Miragica

25th August 2015

Six years ago I wrote a glowing review of Miragica, a beautiful theme park that had opened its gates to the public just weeks before. I'm tempted to begin today's report with the first two paragraphs written yesterday for Rainbow MagicLand, but I'm going to be even more embarrassingly pretentious by opening with a biblical quotation from 2 Samuel 1:19: how are the mighty fallen!

Our visit began with the discovery of a park caught in a parallel universe where it is acceptable for a major business to refuse to accept credit cards. Our tour leader was forced to empty the nearby ATM in order to pay for admission, and took the entirely sensible decision to scrap the planned lunch vouchers when it became apparent that these too would have to be paid for with cash. The fraught purchasing process took an incredible thirty-five minutes, though as it turned out this wasn't actually wasted ride time as a staggered opening policy meant that we made it to the signature Intamin Accelerator Coaster just as the barrier was lifted.

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The general appearance of Senzafiato was not encouraging; its footers were surrounded by weeds, and much of the once shiny red paint had flaked off. The queue area was similarly bad, being partially overgrown in places. We lost out on front row due to the staff assigning seven of the twelve available seats to Fast Pass users, an unfortunate pattern that continued for the rest of our visit, but were able to lay claim to the back instead. From there the experience lacked intensity, with the cars barely making it over the top hat and cruising around the remaining course like an elderly relative out for their Sunday shopping. The lethargic nature of the ride was presumably due in part to us being on the first train of the day, but even still it was impossible not to wonder whether the launch power might have been reduced in order to save money.

Our second stop was at Spaccatiempo, a Zamperla Spinning Coaster that was running its daily tests as we approached. There was little point in going elsewhere given that we were close to the front of line for a low capacity credit that we'd have to wait for anyway, and thus we elected to remain in situ. It didn't take long; after about fifteen minutes there was an audible ping as the queue sign lit, allowing a small group of us through. The ride had faded somewhat but was otherwise in reasonable shape, with the cars tracking smoothly and spinning well. The only slight disappointment was finding the on-ride photo booth closed, though that could easily have been because the wood frame structure looked like it might need to be condemned on safety grounds.

An exploration of the park quickly revealed that the vast majority of the adult-friendly attractions had yet to open, including Condor (opens 12:00), Mangiabiglie (opens 11:30), Virus (opens 12:00-16:00 and 17:00-21:00), and Per Bacco! (opens 12:30). The new attraction this year, a top spin named Giravolta, was completely out of action, its entrance blocked off by temporary fencing. Out of desperation we decided to look for an early brunch, but the only available choice was a sandwich shop at the entrance whose selection left a lot to be desired; all the other restaurants were not due to open until lunch time.

With our options running out we elected to join the queue for Scatola Magica, the park's 4D cinema attraction. This was in appalling condition, with ripped upholstery, carpets that were coming up (and in serious need of a clean), and a musty odor throughout. Additionally, the two extra screens that years ago provided a 180° view were blocked off with signage suggesting that they were no longer in use. The film told the story of a baby dinosaur without using words, and on the plus side the majority of the special effects were working as the designers intended. However, at two points during the performance the seats dropped a few inches, and this really hurt; it was fairly evident that the shock absorbing system was long overdue for replacement.

We burned a bit of time with a second marginally better lap on Senzafiato before joining a growing queue for Virus, a walkthrough haunted house attraction added to the park last October. There was a definite suggestion that this was only ever intended to be temporary, given its installation inside painted shipping containers, but despite that the quality was fairly reasonable, with worthwhile animatronics and synchronised sound effects triggered by pressure pads on the ground.

Virus

We rode the Condor for overhead photographs before deciding to use our remaining time on Mangiabiglie, a heavily themed compact spinning rapids with an elevator lift at its centre. The splashdown at the end didn't get us wet at all, which was probably just as well given the coach journey ahead.

As we walked through the exit someone pointed out weeds growing through the pavement in the car park, and to be honest that summarised the place for me. Six years of wear and tear has turned what was one of Italy's showcase parks into an embarrassment more reminiscent of the third world than western Europe. Restoration to as-new condition ought to be possible, but would require investment that the owners don't appear willing to make, and that's a real shame.

 

Zoosafari Fasanolandia

25th August 2015

Before I begin talking about our visit to Zoosafari Fasanolandia I'd just like to record the fact that there are many online reviews that point to the park having somewhat questionable standards of animal care. One well known enthusiast site has a selection of photographs that show smoking chimpanzees, and TripAdvisor has some comments about the polar bear exhibit that make particularly upsetting reading. Our group didn't get a chance to see the safari for ourselves, and thus these words should be read in that context.

Anyone who has ever played Roller Coaster Tycoon will be well aware that it is easiest to design an amusement park on flat land. At the same time, a park that uses natural terrain properly will generally result in higher guest satisfaction ratings even if extra money has to be spent on terraforming. Difficult sites have made for some all time classic coasters that would never have been as good if their designers hadn't been forced to work well outside of their respective comfort zones.

