It takes a long time to get to Livigno (at least 2½ hours by car from Innsbruck – 177km – and anything up to 4 hours by bus). Not for nothing is this remote ski area dubbed “Piccolo Tibet”. But once you’re there, it takes a long time to explore the Italian resort – both on and off the slopes. And – having travelled so far – there’s a huge choice of hotels. The village is a straggling ribbon development that’s strung out for 20km along a valley that comes to a full stop in the winter, denying easy access to the nearby Swiss border. There’s skiing on both sides of the valley: the Mottolino slopes reach 2710m, and the Cistaccia/Carosello terrain tops out at 2795m. Here are four reasons to visit:
The Great Snow
Livigno is one of the highest ski villages in the Alps – in fact the satellite village of Trepalle claims to be Europe’s highest inhabited parish – and has an excellent snow record. This winter was consistently good and we found wonderful conditions on April 1 (and we’re not joking). Even when we left a few days later, slightly chilly early mornings were keeping the snow in good condition on both sides of the valley. The large collection of snow-guns we encountered – corralled on the Mottolino mountainside – were almost redundant all season through, glinting in the sunshine like a flock of unrequired robots.
The Extensive Slopes
There’s masses of skiing, especially for intermediates who will thrive on the wide open motorway pistes, although the comparative lack of trees (which gives the resort a bleak ambience if the sun isn’t shining) makes the terrain a little samey. With 114km of pistes served by 30 lifts, you won’t run out of different runs. Strong experienced skiers and snowboarders would benefit from hiring a guide to explore the extensive off-piste. Even better, take advantage of some exceptional heli-skiing at comparatively moderate prices: 250€ buys you two descents totalling at least 2000 vertical metres.
It’s Duty Free!
Because it’s so isolated and for a long period had a history of poverty – no longer the case with the advent of tourism – Livigno still has a special tax status (first granted by Napoleon in 1805, so the story goes). It’s a duty-free area – inhabitants pay income tax but there’s no Italian VAT so tourists (and locals) can take advantage of some useful bargains, especially the tax-free petrol at not much more than 1€ per litre. Other duty-free products include shoes, souvenirs, cigarettes and tobacco, alcoholic drinks, perfumes, cameras, electronic devices and leather goods. Even apart from its duty-free status, Livigno is more moderately priced than most ski areas in France, Switzerland or Austria.
Great Food in Town – And in Some Mountain Restaurants Too
We ate handsomely at our hotel – the Cristallo (dogs made welcome!) but the highlight was La Stüvetta gourmet restaurant at the Carosello 3000 where a gated outdoor section (ideal in good weather, or enhanced inside by a heart-warming pre-prandial Bombardino in less clement weather) offers superb fish dishes with a truly stunning mountain backdrop. Lobster, washed down with prosecco after a morning’s heli-skiing takes some beating.
One Reason Not to Go to Livigno
There’s no escaping the fact that it’s a long way! But the route from Innsbruck is certainly scenic, and it’s worth it when you get there.
Crystal Ski offers a week half board at Hotel Cristallo from £785pp including Gatwick flights and resort transfers. Direct flights from all major UK airports available at a supplement starting at £20pp. Kids’ price is from £643 (sharing a room with parents). For more information on the resort and future events visit the Livigno website.