When I first travelled to mainland Europe over a decade ago Mirabilandia was the only Italian park on my bucket list. It had the tallest and fastest coaster in the country, the only B&M, and the only wood (since retired). There were around three dozen credits known to the enthusiast community, the vast majority only relevant to unapologetic credit whores. Since then, however, the market has changed, with four completely new parks opening their doors (Cinecitta World, Etnaland, Miragica, and MagicLand). The existing operators have thus been forced to invest to maintain market share.
Mirabilandia's first salvo in the new coaster war (if we can call it that) was iSpeed, described by me six years ago as the best coaster in Italy. We decided on the spur of the moment to join the dedicated front seat queue before the crowds had a chance to arrive, and this was definitely the right thing to do; from that location the ride was superb, delivering an impressive launch and somewhat smoother tracking than I'd remembered. The only slight disappointment, and it's a bit of a nitpick, was the interruption to pacing caused by magnetic trims on the mid-course block brake; it would have been great if these could be retracted when not required.
Megan's requirement to tick off all six credits (and the powered) resulted in our next stop being at Leprotto Express. Some of our members were on board as we approached, and from a distance it looked like they were about to valley; the train was moving at a slow walking pace, to the point that a gust of wind could have caused a rollback. As much fun as that might have been, however, the train made it back to the station, allowing the rest of us to enjoy a lap that reminded me very much of The Little Engine That Could. Footage on the Internet and my old trip report would tend to suggest that the slow speed was unusual; perhaps the unseasonably low temperature was the cause of the problem?
We went from there over to Katun, the classic B&M Inverter that has held the record for the longest coaster in Italy for fifteen years. While this style of ride is one of my favourites, my most recent experience was not a happy one thanks to overly tight restraints and somewhat suspect fabrication, and as such I couldn't wait to renew my acquaintance with a known good example. As expected the ride was superb, delivering an intense and forceful experience all the way from the superlative first drop to the final brake run, with only a slight rattle blocking a perfect score.
Having said that, it would be remiss of me not to comment on the operations today which were, in a word, bad. Katun was designed with a capacity of 1700 guests per hour, but it wasn't getting close to that as only one of the three trains was in use, with a second under obvious repair on the brake run, and the third nowhere in sight. It was more than a little disappointing to see a signature ride being operated at one third of potential capacity in the middle of August, especially when no limit was being imposed on the number of fast passes. On more than one occasion during the day we saw over half the train being taken by those who had paid extra to skip lines, seriously impacting the experience for ordinary guests.
Our next stop was at Max Adventures Master Thai, a nicely themed family attraction let down badly by third rate ride hardware. Megan described it as the most pointless coaster I have ever been on, and while I'm not sure I'd agree entirely with that (there being many other contenders for that dishonour) it's certainly not something that I'd have bothered with today if she hadn't needed the credit. One of the operators on duty got very stroppy with us taking photographs while queueing, which apparently constituted a safety risk (!). The only real positive was that both sides of the course were covered in one ride, so at least it wasn't necessary to queue twice.
We had the longest wait of the day on Pakal, a thirty-five minute opportunity to breathe in second hand smoke from those whose grasp of queueing etiquette was broadly equivalent to my knowledge of Lebanese belly dancing, though we did enjoy a small victory when we were invited to jump the offenders as a group of two. The ride was pretty much as I remembered it from years ago, being a respectable if not outstanding mouse with one extra switchback when compared to the more common Mack/Maurer/Reverchon designs.
The exit led pretty much directly to Rexplorer, a Mack powered coaster upgraded with elaborate dinosaur theming last year. The layout is a standard figure eight affair no different to that seen at Thorpe Park, Toshimaen, Tykkimaki, et al, but the on-board experience is augmented somewhat by an artificial mountain structure that makes the ride look far better than it otherwise would. I still wish the engineers could find a way to not have the ride slow to half speed for the last bit of the course, but presumably there's less wear and tear on the motor system that way.
It was early afternoon when Divertical (#2149) finally opened after an entire morning of testing. As luck would have it we were no more than fifty metres away when the barrier was lifted, allowing a relatively moderate wait of around twenty minutes that had quadrupled by the time we reached the boarding platform. It was fairly evident that we'd only be getting one ride today, and thus we decided to make the most of it.
The experience begins with a gentle minute-long float through concrete trough that finishes up at a sixty metre high lift mechanism engaged smoothly with no mechanical clunks of any kind. The climb takes around fifteen seconds, and includes a neat if slightly terrifying tilt effect at the half way point. The boat is then released into a fantastic drop that goes all the way back to ground level, followed by an airtime hill, a turnaround, a helix, a second airtime hill, and moderately wet splashdown that leaves riders with one wet foot apiece. A poncho is no defence due to the design of the boat, and the wave break over both sides simultaneously.
Some enthusiasts have been debating at length about whether certain water rides really qualify as roller coasters, a debate that is as pointless as it is tedious. Some months ago I read a forum post on the topic that began with the words "can we all agree", and I had to laugh at the inherent naïveté of the question. Be that as it may, the classification of Divertical really shouldn't be overly controversial, given a momentum-powered high speed section that takes of the order of thirty seconds to traverse before the final splashdown, a few seconds longer than the equivalent section of the world's tallest coaster.
We decided to slip in a quick stop at the Reset dark ride before heading to the Hot Wheels Stunt Show, but this proved a tactical error; our arrival ten minutes before the scheduled performance was too late, as the stands had reached capacity and the gates were closed. We caught a view of the end of the show from the nearby Eurowheel and resolved to return well in advance of the later performance to make sure we wouldn't miss it. That left us just enough time for two laps on iSpeed and a quick snack.
The new show is for the most part a rebrand of the successful Scuola di Polizia, albeit with additional vehicles, new props, and a thoroughly pointless fifteen minute filler segment with audience participation before the interesting bits. A grasp of conversational Italian might have helped enjoyment somewhat, but I'm not convinced to be honest; a stunt show involving cars isn't supposed to start with an inordinate amount of excited talking and life stories of random guests.
That said, one quickly forgets about the pointless introduction when the tell-tale sounds of revving engines hit the air and the audience is treated to what it has come to see - a show with motorbike wheelies, burnouts, parallel parking using handbrake turns, cars driven on two wheels, ridiculous custom vehicles with oversized tyres, and the new finale, a small green car driving through a loop-the-loop.