Consonno, the forgotten megalomaniac pleasure town of Mario Bagno

In the 1960s, entrepreneur Mario Bagno transforms Consonno into an eccentric pleasure town. Target market? The wealthy Milanese. After a landslide, the city suddenly falls into disrepair. Today the buildings are destroyed and overgrown.

Consonno the overgrown pleasure town of Mario Bagno near Lecco… Riccordo di Consonno. In the early 1960s, Italy was in a climate of optimism. The economy is picking up and people are confident in the future. A breeding ground for the craziest ideas. Entrepreneur Mario Bagno gets goosebumps. The start of his megalomaniac dream…

Consonno
Een oude postkaart van Consonno

In 1962 he buys the small village of Consonno, situated a little higher above Malgrate, not far from Lecco. It costs Bagno about 22.5 million Lire. Even before all residents are forced to leave their homes, bulldozers rumble up the hills. The whole village – except for the church, a few houses and the cemetery – is completely flattened.

Consonno is to become a brand new pleasure city for tourists and wealthy day trippers from Milan, about an hour drive from Consonno. The Italian Las Vegas with a casino, luxury hotel, dance halls, shops and restaurants. Buildings are popping up like mushrooms in the most diverse architectural styles: minarets, Japanese pagodas and a medieval castle. Anything is possible, as long as it’s eccentric.

Consonno
De toegangspoort van Consonno
Consonno
Op weg naar Consonno

To improve the view from Consonno, trees are cut down and pieces of mountain are blown away with dynamite. The topographical changes in the landscape caused two landslides in 1966 and 1967. A vague notion would turn out later…

Even before the project is completely finished, Mario is thinking about expanding again. His wish list also includes a basketball court, a car race track and a zoo. But in 1976 it’s over and out. A large landslide covers the only access road to Consonno. Tourists are gone, pennies are gone… The dream shatters and the half-finished pleasure city falls into disrepair. In the 1980s, Mario makes another attempt to revive his construction project. He wants to turn Consonno into a luxurious retirement home, but no one goes (anymore) along with his wild plans.

Consonno
De site van Consonno zal volledig overwoekeren

It starts raining. The atmosphere is unreal. How the hell does someone get it into his head to want to build this?

Today Consonno is officially open to the public. According to some sources, the entire site is for sale for around 12 million euros. Anyway, we want to win the jackpot from such an antique slot machine…

The GPS in the car doesn’t recognize Consonno. It takes some extra research. Fortunately, Waze does know the Via Consonno. We turn into the small street. There is a prohibition sign eccetto autorrizati but we simply ignore it. A little further on, the road is blocked with a barrier. We leave the car and continue on foot.

Consonno
Het hoofdgebouw van Consonno met de minaret

After twenty minutes of walking we discover a first dilapidated building. Rusty lighting poles and signs are scattered along the old road that would welcome visitors with promotional messages. A little higher up between the wooded hills we see the minaret of the main building.

We look around cautiously. No cat to be seen, or rather. Just some street cats, not a human to be seen. Consonno has apparently fallen prey to graffiti and vandalism. Every square centimeter is defaced. The spray cans lie between the smashed beer bottles.

Consonno
Oude balustrades, puin en veel glasscherven
Consonno
Binnenruimte in Consonno

It starts raining. The atmosphere is unreal. How the hell does someone get it into his head to want to build this?

We walk through the completely dilapidated and overgrown dream. Carefully we enter some buildings. Balustrades that threaten to fall, iron fences with rusty points, deep holes in the floor and lots of broken glass. Windows are broken and the ropes of an old roller shutter dangle from the window frames. Watch out! We expect to find a junkie behind every wall. Or even worse, a zombie maybe!

When we are on the roof, the sun breaks through the clouds. The gloomy atmosphere disappears a bit and we feel a bit more at ease. We do our best to see the potential. Maybe that would be easier on top of the minaret?

Consonno
Op het dak van het hoofdgebouw heb je een goed overzicht over Consonno

Climbing the minaret is for daredevils. Via an old metal cart you can clamber through a vertically placed piece of balustrade to a rickety iron climbing frame, to then reach the rusty old staircase. We estimate the height at about twenty meters. From there you could possibly climb all the way up along the outside. We have doubts: chance of a nice photo or be sure that we can still tell our adventure in a blog post? We just don’t do it…

Consonno
De minaret beklimmen is voor durvers

Together we walk out of Consonno. Slightly irritated, we wonder what it would have been like in those days… When you are in the area, you should start fantasizing yourself before nature completely overgrows Consonno. But don’t go alone or go after dark. You never know who you might bump into…

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