skin. I'm not going to spoil the trick for future visitors, but let's just say that it's a good one. Our final stop was on an electrically driven boat ride through some oversized vegetation and the inside of a dragon. As my description suggests the Lago del Sogno was more than a little disjointed, but having said that the average three year old would almost certainly fail to notice!