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New Cinecitta World theme park outside Rome hopes to entice tourists with the magic of cinema

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ROME - A new amusement park outside Rome celebrates the world of cinema, taking visitors back to the golden age of Italian film production when the Rome-based Cinecitta Studios — still in operation — were known as "Hollywood on the Tiber."

"Here, the idea is that people will also enter not only sets, but the confusion of a place where we are shooting movie. Everything will be illusion," said Emmanuel Gout, president of Cinecitta Parks. "The visitor will become a protagonist of the day, becoming a star, becoming involved in some fake movie."

At a submarine set, visitors get into character by donning marine helmets and racing through an action-packed movie scene. These marines bark orders and frantically spin valves, trying to avert an impending disaster.

Fans of Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns will delight in the Western set, which features an Ennio Morricone soundtrack for make-believe cowboy showdowns. A 1920s New York set is inspired by Dante Ferretti's set work for the Martin Scorsese film, "Gangs of New York." Ferretti actually designed all the sets for the park.

But beyond the lights, camera and action, no amusement park is complete without some wild rides. Cinecitta World mixes roller coasters with the pleasure of cinematic recreation: a futuristic corkscrew roller coaster connected to a spaceship and a water coaster in an ancient Rome set.

Italy is not exactly known for its amusement parks — most tourists come to Rome to view real ancient ruins, like the Colosseum. But Cinecitta World's creators hope this park will coax tourists to tack an extra day onto their itineraries.

"The average tourist spends five days in Paris but two and a half days in Rome," said Luigi Abete, president of the Italian Entertainment Group. "After they opened the Disney theme park outside Paris, the average stay went up."

And Cinecitta World does stand out among theme parks in several ways. For one thing, the food is better. No greasy funnel cakes or corn dogs to be found: Visitors instead can sit down to a civilized meal at an Italian wood-fired pizzeria at the Gatsby-esque Charleston Club; a healthful buffet (with a glass of wine, for grown-ups) at the Old American Bistro, or a rollicking barbecue at the saloon.

But beyond the food, there's plenty of kitsch at Cinecitta World. With its jumble of loose references to bygone films that many children (and even some adults) won't be familiar with — from the 1914 silent film "Cabiria" to American classics like "High Noon" and "Indiana Jones" — it seems oddly and refreshingly disconnected from the current moment.

"While other places say what you have to dream, we don't. We are free," said Gout.

Italians seem to agree. "It takes us back in time," said Mirella Monti, a visitor at a preview before the park's official July 24 opening. "Cinema always has this effect: In a few seconds, it catapults you into a completely different environment than reality — it could be the future or the past."

___

If You Go...

CINECITTA WORLD: http://www.cinecittaworld.it/ . Open daily 10 a.m.-11 p.m. through Aug. 31. Hours vary beginning Sept. 1. Adults, 29 Euros ($39); children under 10 and adults over 65, 23 Euros ($31). Children shorter than one meter (40 inches) are free. Located a 45-minute drive from Rome. Reachable via direct shuttle bus from Termini train station, the Vatican, the Eur Fermi stop of metro line B, or the Santa Palomba regional train line station. Across the street from the park is the popular outlet mall Castel Romano Shopping Village.

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