Minitalia Leolandia, theme park close to Milan
Many Milanese people in their 50s, now fathers like me, have a number of childhood memories in common. Some, luckily, were lost over time, as the great, at the time, Milan Zoo within the Public Gardens (a sort of bio-internment camp closed in the 1980s.) Here lived the unforgettable Bombay, a sad elephant with large cardboard glasses that turned the handle of a barrel organ with his trunk. He was a legend to all children, me included, in the ’70s.
Another staple of our childhood is the mound of San Siro, which in winter, covered with snow, turned into a toboggan run (the there were no bobs at the time). However, one of the major ‘clichés’ of our Sunday trips outdoors, was that incredible place that is Minitalia, Italy in Miniature, a very special attraction. Nowadays, after several works of modernization, Minitalia still exists: it is called Minitalia Leolandia Park, and despite the opening up of many ultra-modern themed parks in the late 20th century, this is the fifth Italian amusement park for number of visitors.
Thinking of how Minitalia was back then, is like watching old movies. It was a fairytale place, with St. Peter’s Square and the Great Basilica at your feet, as well as the entire Alpine mountain range – at school, we were taught the names of the single ranges through a fine tongue twister. And what about the Duomo: we knew it very well but it was nice to find a tiny little one even over there; and Mount Etna, down at the bottom of the “boot,” near the Royal Palace of Caserta, about which we actually cared little, but we learned to know they exist. And then the miniature boats in the seas around the peninsula, with even small warships scattered around the 20 mt water area between Genoa, Livorno and Naples.
In short, it was a dream place, where we ended up going at least twice a year, every year, it was pure fun, with sandwiches brought from home or, party in the party, with snacks and drinks bought at the kiosks inside the amusement park.
Fortunately, that dream is still alive nowadays, thanks to the perseverance of several players who have been able over time to revitalize Minitalia with new attractions, shopping areas, entertainment areas and renovated walks between Italy’s most famous monuments, thus making the park accessible to all.
Even at our time in the mid-70s, the park was equipped with leisure facilities, a skating rink, swings and slides, a lake with mini motor boats, games rooms with table football and pinball machines, where however kids were not allowed to go in by their mothers, because those places were for big boys, even then, considered thugs by statute.
The amusement park, which over time has changed many names, FantasyWorld-Minitalia in the early ’90s, Minitalia Leolandia Park since 2007, has been enhanced with new attractions. In 2000, the Leonardo’s machines section was inaugurated within an interesting interactive exhibition that has now become the Museum of Leonardo da Vinci. Halfway through the first decade of the 21st century, thanks to the commitment of a new management company, the Park was expanded and in 2008-2009 it was renamed Minitalia Leolandia Park with a brand new Aquarium, the Rapide di Leonardo area, the removal of architectural barriers, the talking statues of characters of Italian history and culture, and the small railway that runs along the inside perimeter of the park passing close to all the attractions.
When in 2011 the Park celebrated its 40 anniversary, a new thematic area was inaugurated, Pirates’ shore, with a spectacular galleon driven by high waves, while the following year it was enriched with “Mediterranea”, an aquatic attraction particularly pleasing on hot July and August days: indeed, it is virtually impossible to come out dry from there, after a face-to-face with the Maritime Republics and their water cannons.
To the delight of children and adults alike (fathers and mothers do enjoy them too) the Park also features a brand new Aquarium, with fish and reconstructions of marine environments; a Reptilarium with snakes and spiders from all over the world; a Farm with all the animals of a typical peasant farm.
Fun is guaranteed in all the themed areas of the park. In the Land of Leonardo you dive in the rapids on rotating inflatable rafts, and you fly on the Sgulavia or on winged bicycles. In the Cowboy Town you will run into a gold mine on wagons, you can admire the panorama on the big Ferris wheel, fly aboard ravenous vultures and try the thrill of a journey on the prairies aboard a pioneers caravan. In the area known as Expo 1906, you will enjoy a ride on flying chairs, or try free fall in the attraction called “Donna Cannone,” or you can travel on the Electro Spin, a high-adrenalin, crazy spin flying saucer.
Within Minitalia Leolandia Park you will find eight eateries with theme menus, including: Texas Grill – where you can taste tacos and fried chicken; Bettola di Capitan Polpetta – which serves kebabs and hamburgers; Pizzeria Pinuccia – offering regular rather than elaborated pizza; or Dolcezze del Porto – with delicious Nutella crepes.
The shops inside the Park sale LeoGadgets, while from May to November visitors will enjoy entertaining themed-shows set up in specific areas during weekends. Don’t miss out on the Special Events, including the spectacular stroller race during MamaMay, the many sports activities on Saturdays in June, the Magical Nights in August, as well as several HalLeoween parties in October. Minitalia Leolandia offers special prices on specific days for oratories and Summer Camps and allows visitors to organize birthday parties with themed menus and entertainment.
Nevertheless, just as in our times, the heart of Minitalia Leolandia remains that incredible miniature reproduction of the Bel Paese, that is, Italy, with more than 160 monuments reproduced in detail. At a time when geography is no longer our master, a visit to this delightful amusement park is a breath of fresh air.
Minitalia Leolandia Park is just a short drive from the Exit Capriate on the A4 motorway Milan-Venice; you can also reach the Park by NET or NordEst Trasporti buses; or by train from Bergamo and Milano Centrale stations.