Rome

Etnaland to be southern Italy's largest theme park

Castles, rides, school, naval battles on offer

Etnaland to be southern Italy's largest theme park

(By Elisa Cecchi). Rome, April 18 - Fantasies of a roller coaster ride in the middle of a lush Sicilian olive grove or a spin down the 60-meter-high 'Etnaland Tower' with a breathtaking view of the real-life volcano are coming true this Saturday, April 20, when the largest amusement park in southern Italy will open in Belpasso, just a few kilometres away from Catania. Local entrepreneur Francesco Russello has invested 50 million euros in the construction of the new 'Etnaland Themapark', which will employ 200 people. Built by leading companies in the sector including Italy's Zamperla and Gosetto on a thematic project by Spain's Arte Insitu and Dutch art director Hester Kloosterboer, the amusement park will be divided into five areas, taking visitors from a historic voyage through an old, haunted school to high tech adventures in outer space. 'We are proud of what we did, giving Sicily and southern Italy the park, a theme park which represents for its dimension, the quality of attractions, technological innovation and beauty one of the best Italian and European structures', said Russello, who also owns the Etnaland Acquapark right next to the new amusement park. The entertainment entrepreneur built the water park, which welcomes some 300,000 visitors every year, in 2001. The two parks together will be employing 500 people and have a network of around 40 hotels and B&Bs which have opened to offer accommodation to visitors, organizers said in a statement. This summer, the water park will be open during the day while the new amusement park will welcome tourists from 7.30 pm until 1 am. Among the attractions awaiting children and adults are the fascinating Castle of Ciclopino, tailor-made for the youngest visitors, along with the high-voltage 'top spin' Vertigo and Quasar disks intended to shake and stir passengers. Adults and children will also be offered the possibility of 'studying' in The School, in a voyage taking them back to the past in the haunted school of an old village. Amusement park aficionados will be able to experiment the first 'naval battle' in an Italian amusement park, called Kaos, just a stone's throw away from the crystal-clear Sicilian sea water. The most adventurous will also have the option of taking a 30-meter-high plunge from a ferry called Jungle Splash, or experiment the evocative Dragon River and Crocodile Rapids. Other adventures include a Laser Show, a Prehistoric Park and a cable car ride to get a view of the parks and splendid Sicilian landscape from above. Germany's Eckart Schulz, a leading international amusement park planner and a former director of Disneyland Paris, took part in the project's development overseeing technological and mechanic details on security. German company Mack Rides, US business S&S and Switzerland's Intamin built the attractions together with Italy's Zamperla and Gosetto. 'An amusement park needs to represent for guests an experience which involves them and helps them create a world of fantasy, passion and exiting surprises', said Etnaland's art director Hester Kloosterboer. 'In Etnaland's case, the inspiration we have used to build the voyage of each visitor through our world can be summed up in a phrase: 'the island which has fire within'.

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