Finland + Italy 08/19 – Parco delle Stelle + Etnaland
I woke up today with this view outside my hotel room window.
Well that’s stunning, let’s get out there and explore, but not before eating breakfast served by the hotel owners.
The first park today was a crazy one. Heartline told me he had discovered a park on the side of a mountain, with an alpine coaster so obscure it wasn’t on Coaster-Count. That on paper sounded awesome, but in the end the park and it’s surroundings would be even better than I expected.
We started by driving up beautiful mountain roads with stunning views and through tiny villages, before we reached a car park halfway up a mountain. There we ditched the car, bought our tickets from an actual shed at the side of the road, then got on a shuttle bus which took us up the final stretch of road to the park itself.
Parco delle Stelle
I think it’s more than a bit of an understatement to say this park has nice views. I’m not normally moved by things like this, but it really did feel like we’d stumbled onto something really special here. Even more so because we were basically the only people up here.
Time for the alpine coaster and this too was very special. My thoughts were jumping between oh my God that view is unbelievable and this is some serious speed now, if this comes off the track will they ever find my body?
To get our money’s worth (though I’d say the views were more than enough) we decided to try out another of the park’s attractions, Big Bang. I’d best describe it as a ghetto knockoff S&S Screamin’ Swing but this time it goes full 360 and holds you upside down, oh and it’s hanging off the side of a cliff.
It was pure evil but the views were stunning, our mistake though was accidently agreeing to ride it twice. We were the only 2 people on the ride, when it was slowing down to finish it’s cycle the operator shouted out the operator’s cabin something in Italian. Me assuming this was, “how was the ride boys?”, gave him a big thumbs up, to which he started the cycle all over again… Thankfully everything is less scary when you can’t breathe from laughing.
After walking around and enjoying the views for a little while longer, it was time to leave this wonderful place and get back on the road.
We had a ferry to catch, or did we? Heartline had shown me the ticket he had booked for our crossing to Sicily and it quite literally said, even with this ticket you might not get on the ferry, I see…
Arriving at the ferry port with nothing to go on other than our pessimistic ticket, we asked a worker what we needed to do, he told us, then demanded money from us for doing his job. Come on Italy, you started so strong…
The ferry experience itself though was awesome. We sped through the waiting area dodging cones, then flew straight onto the ferry, which pulled away shortly after we got on, while the ramp was still raising. Then in next to no time we were in Sicily.
First impressions of Sicily were not quite what I was expecting. Messina apppeared pretty run down and there was a lot of rather undesirable looking people milling about. Never mind, we aren’t staying the night here, tonight we are sleeping on a volcano.
But first we would be visiting Etnaland, we just need to get there first. The last 15 minutes of driving to the park was comedy gold. The road quality descended into nothingness, the sat nav took us to a burnt down petrol station and told us that was the park and then we got stuck at a level crossing for 5 minutes, to witness a rusty train the size of a bus roll through, with everyone onboard glaring in disgust at us.
This would set the tone for the park perfectly and things would only get funnier from here.
We arrived to chaos in the car park. People were driving in all directions, ditching their cars wherever they felt like it, and then getting out, shirtless and getting in the way of others trying to park illegally. It was almost too funny to handle, so we decided to join in and parked our stupid hire car in a space we invented, at a strange angle to every other car around, then I got out and threw a half eaten baguette on the floor. Almost instantly we were joined in our newly made parking area by more shirtless Italians who were bursting to get into Etnaland.
It was this experience that taught us that we’d get so much more out of Etnaland if we joined in with the locals.
During summer, probably because of the heat, Etnaland opens for the day at 7:30pm. There was something really strange but equally awesome about entering a park for the first time as the sun is going down.
But first we need to buy tickets. So we entered a rabble of thousands of shirtless Italians outside the ticket office. They were all buzzing with excitment, so we had to do the same. ETNALAND BOYS EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!
As soon as the ticket windows opened we got queue jumped several hundred times, they were sliding in at all angles, so we copied and suprisingly it worked very efficiently.
With tickets in hand and already kind of in love with Etnaland, we finally entered the park and made our way towards the reason for tonight’s visit.
Me and Heartline buried common sense alive in order to add Etnaland onto this trip and it’s all because of Storm.
Storm is 1 of only 2 Mack Mega-Lites in the World. Alpina Blitz (the other) is an exact Intamin Mega-Lite clone, that’s not as good as the coaster it’s cloning, which made it rather difficult to love. Thankfully though Storm does it own thing and it’s much easier to rank it uniquely.
