The history of Leolandia starts 45 years ago, when the entrepreneur Guido Pendezzini presented his miniature park under construction, modelled on the Dutch miniature park Madurodam near The Hague, to the public. However, the park was not officially opened as Minitalia until three years later. The centrepiece of the park, which has also been a prominent feature of the park’s official name for a very long time, is the Italian-style miniature village Minitalia with its replicas of striking Italian buildings and towns. In addition, the country was presented with smaller regional stands and even back then some rides were offered.
In 1997 Pendezzini sold his park to the Triberti and Fabbri families, who, as showmen and manufacturers of amusement park equipment, had considerable experience in this field. They developed the park into an amusement park and operated it as Fantasy World Minitalia until 2007, when the Zamperla family, also an amusement ride manufacturer, took over the park. Since then Leolandia has been regularly expanded and supplemented with products from the company’s own catalogue.
A prominent example of this is the Twister Mountain spinning coaster, which is perfectly placed directly at the exit to the park, next to the already oversized park sign, to attract customers of the hypermarket opposite to Leolandia. However, this is only the small version of the well-known funfair model based on the layout of the French manufacturer Reverchon.
After leaving the station you climb the 10m high lift hill. At the top, you pass through two hairpin bends at a rapid pace, whereupon the first descent is already waiting. Above the station you pass through a block brake and shortly after that, halfway parallel to the lift hill, the second major shot of the ride. Without any strange bumps in the ascent you reach the other side of the roller coaster. In the next brake the rotation of the car is released, whereupon the next four hairpin bends are passed with surprisingly much momentum. Without a bump, the return to the other side of the ride follows and finally, after another hairpin bend, the brake track.
Although the Spinning Coaster variants by Zamperla are not considered to be very spin-friendly thanks to their optimised carriages and therefore usually miss their target, the Twister Mountain offered us a solid, albeit quite short, ride. The comfort in the gondola is unfortunately not quite as high as with Reverchon, but in theory the ride offers better restraint, especially for smaller children, thanks to the single bars.
Just as solidly we were entertained by the Mega Disk’o Electro Spin and the Flash Tower Donna Cannone. While the Disk’o offered intensive spinning action, the pulley tower could convince with surprising airtime at the upper turning point. Unfortunately a launch from the cannon is not simulated.
The other attractions of the rather sparse Expo 1906 area are a cogs ride with a king kong look, a fire fighting carousel, a wave swinger and the small children’s roller coaster Leo Coaster. This roller coaster comes in the standard version of the manufacturer, i.e. oval-shaped with a helix in the middle, but has comparatively good riding characteristics.
With the Mondo di Peppa Pig, an attempt was made last year to establish a toddler area in the park based on the English model. However, what in England ensures that Paultons Park is only known as Peppa Pig World and provides it with masses of visitors, seems a little unlovingly put up here. Although there is the possibility to look at the original house of the main protagonists of the series and to take a photo with the actors, the merchandising sales seem to be the only basis for this area.
The whole thing continues with the Masha e Orso (Mascha and the Bear) show and the train ride Il Trenino by Thomas & Friends. Admittedly, a train ride with Thomas and his friends is always a good idea, as you can see at Drayton Manor in England, but outside of the shape of the train there is no reference to the series.
In the rear part of the Leolandia park, right next to the miniature village Minitalia, there are several animal enclosures, most of which show indigenous farm animal species. The enclosures are sufficiently large and resemble a farm. Unfortunately there are some smaller aviaries with parrots next to them, which is a great contrast to the newer looking farm area.
The Cowboy Town forms the western part of the Leolandia, where the combination of log flume and powered coaster, well-known from the Wunderland Kalkar, is presented. In addition, there are several round and high rides in this area, including the very uncomfortable kite flyer Wild Avvoltoi, as well as a larger show stage.
After leaving the station of the log flume Gold River, the boat bobs a little through the channel and after a longer S-curve and a short left turn you reach the first steep lift hill, which takes you into the equally steep shoot. After a good moistening you are released into the channel again and cross a larger right-hand bend to climb the second lift hill at a 90° angle to the first shot. Typically Zamperla, the second downhill run is no less steep than the first one, so that one is led quite abruptly into the second run; here too, the wetness of the downhill run is within a pleasant range. The return journey to the station follows.
Above the log flume is the access to the Mine Train roller coaster, whose course runs mostly over the fairway of the Wild River. After a somewhat longer ascent with a slight left bend, which is climbed quite leisurely, a rather long right turn follows. The first increase in speed is in the downward helix to the left. Immediately afterwards, the waterway’s channel is crossed at a dizzy height in a right-hand bend. In a slightly larger downward helix you now circle the second shot of the log flume, followed by a rather wide right turn, which immediately closes the course. The train then races through the station and completes another, rather leisurely round.
Although the track of the roller coaster from the Wunderland Kalkar was built much more compact it is clearly the better roller coaster of this quite special combo. The Mine Train from the Leolandia, however, crosses the track a little bit too slowly and unfortunately also very jerky, so there is no fun to ride on.
Opposite it is the round boat slide Rapide di Leonardo, an Italian interpretation of the popular River Splash rides by the manufacturer ABC Rides with a very special twist. After leaving the station, you immediately make a small right turn and enter the vertical lift, which brings the boat into position, holds it and lifts it up without any technical control frills. After you have been quickly transported upwards, the basket tilts forward and the boat rolls out of the lift. You are now thrown into the first helix at full pelt, whereupon the boat is immediately set in rotation. After a few meters you make an S-curve combination around the tower, which makes the boat turn at a breathtaking speed. This speed increases in the following downward helix and lets you play Russian Roulette during the following shot. After the soaking, the boat goes through a 180° turn, where a round and spinning cannon apparatus fires water at the passengers at regular intervals. The return to the station now features some elements of a rapid river, such as a waterfall that turns off and various rapids. It is the much quieter part of the ride, which allows you to put what you have just experienced into words and makes you wonder why Zamperla has not been able to sell another ride of this kind. The Hydro Lift at least is an unparalleled fun machine and wins every prize for the best dizz with ease.
The visually most convincing theme area at the Leolandia is the pirate area Riva dei Pirati, which consists mainly of children’s rides, but which is presented in a great design. Besides the good ship swing Galeone and the beautiful Splash Battle Mediterranea, you will find the prototype of the Stand-Up Disk’os Surf’s Up Scilla e Cariddi. Although the ride through the long gondola is a bit rough in parts, the Floating Airtime is worth an experience, so it is a pity to find only a small version of this ride. Unfortunately, the restraint system charges you a little bit statically, so you can get a little shock at the exit.
Leolandia is a really nice theme park with a pretty good idea right from the beginning of its existence. The Minitalia is quite nicely realised and can keep you busy for a few hours, compared to the Legoland parks around the world. At the same time this miniature outdoor wonderland offers a wonderful view of the corners of this charming country, which you would like to see in real life. The quality of the theme park is, with the exception of the Expo 1906 area, very high and is further underlined by the matching workers’ uniforms, divided according to the theme areas of the park.
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