Zamperla Factory

17th August 2015

Zamperla is one of the largest ride manufacturers in the world with facilities in six countries all managed from a head office located just outside Vicenza. The small back road parallel to the A4 motorway clearly wasn't designed with a coach in mind, but our driver got us there, clearly bemused at the large number of people running to photograph the sign at the gate. My wonderful girlfriend, apparently determined to out-nerd everyone, took a close-up photograph of the door mat.

Our visit began with three back to back presentations. The first was by far the most interesting, detailing the history of Zamperla alongside photographs of their lesser known attractions, including a number of custom designs produced for Disney and Universal. The second covered roller coasters and included quite a bit of obscure video footage, albeit nothing that we couldn't have watched ourselves on YouTube. The third was a heavy technical talk about how coasters are designed that would not have been out of place in a degree-level engineering course, and to be honest it wasn't a good fit for our group. I did my best to follow along but after a while found myself in an oblivious stupor not experienced since my time as an undergraduate.

Doormat

The latter two presentations were delivered by Alberto Ferri, the chief engineer from Zamperla's Roller Coaster department. Much of what he said went in one ear and out the other, though there was one moment of unbridled hilarity when he described the Volare as a "big mistake"; apparently the complexity of the track design renders it difficult to manufacture accurately, causing what is perhaps best described as the inconsistent comfort level inherent to these rides. Later on in the day I caught up with Signor Ferri, and asked him if there was any reason why the installation in North Korea rides so much better than the others, and he told me that the team manufacturing the track must have had a particularly lucky day.

When the talks came to an end we were able to take a walk through the factory and an associated boneyard area whose contents appeared to have accumulated over decades. There were parts that were easy to recognise, such as mouse coaster track, Disk-O seats, Carousel horses, and an unpainted body from a Dragon train. There were also lots of other bits and pieces that were impossible to place. A mostly complete set of Tea Cups and an undecorated Air Race were the only fully assembled attractions, but someone with engineering know-how and a bit of patience could probably have assembled at least a few more from the pieces in storage.

 

Ai Pioppi

17th August 2015

Bruno is an eccentric Italian entrepreneur who founded Osteria Ristorante Ai Pioppi in 1969. In the nearly fifty years since then he has systematically designed and built a variety of home-made amusement rides, including swings, multi-storey slides, seesaws, gyroscopes, and several roller coasters, all of which can be found packed into a heavily wooded area roughly twenty-five kilometres north of Treviso.

It's probably best to note at the outset that those in search of fine cuisine would be better to avoid eating at Ai Pioppi. The menu is basic, cheap, and reminiscent of school dinners; just about all the choices come with polenta that looks (and tastes) like sponge, and the less said about the sausage the better. That being said, the place also offers a selection of alcoholic beverages including draft beer, wine, and sgroppino, a delicious local cocktail made up of vodka, prosecco, and lemon sorbet. The latter sets one up rather nicely for the various rides in the Parco Giochi.

Bruno

We began our visit with Carrello della Gobba (#2143), a single seat shuttle coaster whose impressive-sounding name translates to the functional but descriptive "hump cart". The ride is completely manual; oncoming riders push their car to the top of the W-shaped track, strap themselves in, and pull a handle in the car to release the parking brake. A drop of around thirty feet builds up just enough speed to take the car over the hump and to the reversing point. After the second pass enough speed has been burned off for the car to roll back and forth a few times before coming to a stop. The ride quality was far better than its appearance would have suggested, and quite a few members of our group reported getting passable airtime.

The twin-track Bob was out of action today for reasons unclear, but the presence of a coach load of coaster enthusiasts inspired Bruno to open up Pendolo (#2144), a giant V-shaped coaster with a six seat car and and a rated top speed of one hundred kilometers per hour. This was a fantastic if slightly terrifying privilege for our group; it was fairly evident from the foliage growing through the ride track that this attraction hadn't operated regularly in the recent past, but the chance to enjoy it today had to be balanced against my instincts for self-preservation. Fears aside, however, the ride was excellent, being smooth and thrilling; the overhead restraint presented no problem at all, as there was no lateral motion to cause headbanging.

2015


Ai Pioppi

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