The hilly village of Consonno, set in the foothills of the Alps in Lombardy, northern Italy, was once known as Milan’s “Land of Toys.” It was built in 1968 by Count Mario Bagno, a real estate developer who wanted to create an Italian Las Vegas after he had convinced the locals to let him demolish the ancient rural town with false promises of development and wealth. For eight years, with its Grand Hotel Plaza, a night club, several buildings of eclectic design (a pagoda, a minaret), a zoo, and even a small sightseeing train, the town was a party destination.
In 1976, a landslide destroyed the road that connected Consonno to the nearest town, blocking access to the village. It was the end. The village decline was rapid and irreversible, and despite Bagno’s attempt to revive his project, Consonno became a ghost town. With its combination of dilapidated buildings and beautiful natural landscape, it is occasionally used as a setting for music videos and movies.
But come Sept. 3 and 4, it will revert to its ludic purpose and host the sixth annual Nascondino World Championship, a hide-and-seek competition drawing hundreds of participants, all of them from Italy.
Giorgio Moratti, a member of the organising team, says the championship was first held in 2010 in Bergamo, Italy, as an initiative of CTRL Magazine, a local publication, but the scenery of Consonno, as well as the abundance of hiding spots in the town's many abandoned buildings, won over the group. “Looking at those fields,” Moratti told Quartz, “we immediately imagined they’d be perfect to play hide and seek! And that was the beginning.”
The first year, 15 teams participated. The following year, 25. Then, the competition’s name, initially just a “Nascondino (hide and seek) championship” was updated to “world championship,” to make it seem, well, more worldly. “Let’s say it’s more of an ambition than the reality,” said Moratti, “but every year we work to make it larger.”
Participants, who pay and entry fee of €125 per team, are between 18 and 60 years old, and the teams are coed. This year, 64 teams of five members each will be hiding in Consonno. The rules are simple, but strict, and enforced by two referees and a game coordinator. The teams are divided into four groups, and one person per group hides while a “neutral searching team” counts 60 seconds. Participants then have 10 minutes to jump out of their hiding spot and hit a target in the middle of the playing field, without being found or caught by the searching team. The competition continues for two full days until a winner is declared.