Theme parks are not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Italy. The Sistine Chapel? Of course! Da Vinci's Last Supper? Obviously! And then....Tuscany's sprawling hills. Venice canals. A chunk of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. Delicate virgin olive oil. Mouth watering gelato. Crispy and perfect slices of pizza. Yes to all of the above.

Theme parks? Not so much! But that does not mean you cannot have some hair raising, adrenaline pumping, water splashing fun in Italy. Here is a guide to the best five theme parks in the north of Italy, for you to enjoy with your kids or with your friends. Do bare in mind – it can get really hot in Italy during the summer and if you have to wait in lines it is easy to get dehydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of water during the day. And do not forget sunscreen!

Gardaland

Gardaland

Touted as the first of its kind in Italy, Gardaland is located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda (close to Peschiera and a short train away from Verona). Gardaland is an excellent choice for a fun day of hair raising, gravity defying activities. With six roller coasters (including the latest €20m investment Raptor) thrill seekers will think they have died and gone to heaven. But it is not all about the the adrenaline rush, families traveling with small children are bound to have fun too as there are 32 rides to choose from. Lines can be long (especially during the summer months) but it is a well oiled operation and they do thin out later in the day.

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Movieland Studios

It might lack the slickness of some of its American counterparts but that does not make Movieland Studios any less fun. Located in Lazise on Lake Garda (you can catch a free shuttle service from Peschiera train station during the season), Movieland Studios offers a number of rides (including Xsplash, Xspin, Hollywood Tower, Tomb Raider Machine and rather scary Horror House) as well as a number of interactive shows dedicated to some of the more popular movies like Terminator, Rambo and Blues Brothers. Shows are scattered throughout the day so take note if you are keen not to miss anything. Movieland Studios also organizes events during the season – some of the most notable past examples include Ghostbusters Tribute Day and Star Wars Celebration so check the park's website beforehand.

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Parco Natura Viva

Just a short bus ride away from Verona (located between Bussolengo and Pastrengo). Parco Natura Viva is home to more than 200 different species and more than 1500 animals. First stop is the safari park which you can tour with your car (or for €18 you can rent a car on the premises). The park is very spacious and offers a wonderful opportunity to observe animals like tigers, hippos and giraffes in their natural habitat. Make sure you have your walking shoes on as, after the Safari Park, you will go on to explore the Fauna park on foot. Goats, lamas, peacocks and turtles (to name a few) roam in their pens, while snakes, lizards and alligators can been seen at the Tropical Greenhouse.

Parco Natura Viva

The Extinction Park is home to a number of life sized models that represent a number of extinct species and gives an insight into their daily habits. The latest addition to the park is Trails of Africa, a safe immersion experience where you can gawk (and take plenty of pictures) of large African animals.

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Mirabilandia

Thrill seekers beware - you are in for a fun day out in Mirabilandia. Located near Ravenna and just a short (free!) bus ride away from Lido di Savio/Lido di Classe Mirabilandia offers about 30 rides for you to enjoy, with two of the most extreme being Katan and iSpeed. Prepare to wait in line since these two are the biggest lure of Mirabilandia. Families with children need not to worry - rides like Fantasyland, Monosaurus or for the more daring La Cassa Matta and Leprotto Express will keep the kids busy and begging for more.

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Aquafan

Located in Riccione, Aquafan is considered the largest water park in Europe. And if you are traveling with kids it will make for a fun day out. There are more than three kilometers water slides and several activities for kids including the Cartoon Network beach with its Noah's Ark, Antarctic Baby Beach and Elephant Pool. Adults can enjoy more adrenaline fueled pursuits such as sliding down Kamikaze (two parallel water slides with 90 meter descend), Extreme Rivers (you go down the slide in a rubber ring that reaches 60 km/h) or Twist (with three transparent tubes to slide through twisting and turning around).

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