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Five great amusement parks to take the family to in Italy

From a glimpse of the prehistoric, to water parks, Europe's fastest ride, Italy in miniature and an island of dolphins, there's plenty of options for holidays with children in Italy this Summer.

Five great amusement parks to take the family to in Italy
The 'Katun' ride at Mirabilandia. Photo: inna_g/Depositphotos
It's one of the pressing questions every family with children faces each Summer: How to plan a holiday that will allow the right detente for parents and enough amusement for the children?
 
Italy has the largest haul of World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world, but crumbling monuments in the blistering heat aren't necessarily every young person's dream. Italy's beaches have something for everyone, but finding a free spot for four towels can be a challenging affair. 
 
To make planning for this Summer's holiday in Italy a little easier, we've put together a review of some of the country's favourite amusement parks to keep the little ones happy. 
 
1) Mirabilandia, amusement park, Ravenna (Emilia Romagna)
 
Mirabilandia, literally 'wonderland,' is probably Italy's most famous amusement park. Boasting 36 attractions and rides, Mirabilandia claims to have Europe's best inverted coaster which will allow you and your kids (stomach bowels allowing) to “travel at 110 km/h, for 1.200 metres, with 360° loops.” 
 
 
Not all rides are as sickeningly thrilling however, with attractions split into three categories: Intense, moderate and soft. Other highlights include a journey around 'Dinoland' and a water park. Mirabilandia has on-site hotels, stores and restaurants and is only eight kilometres from Ravenna Airport. 
 
Tickets: There are various ticket options, but a 2-day pass for 2 adults and 2 children in July is €99. 
 
Getting there: Train to Ravenna and then the 176 bus to Mirabilandia. 
 
App: Yes
 
2) Leolandia, amusement park, Bergamo (Lombardy)
 
 
Leolandia, in Lombardy – northern Italy – is a Mirabilandia competitor, although it claims to be “nr.1 among theme parks in Italy.” The vast amusement park encompasses six key areas and 40 different rides. Ideal for younger children, the park includes a pirate ship adventure, a life-size Thomas the Tank Engine train, a water ride based on a design by Leonardo da Vinci – as well as more traditional rides. Leolandia also has on-site restaurants, bars, hotels and stores. Leolandia's 'Mini Italia' features 160 Italian monuments in miniature, saving you the time of criss-crossing Italy to see them all. 
 
Tickets: €29.50 – €39.50, depending on the season and day. 
 
Getting there: The Leolandia Express bus shuttle departs from different stops in the northern Italian cities of Bergamo and Milan. 
 
App: No. 
 
3) Parco della Preistoria (NB: site not available in English), educational park, Cremona (Lombardy)
 
For fans of Jurassic Park and paleontology. Spread over an area of 100 hectares on the banks of the Adda river, 25 kilometres outside of Milan, the park features more than 50 life-size prehistoric animals – dinosaurs, amphibians, fish.
 
This is more of a learning experience than some of the other amusement parks, although the sight of a T-Rex is sure sure to cause its own thrills. The park does not offer accommodation. 
 
Tickets: Adults, €12. Children, €9. 
 
Getting there: From Milan, take metro Line 3 to the end of the line, San Donato Milanese. From there take the bus service 'Autoguidovie Linea Extraurbana' K 512 – K 511 in the direction of Vailate. Get off at the post office in Via Matteotti – the park is then a 500-metre walk away. 
 
App: No. 
 
4) Zoomarine (NB: website not available in English), water park, Rome (Lazio)
 
Besides unusual water rides (including the opportunity to travel inside a shark), Zoomarine, a water theme park and maritime educational park outside of Rome, boasts a dolphin island, a forest of parrots, a beach of penguins, aquatic birds and an oasis of turtles. 
 

 
Other attractions include a jet surf, a beach, several pools and water slides and the oddly-named 'harakiri' ride. 
 
Tickets: Adults, €25. Children, €23. A family ticket for 4, including all-you-can-eat buffet, is €88. 
 
Getting there: Zoomarine provides a shuttle bus from Roma Termini, the main train station in Rome, on weekends and public holidays only. Tickets can be purchased onboard – there is one departure per day on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays at 9.30am, returning at 5pm. 
 
App: No. 
 
5) Italia in Miniatura, replica of Italy in miniature, Rimini (Emilia Romagna)
 
An obligatory school outing for most Italian school children, 'Italia in Miniatura' (Italy in Miniature) hosts 270 monuments, palaces and famous Italian sites, surrounded by 5,000 miniature trees, all lumped together on a replica of Italy's boot-like shape. Look down on the Tower of Pisa, Milan's cathedral, the Vatican and more. 
 

 
The park also features Europe in Miniature, with 30 tiny replicas of classic continental monuments such as the Acropolis, the Eiffel Tower and Copenhagen's Little Mermaid. 
 
Tickets: Adults, €23. Children, €17. A family ticket for 4, including all-you-can-eat buffet, is €88. 
 
Getting there: Take bus number 8 from Rimini train station, or the Navetta Costa Parchi, a shuttle bus, from several coastal towns near Rimini. 
 
App: No. 

 
In most cases the reduction for children is defined by a height below 140cm, not by age. 
 

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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