What began as a whacky idea has become a tourist magnet - the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg is to open a new "Bella Italia" area as part of the world's largest model railway.
Pisa, Mount Vesuvius, Cinque Terre and, of course, Rome with St. Peter's Basilica will all be added. Model makers were even given access to original building plans in order to create these realistic reproductions on a scale of 1:150.
The new Italy section of the world's largest model railway in Hamburg's Speicherstadt area will cover some 90 square meters (295 square ft) and boast some 30,000 figurines and 50,000 LED lights.
It took a team of 50 model makers and technicians four years to create it. "No area has ever been this detailed and true to life," said founders and twin brothers Frederik and Gerrit Braun. Explaining why Italy was chosen as the latest addition Gerrit Braun added: "There are 200 countries in the world that are all marvelously interesting, but we wanted to begin close to Germany."
The planning phase took a whole year before any modelling work could begin. In minutely detailed work the model makers reproduced the new area as realistically as possible. The model of the Coliseum alone took half a year to make. It took 1,400 parts to make a seemingly unassuming small bridge. The new area will be officially opened on September 29.
The world biggest model railway, called Miniatur Wunderland, opened in 2001. It started with reproductions of the Harz region and southern Germany and has expanded over the years to include models of Switzerland, Scandinavia, the USA, Austria and the German coast.