It is a little funky, a little fifties, fun for a kid and full-out-Italian, so as a traveling family with a seven year old in tow, we knew we had to make a stop at “Parco di Pinocchio” while in the Tuscany region. You really must read the original book before going to better appreciate this small theme park, so we picked it up at a great English & Italian bookstore that we stumbled upon in Florence and Mozart devoured it before arrival. (http://www.bmbookshop.com/)
Collodi is the name of a charming medieval Tuscan village perched precariously and enchantingly on a hilltop, but is also the non de plume of Carlo Lorenzini who wrote the original Pinocchio and who was from this small town. Both “Take Your Kids to Europe” by Harriman and “Storybook Travels” by Bates and LaTempa give rave reviews to the park and hints on how to best enjoy it.
Forget Disney, one is transported to a very Italian fifties style environment with large metal sculptures, a huge Pinocchio topiary portrait straight out of Edward Scissorshand, and beautiful mosaics telling the whole story. I love these simple parks from another era and it reminded me of the one we enjoyed in Paris, especially because again we were off season, so only locals were there.
It was the weekend and this was primarily a large garden beneath the village, but true to typical Italian style, we saw many a mom dressed to the hilt with the de rigueur stiletto healed boots, pushing prams and running after kids. Perhaps these were city folks, as there were also some wearing typical casual weekend wear like us. Mozart really enjoyed joining a group of kids in a large room that was set up for face painting and allowed the kids to make special hats and long Pinocchio noses before entering the park.
It is quite simple and a little run down, but I would much rather that Mozart have this simple experience than the endless commercialism of a large, brand new theme park. That said, I don't think it is worth going out of your way to see this park, but if it is on your way, as it was for us on our way to Umbria, it is a delightful diversion that can break up a long drive. There were just a few rides, but she enjoyed them and they were quite aesthetically pleasing due to their antiquity and the Italian eye for beauty.
We could see its limitations, but Mozart gave it a big thumbs up and it was a highlight for her. It helped cement this classic tale in her brain forever as something special and she still plays with the whistle, puppet and Pinocchio nose that we bought. There were lots of little surprises as one walked around, from a statue of Pinocchio riding a blue horse with the picturesque Collodi in the background to the Blue Fairy House, but her favorite was the huge sprouting whale!