Italy’s Kinetic Theme Park

There are no electrical cords running along the floor, no bright colorful bulbs gilding painted iron. There’s no cotton candy or loud music being pumped through hidden speakers. The sound of iron squeaks in the distance. It is, by many modern standards, a somber scene. But Ai Pioppi, an amusement park in Battaglia, Italy, is much more than the pop and flash its counterparts are known for.

It started as a restaurant in the summer of 1969, when a man named Bruno opened up shop on the side of the road with just two bottles of wine and a handful of sausages. People came, the restaurant grew, and then, one entirely fateful day, he asked the local blacksmith to make him four hooks. The blacksmith said it wasn’t worth his time and, if Bruno wanted the hooks, he should teach himself how to weld. So he did. A lot.

It was small at first. Bruno began to make structures for children to play on while at the restaurant. What started with simple slides and swings now emcompasses tall, beastly iron structures that loop and flip like any rollercoaster--albeit on a much smaller scale--and are entirely powered by human effort. Take, for instance, the “Bicycle of Death,” in which riders pedal from inside of a metal cage in the hopes of making it to the top of the 360-degree loop and then free-falling backwards with the help of gravity. Sitting back and enjoying the ride isn’t really an option here. You’ve got to work for your fun. Nature and physics provides the payoffs.

Still in operation today, Ai Pioppi is a throwback to a more simple time, and an admirable testament to human ingenuity and sheer will. If you build it, they will come, as they say. Even if there’s no buttered popcorn.

To learn more about Ai Pioppi and the man who made it, watch this outstanding (and brief) documentary below.   

Photos courtesy of This is Colossal.

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