The rides of his life: Italian restaurant owner hand-builds an entire theme park in his spare time over forty years

  • Bruno started Ai Poppi in 1969 and discovered a passion for metalwork through a chance encounter
  • Since then he has built an amazing array of rides in a forest close to his popular restaurant
  • His heart-warming story is now the subject of a new documentary

An Italian man has created a fantastical fairground in the woods by his restaurant - entirely in his spare time.

Bruno, the owner of Ai Poppi in Montello, northern Italy, has hand-built swings, slides, seesaws, gyroscopes, a ferris wheel and even a roller-coaster over the past 40 years. Remarkably, all of the rides are hand-operated.

A new documentary called Ai Pioppi documents his inspiring story, which began in June 1969 when Bruno brought a a jug of white wine and a jug of red wine and five or six kilos of sausages to the forest.

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Passion: The forest around an Italian restaurant is packed with swings, slides, seesaws, tilt-a-whirls and a kinetic roller-coasters - all built by hand by the owner

Dedicated: Bruno in his workshop. Over the past forty years he has built an amusement park by hand and in his own time

He said: 'I hung all the food on a tree and set the grill under it. I also bought some soppressa, a type of salami from Veneto, the big kind. I wanted to see if we would sell something or if people would come, because we didn't even have a sign in front of the place.

'And then two guys came. They stopped by and asked, "what is this?".

'It's a restaurant.'

'How is that possible? We passed by yesterday and there was nothing' one of the men asked.

He replied: ' I told them "you are our first customers. Think about that".'

'And then one, four, ten, twenty people came to the restaurant and in two or three hours the food was finished. So exciting!'

Astonishingly, this rollercoaster was built by one man in his workshop in his spare time

Bruno decided he would learn to weld and enjoyed it so much he began to dream up small rides he could build to entice new customers to Ai Pioppi

Ai Poppi now seats 500 people.

His passion for amusement park rides began almost as an accident. Bruno needed four hooks hooks to join some chairs and went to a blacksmith in town, an old man.

He said: 'I'll always remember him, I'd like to make a monument to him. I went to the shop and asked if he could make four hooks. Do you know what he said?

'"I don't have time for these kind of things. If you know how to weld, the machine is over there. Do it yourself".'

'I wish he never said that. Because then I started. I went to a workshop to learn how to weld. I aksed them to teach me and I started to learn.

'Besides the small rides I made in the beginning, the first big ride I made was that iron slide. And that was forty years ago. 

Video courtesy of Coleman Guyon / Luiz Romero FABRICA 2013

His passion for building began forty years ago after a blacksmith told him he was too busy to help him craft four hooks and told him to do it himself

Humble beginnings: Bruno started with a few jugs of wine, some sausages and set up a tiny food stand underneath a tree to see if anyone would show up

'At the time, it was big news. There were not many strange rides like that. And since then I continued building, getting bigger and bigger, until I built all of them.

'It's funny because I didn't expect it. I didn't imagine it would be such a great success.'

In the documentary, he ruminates on the future of his beloved park as he contemplates retirement.

He said: 'I wish it would keep running like this.

'There's an Italian proverb that says, "you shouldn't change a winning horse", but I can't impose my ideas on my successors, because everyone has a different point of view. I will leave it up to them.'

The documentary can be seen at Gizmodo.

Ai Pioppi, helped by the fame of the amusement park, grew from a food stand selling sausages to a 500-seat restaurant

Bruno hopes that whoever takes over the restaurant will keep the park running

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