Today I am here to tell you the story of a place many people told me about; this is not a village where we recommend you go as usual but more than anything else it is a story that we want to tell because in theses days were sensitivity towards the ecological theme has finally become more acute, it sounds like the parable of bad and short-sighted behavior.
We are in Consonno that used to be a very small medieval village at the end of Lake Lecco from which you can enjoy the beautiful view of Mount Resegone.
Until the 1950s, the village, even if progressively abandoned by the new generations looking for factory jobs in the textile companies of the valley, had managed to live thanks to the artisan activities and agriculture.
In 1962, however, Count Mario Bagno, a construction contractor, a concrete-mixer tycoon, purchased the area for 22,500 lire with a visionary concept: these were the economic boom years and he wanted to build a large amusement park in this area.
The result was a potpourri of night shows, dance parties, water games, fireworks, halfway between a temple devoted to shopping and a casino, with an aftertaste of kitsch decorations and tackiness. “Carlo Bagno was a particular man” – says Roberto Milani, the last property keeper. “He would wake up in the morning and build an arch topped by a Napoleonic cannon and then the next day he would have a nervous break down because he was no longer convinced about it”. In his mind, the citadel was a work in progress that should have grown year after year. Soccer fields, swimming pools, tennis courts and then a miniature golf course, a small car circuit, a skating rink plus add to the mix a zoo.
But the cherry on top of the cake was the panoramic train that allowed visitors to take a tour around the whole village. In twenty minutes newly arrived tourists had the opportunity to overview all the attractions of what Count Carlo Bagno intended as the “Las Vegas” of Brianza.
During the 60s, Consonno often hosted great music and entertainment personalities and for a good decade, it represented a renowned pole of attraction in the area.
To have a better view on the valley the owner decided to pave an entire hill but all these works affected the hydrogeological balance of the territory and the first landslide in 1966, followed by a second one ten years later, destroyed the access road to the Park, thus decreeing the end of the “city of toys“.
Despite the entrepreneur’s attempts to jump start the influx of tourists to the site, people began to desert the place and in a short time Consonno, attacked by vandals and nature, became a ghost town.
In 1981 a part of the Grand Hotel Plaza that once housed tourists looking for fun, was transformed into a retirement home for the elderly and I can’t help thinking how much the surrounding scenography with its metaphysical structures, the minaret, the medieval castle, and the Chinese pagoda may have seemed surreal to the new guests who left the place for good in 2007.
So Consonno lived its last life and became a secretly frequented place at night until a rave party attended by 2000 young people cost it the final devastation.
Proposals to redevelop the area have been turned down due to the economic outlay and investors have desisted; its dilapidated structures have been used for commercials, films, TV series, and video clips, but in reality, Consonno has only relived in the minds of those who, like us, went to visit it, hoping to find a more intense suggestion, the set of more vivid imagery.
Instead, you end up wandering around these recent ruins with a sense of frustration and deception.
And one can almost hear the curses of the peasants who escaped the bulldozers of the Count: a visionary without 20/20.