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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In most cases the reduction for children is defined by a height below 140cm, not by age.
READ MORE: Ten ways to make the most of summer in Rome