Collodi is a town in Italy between Lucca and Florence, birthplace of the author of Pinocchio. As you drive towards it you see numerous signs advertising, rather garishly the Park of Pinocchio. Unless you have a child with you, either in the car or in your heart, you may be tempted to skip it as yet another Disneyland clone.

That would be a mistake. The park is a wooded oasis, built in 1952 and funded largely by the donations of schoolchildren. Its main feature is a winding hedge-lined trail; as you wander along it (no ride here; you use your feet) you encounter in the twists and bends a series of statues, mostly bronze, done in a modern style and showing characters and scenes from the story. Some of the statutes are “interactive” in a 1950’s sort of way. For example, the most fun is the Whale, which you reach by a series of stepping stones across a pond. You can climb into its belly, up through its blow-hole, and finally, like Pinocchio himself, out its gaping mouth. There is also a miniature house of the Blue Fairy which you can clamber all over, looking into its miniature rooms.

There is nary a blinking light or whirling ride in sight. I spent a peaceful early-October afternoon there, strolling its trails to the hum of bees. The statutes are far more evocative of the story than anything Walt Disney ever dreamed. There is probably a no more subdued theme park on the planet, yet it has plenty to amuse even a half-cultured child.

You can see some pictures of the statutes at The site’s English section was down when I visited it, but if you just clink on the links within “parco” the pictures come up. There are more pictures at

Collodi is also home to the Villa Garzoni, known for its formal, Baroque garden climbing a steep hill and full of vistas, fountains, and statutes. It is well-known enough to rate a mention in Encarta’s article on Landscape Gardening. The author’s mother was reportedly born at the Villa.

Collodi is well worth visiting if you have the time, particularly if you are the sort of traveler who likes to find something more unusual than a gape at the David or the Baptistery Doors.

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