Italy -- A Disco For 20,000 Dancers

LONATO, Italy - From dusk to dawn, searchlights crisscross the sky over this small Northern Italian town, beckoning dancers by the thousands to Genux, which claims to be the world's largest discotheque.

At about 65,000 square feet, the size of some shopping malls, co-owner Cesare Facchetti says Genux can accommodate up to 20,000 people.

That's more than twice the next-largest disco, Cinerama near Tel Aviv, Israel.

"Our capacity is actually almost four times Lonato's population of 5,500," he says.

Attendance at the disco, however, averages about 10,000 nightly.

It's usually a mix of locals plus vacationers from Desenzano, a resort on nearby Lake Garda; Italians from Brescia, the nearest city 15 miles away, or from Milan, 125 miles distant, and international tourists.

The disco, a huge structure in a field outside of town, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

The line at the door moves briskly. Guests aged 14 years and older each pay $9 admission, then advance to an automated coat check which resembles a dry cleaner's conveyor system.

Genux (a made-up word) has no real theme beyond a larger-than-life statue of Pegasus dominating the mirror-lined, neon-lit lobby. Music, loud and pulsating, spills through an arched entry that leads to the disco area.

The cavernous room has three dance floors with comfortable seating, five bars and a tobacco shop. Multicolored lights flash to the beat of the music, while nearly a mile of multi-colored neon tubes create a constant glow.

The clientele, chic and clean-cut, ranges from teen to middle years. The mix varies, particularly during special sessions such as ballroom dancing during late afternoons or week-nights and the live rock concerts, usually Sunday and Wednesday, featuring well-known Italian and other European groups.