Gardaland: A Northern Italy Respite from Too Much Art and Culture
Life is like a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. But it’s your choice to scream or enjoy the ride.
The date--October 2006.
The place--Northern Italy.
We have wined and dined, inquired and explored. We have soaked up every bit of history, culture, gentility, and Renaissance art our brain cells can possibly absorb.
It's time to break out into the silly dance and delve headlong into Gardaland at Garda Lake, Italy.
Gardaland--like Disneyland, but with better background scenery. This 64-acre theme park is just south of the lake of the same name.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. A popular holiday destination, this Ice-Age formed alpine lake is located about half-way between Venice and Milan. Its clear blue waters are matchless. Its shores are surrounded by olive and lemon tree groves, oleanders and oranges. Its seamless meld of vintage villages and modern metropolitan areas has inspired poets and painters alike.
Are you in search of an escape from the hustle and bustle--an idyllic spot of peace and tranquility? Garda Lake is your haven. Or perhaps the excitement and exhileration of nightclubs is more to your liking. You can find both (and everything in between) at Garda Lake.
Now, Back to Why We Are Here
We are not nightclub people. And while touring museums and cathedrals we've been respectfully quiet and sedate. We need silly--and we found SILLY at Gardaland.
Gardaland was created 40 years ago. It was opened in 1975 and has steadily increased in size and popularity since opening day.
At the time that we were there (2006) it was still looking quite fresh; the company that owns Garda continually strives to expand and improve the park. By 2007 annual attendance had reached 3 million and it is now ranked by Forbes as the eighth most popular theme park in the world.
Today Gardaland has a total of 32 rides, including six roller coasters and three water rides.
So, where do we begin?
You might have noticed the little green character sitting atop the entrance to Gardaland. That's Prezzemolo, a friendly dragon.
Note: I don't really understand why he is named Prezzemolo--that's Italian for parsley--but he is the star of an animated series that was popular with children in 2002 in Italy.
In the series, Prezzemolo gains superpowers by eating strawberry pizza (doesn't everybody?). He and his friends travel across the galaxy in the Globosphere looking for the four magical elements needed to defeat the evil witch Zenda.
It was mid-October. When the Diva family entered the gates of Gardaland we were greeted with a Halloween display much larger and more elaborate than I have seen anywhere else in the world.
I thought Halloween was a U.S. holiday. I was so wrong. Boy, do they "do" Halloween here. The entire park was covered with witches and bats, vampires, spiders, and everything ghoulish (but you have to admit that the pumpkins are kinda cute).
Gardaland has nine theme areas, each with rides that are identified as “fantasy, adventure, or adrenaline”.
The rides we most enjoyed are (in no particular order)
- Adrenaline – magic house, space vertigo
- Fantasy -- giostra cavalla (merry-go-round), kaffeestassen (teacup ride), L’albero di Prezzemolo (dragon's house), monorotaia (monorail), flying island
- Adventure – fuga da Atlantide (a water slide adventure about the lost isle of Atlantis), jungle rapids
This is the kaffeetassen, or in English, Coffeecup Ride. Garda has transformed the world-famous Disney teacup ride into a delft blue china service--how very European. I think it's a nice touch.
There is a Wild West themed- area--mostly just souvenir shops and places that provide photo opportunities for selfies. We thought it was rather humorous that the music playing in this part of the park was from "West Side Story" by Leonard Bernstein. (Has no one told them that the "west" in West Side Story is in New York City and not the "wild west" of the United States?)
This is L'Albero di Prezzemolo (Prezzemolo's Treehouse). We entered, sat down, the treehouse rotated. But absolutely EVERYTHING was in Italian and so I haven't a clue what we were supposed to be experiencing. But it was fun.
This is one of the six roller coaster rides at Gardaland. Did we watch? Absolutely. Did we ride on it? ...you've GOT to be kidding. The only thing worse that fast and downhill, is fast and downhill while being upside down.
The flying island was absolutely the best part of the day--go up 50 meters (I got that measurement from the internet) in an object that looks like the mothership and gain a view of the entire park and the lake.
Add It To Your Bucket List
If you are ever in Italy, and certainly in Northern Italy (in our near Milan), you must pay a visit to Gardaland.
Have a day of fun with your children, or find your inner-child once again. Scream on the rides, laugh, be silly, and most of all, have fun.
© 2015 Linda Lum