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. 


How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules