In the abandoned “Las Vegas of Italy” that once attracted well-heeled visitors from Milan

It’s certainly one of the greatest ghost towns – and as an Italian, it even has a working bar.

These pictures give you a fascinating insight into the so-called Città dei Balocchi – “City of Toys” – which was once a playground for well-heeled residents and tourists from Milan, an 80-minute drive south.

In its heyday, the tourist hotspot at the foot of the Alps attracted visitors with bizarre architecture and attractions such as shopping malls, casinos, restaurants, a grand hotel and a ballroom. It even had a fake castle. But now the eccentric carcass of this eccentric folly is crumbling on the hillside, and the surrounding forests are slowly swallowing it up.

The so-called Città dei Balocchi – “City of Toys” – was once a playground for well-heeled residents and tourists from Milan, an 80-minute drive south

In its heyday, City of Toys attracted visitors with quirky architecture and attractions such as shopping malls, casinos, restaurants, a grand hotel and a ballroom.  It even had a fake castle

In its heyday, City of Toys attracted visitors with quirky architecture and attractions such as shopping malls, casinos, restaurants, a grand hotel and a ballroom. It even had a fake castle

The eerie carcass of this eccentric folly crumbles on the slope.  At the top, a Chinese pagoda is slowly subsiding

The eerie carcass of this eccentric folly crumbles on the slope. At the top, a Chinese pagoda slowly subsides

The ‘city’ was the brainchild of the eccentric entrepreneur Count Mario Bagno. He had been involved in the construction of many roads and airports in Italy, but decided in the 1960s to benefit from the economic boom and create an Italian Las Vegas.

Its construction was pretty brutal.

The quiet, rural town of Consonno was chosen as the best location. Bagno bought it for 22.5 million lire (around 600,000,000 lire or 280,000 pounds in today’s money), forcing the 60 or so residents to relocate and destroy every building except the church, the cemetery and the rectory.

Some villagers had left for good when construction began in 1965, others stayed and worked in the new spa town for an alleged amount.

Bagno decided to use bulldozers and dynamite to level the slope it was to be built on, causing landslides that delayed opening.

However, the first stage was completed in 1968 and the guests were welcomed.

But the website Sometimes Interesting states that the city was perceived as a construction site rather than a holiday resort due to the “constant, slow expansion” and the chirping of birds was “constantly interrupted by the sounds of hammering and sawing”.

Count Bagno is also said to have been undecided, with plans that are constantly being hacked up and changed.

The 'city' was the brainchild of the eccentric entrepreneur Count Mario Bagno.  He had been involved in the construction of many roads and airports in Italy, but decided in the 1960s to benefit from the economic boom and create an Italian Las Vegas

The ‘city’ was the brainchild of the eccentric entrepreneur Count Mario Bagno. He had been involved in the construction of many roads and airports in Italy, but decided in the 1960s to benefit from the economic boom and create an Italian Las Vegas

The site used to be the quiet, rural town of Consonno.  Bagno bought it for 22.5 million lire (about £ 10,000), forced the 60 or so residents to move, and demolished every building except the church, cemetery and rectory

The site used to be the quiet, rural town of Consonno. Bagno bought it for 22.5 million lire (about £ 10,000), forced the 60 or so residents to move, and demolished every building except the church, cemetery and rectory

Bagno decided to use bulldozers and dynamite to level the slope it was supposed to be built on, causing landslides that delayed opening.  However, the first stage was completed in 1968 and the guests were welcomed

Bagno decided to use bulldozers and dynamite to level the slope it was to be built on, causing landslides that delayed opening. However, the first stage was completed in 1968 and the guests were welcomed

Despite the setbacks and the fact that the half-finished City of Toys were criticized by the neighboring provinces for their off-wall appearance, it was successful for a number of years.

Guests relaxed amid Arabic arches and a minaret tower, ornate fountains and Chinese pagodas.

The medieval castle at the entrance with model soldiers would undoubtedly have entertained as well.

A rusty vehicle was rotting in the city of toys.  The resort experienced a boom in the late 1960s and early 1970s

A rusty vehicle was rotting in the city of toys. The resort experienced a boom in the late 1960s and early 1970s

However, the resort’s success was short-lived.

There were plans for tennis courts, an auto racing track, a soccer field, a small zoo, a bowling alley, an amusement park, an Egyptian sphinx, and more – but in October 1976 another landslide destroyed the main access road and cut it off.

The blockade was eventually lifted, but the economic damage had been done.

Nature has recaptured one of the buildings on the site.  There were plans for tennis courts, a car racing track, a soccer field, a small zoo, a bowling alley, an amusement park, an Egyptian sphinx, and much more

Nature has recaptured one of the buildings on the site. There were plans for tennis courts, a car racing track, a soccer field, a small zoo, a bowling alley, an amusement park, an Egyptian sphinx and much more

It's possible to visit the former City of Toys - and there's a seasonal bar there run by the Amici di Consonno Association

It’s possible to visit the former City of Toys – and there’s a seasonal bar there run by the Amici di Consonno Association

Count Bagno decided that it was too remote to make a fortune from tourism and that more money could be made by building a retirement home there.

In the 1980s, he planned to modernize and convert the former Grand Hotel for older residents. However, he died in October 1995 and the development never materialized.

Count Bagno’s estate decided to close the place in June 2007.

In the 1980s, Bagno planned to modernize and convert the former Grand Hotel for older residents.  However, he died in October 1995 and the development never materialized

In the 1980s, Bagno planned to modernize and convert the former Grand Hotel for older residents. However, he died in October 1995 and the development never materialized

Count Bagno's estate decided to close the City of Toys in June 2007.  That same month, an illegal rave took place in the abandoned spa town, during which hundreds of night owls caused damage and covered surfaces with graffiti

Count Bagno’s estate decided to close the City of Toys in June 2007. In the same month, an illegal rave took place in the abandoned spa town, during which hundreds of night owls caused damage and covered surfaces with graffiti

Visitors inspect the website's crazy designs The City of Toys featured architectural influences from around the world

Quirky: The City of Toys showed architectural influences from all over the world

The Amici di Consonno Association strives to take the best possible care of the buildings

The Amici di Consonno Association strives to look after the buildings as well as possible

In the same month, an illegal rave took place in the abandoned spa town, during which hundreds of night owls caused damage and covered surfaces with graffiti.

Afterwards, a group of locals – and fans of the city – founded the Amici di Consonno Association, which was dedicated to the best possible care of the buildings.

There’s clearly not much it can do without substantial finances, but in 2012 it managed to open a seasonal bar called Bar De La Spinada, which is staffed by association members, on the site of one of the old cafeterias.

In 2014 Gut Bagno tried to sell the property for 12 million euros, but there were no buyers. For the time being, the city of toys will remain a playground for committed fans of abandoned buildings.

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