In the province of Lecco, Italy, there is an abandoned place called Consonno, once known as “the City of Toys.” The municipal area of Consonno is spread over 300,000 square meters (74 acres) and is mainly covered with forests.
In 1861, the Italian census showed that 244 people were living in Consonno. However, the Second World War had a drastic effect on the area and the numbers dropped to about 50 people.
In the early 1960s, Italy was experiencing an economic boom. The country had changed its way of life to incorporate cars and rock and roll. Everyone was dreaming big and none more so than an entrepreneur from Milan named Count Mario Bagno.
Bagno was involved in the construction of roads and airports throughout Italy. When he came across Consonno, he decided that this was the perfect place to create “the City of Toys.”
He intended it to be Italy’s answer to Las Vegas and hoped to attract tourists from Milan, which is only an hour away.
Bagno acquired the whole of Consonno in 1962 for 22.5 million Italian liras (approximately 11,600 euros). After that, Bagno began to make his dream a reality as he designed shopping malls, a medieval castle, a dance hall, elegant fountains, a funfair, a skating rink, and a luxury hotel.
Around the time that the City of Toys was being built, most locals ended up leaving Consonno due to a crisis in the agricultural sector.
However, some residents remained in the hope that the Bagno’s changes would benefit them. Some did find employment with him, but allegedly for terrible wages.
Bagno was forced to temporarily relocate those residents who remained before he could demolish the old village of Consonno. The only original buildings left untouched were the 13th-century San Maurizio church, the rectory, and the small cemetery.
Consonno was looking set to become a tourist hotspot. On the way to Consonno, banners and signs advertised that “Consonno is the smallest town in the world, but the most beautiful” and “In Consonno, the skies are more blue!”
Restaurants, a dance hall, and a grand hotel were some of the most notable locations and each building had a distinctive architectural style. There was a fake castle at the entrance to the town, Chinese pagodas were dotted around, and some buildings even had cannons on top of them.
The most distinctive architectural feature was a large gallery that had the look of a Muslim minaret but housed a shopping mall and apartments.
Consonno opened to the public before it was finished, meaning the party atmosphere was often disturbed by the sound of bulldozers.This didn’t seem to put off visitors though, and the eccentric resort was quite popular in the 60s and 70s.
Bagno planned to continue building various entertainment venues, such as football and basketball fields, a tennis court, an amusement park, a zoo, and a golf course. However, his big dreams were about to be frustrated by unforeseen circumstances.
Bagno wanted to improve the view and was not averse to using dynamite to alter the landscape to his liking. This naturally affected the hydrogeological condition of the territory.
In 1966, heavy and continuous rainfall caused masses of mud and soil to shift, leading to a landslide in 1967. Bagno quickly fixed the damage and continued his construction work.
The city managed to hold out until 1976, but that year another landslide occurred in the same place. This time, the main road was utterly destroyed.
The City of Toys was now isolated from the rest of the world and no further development could take place. Consonno became a ghost town.
It appears that Bagno restored the road and tried to resume development here in 1981. However, he recognized that the remote location and difficult access meant that Consonno didn’t appeal to tourists. Instead, Bagno set about turning the grand hotel into a retirement home.
Unfortunately, Bagno himself passed away on October 22, 1995, at the age of 94. His estate didn’t share his enthusiasm for the project, so they stopped providing funds to the retirement center.The care home managed to keep going, but without Bagno’s estate paying for repairs and upkeep, it soon fell into a terrible state and was finally shut in June 2007.
A rave party called Summer Alliance was organized to take place in Consonno between June 29 and July 1, 2007. About 1,000 people took part. Sadly, the party-goers left a substantial amount of graffiti behind them and damaged buildings during the rave.
Around the same time, the Amici di Consonno association was formed. The next year, it secured a lease on the cafeteria in Consonno, which was then refurbished with period furnishing and converted into the La Spinada bar which opened in May 2012. The bar is only open between Easter and October.
The Amici di Consonno association also organizes various events in this abandoned town, and interested visitors can find the Amici di Consonno page on Facebook which posts news, updates, and details of the guided tours they run.
In 2014, the heirs of Mario Bagno decided to put the town up for sale for 12 million euros. However, no sale took place and Consonno remains in an abandoned state.
Although the roads leading to the ghost town are publicly accessible on foot, it must be borne in mind that part of the territory still remains private. In addition, the buildings are not safe for visitors due to their dilapidated state.
Alberto Bellato is the owner of these photographs of the abandoned Consonno. A huge thank you to him for giving us his permission to use these amazing photos and please check his Flickr account to see the gorgeous photos of his travelings and landscapes.