Conquering the world (with a carousel ride): this is where export entertainment is born

From the fog that envelops and almost hides the Po and those green grasses that are its banks, emerge wooden rocking horses, colorful plastic kangaroos and camels, even a cardboard Michael Jackson ten times his height. prototype. And above all from the white carpet of December, look at romantic carousels that look like music boxes, bold Tagads, revolving swings with depicted images of the Colosseum, the Donkey Tower, Abraham Lincoln and other American presidents sculpted on Mount Rushmore, ever-smiling Bruco Mela, aggressive Loop fighter; We are in Bergandino, the second town of the province of Rovigo, just opposite that of Mantua, which takes its name from the two-masted sailing ship with square sails, the bricchi, in which the local beekeepers transported their choice honey, or by bandits raiding the surrounding area. Now, however, known throughout the world – perhaps a little less in Italy – as the city of the carousel.

This is the pearl of the budding Veneto region, 500 artisans create with their own hands the attractions intended for the 300 permanent European amusement parks and the 30 thousand temporary events that entertain one billion six hundred thousand visitors every year with a local turnover of 80 million euros, achieved mainly thanks to exports to the Middle East, North and South America, Far East, Central Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Incredible numbers in this Italian economy that praises a modest GDP growth of +0.7%: in Bergandino there is zero unemployment! And here, however, everything started with a crisis, that of '29. Umberto Bacchiega and Umberto Favalli, two bicycle mechanics who supplemented their meager earnings in the winter by selling cakes baked by their wives at fairs – says the mayor Giovanni Rzzati as he guides us to the view of this jewel that is the Joust and Popular Historical Museum Fun created in Palazzo Strozzi, the Mantua branch of the famous Florentine family, where there are photographic testimonies, videos, models of amusement parks, shooting galleries and vintage barrels – noticed how payments for access to attractions were paid in advance. They measured the dimensions of a bumper car with their steps, marked them on the cigarette pack and returned to their workshop, made a completely new one that a few months later they let the other residents of Bergadino try.

The success was such that within a few decades there were 120 families who dedicated themselves to the construction of the rides but also to the management of their operation in amusement parks first in Northern Italy and then in Europe and around the world.
This is a land of blacksmiths, engineers, carpenters, electricians, tailors who build the rides and amusement operators who travel from March to October, who then return home in the winter for maintenance and to create new attractions. If you open the door of Enrico Stefanoni's warehouse, for example, you suddenly find yourself… in a frozen forest together with the huskies: the owner with Eric and his son Luigi Perrier, carniers from Annecy in France, welding her carousel Antarctic. . Have you seen how many campers are camped out in the yard? From all over the world – they tell us – we come here because there are no more qualified craftsmen, we bring our ideas and create the merry-go-round of dreams. The colored tissue paper swing that Luciano Lamborghini is putting the finishing touches on in his backyard is beautiful: Andr in Mexico. ours is also at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Adriano Soffiatti, however, keeps his ride packed in the garage: In January the exhibition season starts and it will be on the road for nine months. The real carousel is at the same time an illusion: it consists of more than 100 thousand pieces, but then it can be disassembled and you have to reassemble it in a few hours. The inhabitants of this small town on the banks of the Po are travelers, aedi, inventors, polyglots. Especially Giorgio Cuoghi, who even lit up the legendary Coney Island amusement park in Brooklyn. As children we were enchanted listening for hours to our fellow villagers returning from their travels, learned habits, customs, cultures, languages, then we left too, reaching the most remote corners of China and Oceania… Next time you go up to carousel remember the tale of Bergadino.

Winston Ferguson

"Total travelaholic. Subtly charming zombie geek. Friend of animals everywhere. Music buff. Explorer. Tv junkie."

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