The amusement park at Zoosafari Fasanolandia is a textbook example of a difficult site, with rides installed on the side of a hill in a delightfully haphazard fashion reminiscent of both Gulliver's Matlock Bath and Tibidabo. The result is a very pleasant park, even if it is basically devoid of must-do attractions. The majority of rides are production models, with only a handful of custom builds, notably African River, an enormous log flume with three lift hills that takes up almost a fifth of the available land.

Our visit began with Mirage Rosso, the only Fabbri inverted coaster in Europe. Six years ago the unusual three-across train was able to negotiate the track without major issues, but that certainly wasn't true today, with the seats bouncing backwards and forwards in a manner virtually guaranteed to cause emphatic swearing. Today the ride was being dispatched with the restraints left up on empty seats, which strikes me as an accident waiting to happen; one would have thought that the ride computer would prevent this. Additionally, I also noted new signage indicating that guests should keep their legs crossed while on board, making me wonder whether the ride has clearance issues. If it does, then why hasn't it been closed down for a redesign to reduce the risk of injury? If it doesn't, then why do I need to cross my legs?

There wasn't a massive amount of madness to Spinning Madness, but the Fabbri mouse with the old product name (it's apparently called Power Mouse now) was running fairly well today, and the straightening device on the brake run repositioned the car without any jarring.

Our third stop was at the oldest coaster in the park. Montagne Russe is a fairly standard Zyklon-style ride of indeterminate provenance that has been operating almost continuously for three decades, yet despite its vintage manages to deliver a smooth ride far better than its somewhat shabby appearance would suggest. The layout had an impressive number of head-chopper moments and even a few spots of airtime, and we enjoyed it enough to ride several times when all the other credits were given just one lap.

Euroshiter

With my rib continuing to cause trouble it would probably have been sensible for me to skip Eurofighter (#2155), but I needed the credit and that was that. The queue gave us a clear view of cars hitting the brake run and those on board being thrown to the left, the right, and then the left again in quick succession, their upper bodies bouncing around like bobbleheads. Remarkably that wasn't actually the roughest point of the ride, a somewhat dubious dishonour that went to the middle of the second inversion, where the resulting slam felt very much like crossing two pieces of track that didn't quite fit together correctly. It was (and is) a shame; the Eurofighter product has no shortage of potential, but the implementation is dire; in simple terms, far too many of the installations hurt. Only a few members of our group braved more than one lap.

We were initially turned away from Bruco Miniottovolante as adults are only normally permitted to ride when accompanied by a child, despite the blind eye turned a few years ago. Our tour leader had a chat with someone in the park office to try and work around this, and after some sterling negotiation managed to get us one lap apiece, a privilege very much appreciated by the many coaster counters.

On disembarking most of us headed for Castello Incantato, a dark ride memorable mainly for its unusual cars, which featured a large heart-shaped cut out and reclined seating. The scenery was mostly made up of regular haunted house material, though one or two scenes appeared to have been designed by a slightly immature teenaged male; there was something that looked very much like a bowel movement in progress, and even some nudity. Megan treated the latter scene with her usual decorum, examining the animatronic closely before triumphantly announcing the presence of a "spider on her tit".

I decided to sit out the Sputnik drop ride, but took the time for the obligatory photo run on Ruota Panoramica, a reminder of what Ferris Wheels used to be like before lawyers took over the world. The remarkably open cars were surrounded by bars, but they were far enough apart to allow the use of a SLR camera without issue, a rare privilege these days.

The longest wait of the day was for Rapid River, a Fabbri-built spinning rapids ride copied from a Reverchon design, albeit modified slightly to fit into a man-made lake that in years past held a set of swan boats. The descent was thrilling, and concluded with a gentle splashdown that was pleasant without being drenching in any way. Despite the minimal spray the operators made a point of drying out each returning car with a vacuum cleaner before allowing new guests to board.

We had decided to conclude our visit with multiple rides on Montagne Russe, and had begun the process when word came through of a museum near the main entrance specialising in dinosaurs and chastity belts. We couldn't very well miss something like that, and thus we went to investigate. The bizarre exhibit pictured below was located directly next to a jolly winter scene complete with model train, a curious juxtaposition that reminded me more than anything else of the exhibits at Donley's Wild West Town.

Belts

 

Gomma Park

25th August 2015

Gomma Park has been around for over a decade, but a lack of any online presence meant that it was unknown to the enthusiast community until its appearance on RCDB a few years ago. Though not part of the official club itinerary it was decided to divert the bus there when it became apparent that we would be passing within a few miles on the way to our overnight hotel.

The entrance can be found about one hundred metres away from an enormous park and ride facility with space for over four hundred cars, a boon for enthusiasts attempting a quick credit. Our bus pulled up there and disgorged its contents into the queue for Bruco Sprint (#2156), much to the amusement and obvious delight of the ride owner who found himself with a sudden unexpected boost to the day's takings. The owners of the three other rides (bumper cars, a covered spin ride, and a small kart track) seemed mildly put out at missing out on the windfall, but it would have been hard for most of us to fit in them!

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Miragica

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Zoosafari Fasanolandia

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Gomma Park

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