Once upon a time, there was, “A King!” No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time, there was a piece of wood.”
At the entrance of Pinocchio Park, there is a marble plaque, engraved with the opening lines of the book The Adventures of Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi in 1883. Wandering around the Park, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped into a fairytale. The sun shines through the leafy canopy; puppeteers prepare a show, while children play around statues depicting Pinocchio and the other characters of the tale. There are gypsy wagons and merry-go-rounds, the Fairy’s little house, a pirate ship with treasure cave and even a giant fish-shaped fountain.
Carlo Collodi wasn’t the author’s real name. He was born Carlo Lorenzini, and took his nom de plume from his home village in the Tuscan hills not far from Florence. The book soon became a classic, and after Disney’s 1940 rendition Pinocchio achieved worldwide fame. Nowadays, Collodi is dedicated to all things Pinocchio. A giant Pinocchio statue greets visitors at the entrance of Pinocchio Park, and the streets in the lower part of town are lined with stalls selling Pinocchio toys and souvenirs.
Pinocchio Park was opened in 1956; it’s more than an amusement park, it allows visitors to walk through the story, following paths lined with mosaics, small buildings and statues of Pinocchio characters. The statues and other artworks in the park are the work of Italian artists; making the Park a great place to visit for the whole family.
We started our visit in the Pinocchio Park at the museum at the entrance of the park, housing a collection of Pinocchio books in several languages and Pinocchio-themed paintings and artworks. Visit to the Park itself takes up the best part of the day. The themed paths follow the book’s story line, taking visitors past statues of characters in the order in which they appear on the book. So, you’ll live again Pinocchio’s encounter with the Fox and Cat, Jiminy Cricket’s wise advice (he is known as Grillo Parlante, the ‘talking cricket’ in Italian) and the meeting with the Blue-Haired Fairy.
Visitors and young children will love the puppet show near the entrance (in Italian only) every day at 12 and 4 pm, and the play ground area complete with vintage merry-go-rounds. There’s also a crafts laboratory for children, where they can draw, paint and color in and even build their own Pinocchio hat and long nose.
The combo entrance ticket to Pinocchio Park allows visitors to also access the Gardens of Villa Garzoni and its Butterfly house. The Garzoni family were the lords of the land; their beautiful villa includes a magnificent example of landscaped Italian gardens, with classical statues, grottoes and geometric hedges and lawns. The Butterfly house is home to thousands of fluttering critters, and it is also well worth a visit.
Tips on Visiting Pinocchio Park
Be aware that summers can be incredibly hot around Collodi. We visited in June and it got up to 98°; hence, we recommend visiting in the Spring or Autumn. Pinocchio park is open year round; the combo ticket is 21€ for adults and 17€ for children.
Federica, a Collodi local who works at the park, recommended to walk up to the higher part of the Collodi, visible from the Park on a hilltop. It’s a tough 20 min walk uphill and it’s extremely hard to drive through the cobbled narrow streets. It’s definitely worth it though. The village was Collodi’s inspiration for the setting of the book and it looks straight out of the Disney film. You can almost expect the Fox and Cat to jump in front of you trying to con you out of your money, as you amble around the lanes and higgledy-piggledy houses. No-one was out when we visited, except some cats lazying in the shade of olive trees, and a little girl playing with her cooking set in the sunny piazza. We climbed all the way to the church on top of the hill, with tufts of grass growing through the pavement stones. At some point, I heard laughter and saw a flash of blue; I wonder if it was just the heat?
Collodi can be easily reached by train from Florence, alighting at Pescia or Montecatini and then changing to a local bus. It is about an hour by car from Florence and about one and a half hours away from the Cinque Terre.