I’ll cut straight to the point, Storm wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. It’s a great coaster with several great airtime moments and fun inversions but overall the coaster just fell flat for me. Being both a bit of a Mega-Lite and Mack fanboy, it’s a hard pill to swallow that I’m not in love with either of the Mack Mega-Lites, never mind though, I’ve still got Piraten.
We rode Storm countless times throughout the night and worked up a bit of a friendship with the staff. The staff assign seating on Storm, but after we asked for the back row once, we basically became Storm VIPs. Every time they saw us we’d get a reaction and lead us straight to the back, even if we were the only ones riding, it was awesome.
Are the Italians against the concept of credit whoring? Nope, we had no trouble riding this kiddie coaster with a cat on the front.
Hip Hop Coaster
Zamperla family coaster made amazing by the rowdy Italians riding it. Loud chanting throughout the entire layout, followed by a sitting ovation and EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! when we hit the brakes, it was amazing.
Speaking of things getting rowdy, Eldorado, the park’s S&S Mine Train, was the life of the party. Every time a train was dispatched, and every time a train arrived back, every single person on board and every single person waiting in line would go absolutely crazy, with thunderous applause and a deafening EYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! It was so fun to join in with!
Our fellow riders had every reason to get rowdy too, because Eldorado is amazingly good fun, with some great forces and interactions with the man-made mountain it flies in and out of.
The moment that sticks with me the most though was on one of our many re-rides. We hit the brake run after having an awesome time speeding around in the dark, we all go EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! then the operator of a small children’s ride nearby shouts EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! back at us, so we all go EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! even louder. It was hilarious and it’s something that will forever stick with me, I really like Etnaland.
It’s a really weird sensation to be exploring a park for the first time when it’s completely dark but that’s exactly what we were doing now, it was pretty special.
Finally we stumbled on what were were looking for, the park’s Hafema log flume Dragon River.
This was properly awesome, floating around in the pitch black, with no other people in sight, while in full blown Etnaland frame of mind, which means shouting EYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! on every drop.
Despite being a relatively small log flume we all got completely wrecked by it.
The park is home to a really weird little dark ride called The School. It’s a ghost train that changes depending on how you answer questions, which are in Italian only. Heartline was trying to be smart, while me and his wife were shouting EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! and jabbing the buttons like crazy.
We saw while queuing that a member of the ride team was jump scaring every carriage as it returned to the station. We had all planned to respond by shouting EYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! at him but sadly he didn’t scare us. He did however thank us for riding and told us to enjoy the rest of our night, so that was nice.
While exploring we noticed a sign saying that the park were aiming to open Jungle Splash, their giant shoot the chute attaction at 9:30pm. We weren’t too sure we wanted to get soaked this late at night but the ride’s theming intrigued us into giving it a go, this was a fantastic idea.
We boarded our boat with 18 shirtless rowdy Italians and off we went.
During the first section of the ride you enter a dark cave with suspenseful music playing. While floating through the darkness Heartline let out a massive sneeze that made everyone on the boat jump and shout EYYYYYYYYYYYYY!
Then you enter an elevator lift and aggressive tribal drumming plays. We decided to drum along on our lap bar and everyone else joined in. I’m properly loving this now.
Just as we reached the top, me and Heartline let out an almighty EYYYYYYYYYYYYY! to which all our fellow riders joined us and we hit the splash down united as one.
What a perfect ending to our night at this awesome little park. One of those rare times where the locals make a park memorable.
There was a downside though, Etnaland would set the bar far too high for the rest of Italy to follow, but we wouldn’t know that yet.
Tonight we slept in a hotel halfway up Mount Etna and our plan for tomorrow was to hike up it, this sounded great on paper but didn’t quite work out.
The hotel itself was overpriced for what it was, to cash in on tourists visiting the area.
Then the man behind the check in desk put our plans of hiking Etna to bed. “There’s only 1 trek up tomorrow, we’re meeting here at 9am.” We wanted to do this our way, not with a big group and a set time, so f that. “It’s 90 Euros each for the cable car, a jeep, then walking.” 90 Euros to walk?! “It takes 3 hours to get to the top via those means, then you have to walk down yourself.” Yeah never mind…
Thanks for reading, click here for the next part of my report, where we explore Etna, escape Sicily and visit Rainbow Magicland and Cinecittà World.