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Consonno: the Las Vegas-style ghost town of Brianza

The ultimate alternative to the Fuori Salone

Consonno: the Las Vegas-style ghost town of Brianza The ultimate alternative to the Fuori Salone

This week the Sunday Escape column is transformed into Escape from Fuori Salone. If you want a break from happenings, artistic installations and people gathered in the streets waiting to see the latest design object, nss suggests an alternative destination: Consonno. Not far from Milan, nestled in the hills of Brianza, this small village was once known as "the Italian Las Vegas" and is now reduced a few rusty and decadent buildings that hide a bizarre history.

We are in the early '60s when the fate of this place changes forever thanks to Count Mario Bagno. The eccentric industrialist, enriched by building highways and airstrips in the Italy of the economic boom, has a dream: to create a large amusement park, a glittering Land of Toys for adults in Consonno, the destination of his youth holidays. He buys it for twenty-two million five hundred thousand lire from the families Aghilieri and Verga, owners of the village, and the great enterprise begins. The first step is to build a road to connect Consonno with Olginate, the second step is to dislodge the about 300 inhabitants and demolish everything, saving only the church and the cemetery. Instead of that bunch of houses, Bagno erects gigantic buildings of poor-quality materials inspired by the postcards sent to him by his friends from India, Egypt and other exotic countries: an Arabian shopping gallery with a minaret, which on the top floor houses small holiday apartments; a Chinese pagoda; a medieval castle as the entrance door; a French-style grand hotel; night clubs; restaurants; shops. He spreads everywhere billboards with phrases such as "Who lives in Consonno will live for hundred years" or "Consonno is the smallest but most beautiful country in the world" and, to make more visible the panoramic view of the Resegone, even flattens the hill in front of the country with dynamite. For a decade, between 1965 and 1975, the Count's project is a success. An army of young from Lombardia spend the nights here to enjoy dinners, dance and to hear the big names of Italian music of the time as Celentano, Mina or Dik Dik.

Then come the 70s. With the crisis and social unrest, tourists go elsewhere and, little by little, the village of Brianza loses its charm. The end of Bagno's dream came in October 1976 when a landslide fell on the access road to the village, leaving it isolated. Consonno becomes a ghost town. Today, more than forty years later, it still is. All that remains of the old splendor is a pile of ruined buildings, invaded by vegetation and graffiti. It's a landscape wrapped in a surreal atmosphere and unreal silence that many have compared to post-apocalyptic films like The Day After or video games like Fallout. Cyclically, some people hypothesize the idea of buying and renovating this place, but so far no project has been realized.