Between September 8th and 10th, the tiny town of Consonno will be taken over by hide-and-seek teams from around the world, all hoping to be win the coveted 'Golden Fig Leaf' and be crowned international champions.
Now in its eighth year, the unusual tournament has breathed life into the former ghost town, which was once intended to become Lombardy's answer to Las Vegas. An eccentric count planned to fill Consonno with casinos, nightclubs, and eccentric buildings for pleasure-seekers, and had further ambitious plans for a zoo and motor racing circuit in his 'City of Toys'.
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But the work was abandoned after a landslide left the town largely uninhabitable, and it lay empty for fifty years – one of Italy's many so-called ghost towns.
Many of the bizarre buildings remain standing, such as a medieval-style castle and Chinese pagodas, but an old sign reading 'Consonno is always a party' seems somewhat ironic.
Except, that is, during the September weekend of the hide and seek championship.
The event started out as a joke, when a group of friends started a spontaneous game of hide-and-seek and decided to create an 'official' tournament. But it has snowballed and now attracts entrants from across the globe, plus plenty of spectators who gather to watch the game unfold and enjoy the food trucks and concerts that now accompany the tournament.
IN PICTURES: Italy's crazy hide-and-seek championship
Photo: Nascondino World Championship
This year, 80 teams from 11 countries will take part – an increase of 16 from last year, – and, for the first time, the games are truly international with participants from the US, Japan, and Australia.
The rules of the games are as follows: the hide and seek arena is split into five sections, and one member from each team must hide in each section. While the seekers (a 'neutral' team who have been “selected for their athleticism, visibility and sportsmanship”, according to organizers) count for one minute, players find a secluded spot among the obstacles set out, and then have to make it back to the 'base' before the seekers catch them.
Hiders can only seek shelter in the outdoor grounds, due to the structural instability of the ghost town's buildings. But with 65,000 square metres of open space, finding the way back to base is far from easy.
While some teams approach the tournament with a competitive spirit, the organizers say there's only one aim behind the games – to “bring back a smile to Consonno”.