Italy 08/19 – Parco delle Stelle + Etnaland
Flew straight from Helsinki to Rome after the mini Taiga marathon.
Here’s an obscure one for you. We needed something fun to break the journey up on the way down to Sicily and I stumbled across this Alpine Coaster via Wiegand’s website. It doesn’t currently exist on any of our trusty databases, so it took some China levels of research to track down the actual place as the details are only as specific as the nearest town for some reason.
I first found some local Italian newspaper reporting on the plan to install some thrill rides on top of a mountain, saying what a terrible idea it was and how it would harm the beauty of the area. This had one of those auto-play news videos that came up in the corner which showed a mob of angry Italians taking to the streets in protest. This looks fun.
I then found the next related article which was people cutting the ribbon on the land for the area, including an interview with the owner which said they were going to put rides in soon, honest. Now it’s just confusing. Does the ride exist?
Satellite images for 2019 would suggest it doesn’t.
I did eventually find their actual website and we made it to the parking area halfway up a mountain with a little shed and a ticket window. The road to the top is closed off to traffic so you get a shuttle bus included in your wristband. And up we go.
Day 1 – Parco delle Stelle
Bit of a dreamy location for a park. How long before someone starts working out where to fit an RMC Raptor.
Here’s the Alpine Coaster.
Unusually it starts at the top and lifts you back up at the end.
It might be the most intense one I’ve done so far. It’s very gravity driven and picks up a hell of a speed very quickly in some sections. The helices seem to be used just to pad things out and slow it down a bit before it tears itself apart. They don’t always feel the most structurally sound as rides.
The lift back up is very steep and rather uncomfortable though, so re-rides were ruled out on that front.
They also have this evil thing off the side of a cliff. I often say I’m really not a fan of being held upside down, but I couldn’t really skip this one. The views (particularly with the sky at your feet) were pretty unparalleled. It was also considered training for a certain ride at the other end of the country.
Didn’t do this. Saw that it required helmets and had horrible ideas that I’d probably do it wrong, flip over the side of a barrier at great speed and kill myself on some rocks.
In reality, this guy got stuck before the corner because it was too slow. Needs work.
Did some wildlife watching instead.
These little fellows were everywhere.
Satisfied with that little adventure, we waited for the bus to take us back down to civilisation again.
Drove past some of this chaos on route. Wildfire… is… free…
Yes it was very hot and very dry.
Then did some actual sailing on the ferry. Massive improvement over the Irish one which was the most boring thing in the world. They fill it at ten times the rate here and then pull away while the ramp is still coming up.
By the time you’ve clambered out of the car and gone upstairs for a wander they’re calling you back down again.
Sicily ain’t quite what I expected. It’s a bit more… ghetto than the rest of Italy. In fact I had to sign some waiver thing at the car hire place basically saying that any insurance and excess cover was null and void out here – and don’t park on the streets. Noted.
The car park for this place was pure comedy though, first time we’d seen that the Italians will just park anywhere and everywhere with no thought to organisation or rules. Some had literally just crashed bumper to bumper into each other and said that’ll do, heading off into the park. I joined in with the spirit of it all and found somewhere that wasn’t a designated space, parking at right angles to the rest of the surrounding cars. That’ll do lads!
If you’ve looked at a map before you’ve gotta be thinking this a long day right?
So this place doesn’t open its doors to the main park until 7:30pm in the summer months and we had just arrived for that opening. It’s quite a novel experience.
The entrance area was a total nightmare. Gates weren’t yet open and neither were the ticket windows. Just a thousand shirtless people sweating and shouting in a large crowd. We did our best to line up moments before the windows opened and then instantly got queue jumped by 20-30 people who then each had extended familes of 20-30 people that would come and join them.
We eventually got what we wanted and headed in, just as darkness was descending.
Sadly my camera is just no good in the dark, so we’re a bit limited on photos here.
Storm was first on the agenda, our reason for being here.
Actually we’ve been lied to. It’s clearly called Tstorm. Short for thunder or written by a northerner, take your pick.
It has a bit more of a station than I expected, and a rockin’ soundtrack. There’s amps and a drum kit inside and a song called Sweet Thunder Love playing on an endless loop (now available on iTunes they say).
There’s only 2 of these Mack ones in the world (set complete) and the other is a straight clone of the Intamins. I potentially wouldn’t have come here at all if this had been the same, but Tstorm does things with a twist.
The song continues on speakers up the lift hill and bam, that crazy megalite first drop airtime hits you. From the turnaround you get two big straight hills that kick some serious ass.
Sadly the middle section is weak. It does some turns and the famous twisty hills from the original layout but they really don’t do much at all, the speed is way off.
It ends on a final powerful little hill and then throws you into the secret inversion which was riding on par with Blue Fire’s for intensity, so a strong finish.
It left me in a bit of confusion. It’s harder to say whether it’s better than Alpina or not as at least it tries to be different but it has both stronger and weaker moments. It ain’t no Piraten though.
Let’s tick off the rest of the creds.
Miao. The classic 2 loop with a cat on the front.
Hip Hop Coaster was a bit of a beast. Stupidly rattly for a thing of its size but it was the first time that this park really shone through for just how funny and happy the locals are to be here.
They were loudly chanting the riff from Seven Nations Army throughout the second lap and then it ended to thunderous applause and cheering. For a Zamperla kid’s coaster.
It was infectious.
And it continued here. Every single mine train that came back into the station had every passenger and everyone in the station just erupt into celebration. It was just joyous to behold and we joined in every time – even by the end of the night we were the ones initiating it.
For some reason this rare S&S ride type would have been ranked one of the worst coasters on the planet by Mitch Hawker back in the day.
No idea why. It’s a cracking mine train with some really forceful turns, good tunnels and rock interaction.
You can even walk inside the mountain all underneath it if you want to deafen yourself when a rowdy train comes past.
My boys Hafema have got a little log flume here called Dragon River which absolutely destroyed us with a couple of 10ft drops. Big animatronic Dragon chatting in Italian too. Loved it.
There’s a weird little interactive dark ride called The School on which you have to answer multiple choice questions (in Italian) at various points in the layout. It’s mainly a ghost train and bad things happen when you get stuff wrong. I believe we got it all wrong.
The big boy water ride also decided to open itself for the first time all day at 9:30pm. Surreal.
It shouldn’t have been particularly special, but it slowly drifts out of the station into a cave at which point I failed to hold back a sneeze that echoed ridiculously loudly and scared everyone in the boat, which they loved of course.
It hits a turntable and elevator lift while vigorous tiki(?) drumming plays, to which we began excitedly tapping along on the lap bar, everyone else quickly joining in.
The elevator hits the top and we look out over the drop. It inches forward.
We start cheering and clapping.
Everyone joins in.
It wasn’t even wet. But it was magical.
I loved Etnaland. With an atmosphere like that it really set the bar high for Italian parks.
That night we slept halfway up a volcano, hoping for an eruption to add to our natural disaster spite collection.
Did it happen? Stay tuned.