Livigno is a municipality in the Italian province of Sondrio (region of Lombardy). The inhabitants of Livigno are called Livignese. The village is best known as a ski resort and tax-free zone.
The municipality of Livigno was created from the amalgamation of three villages in the valley of the Spöl. The church village of Trepalle on the route to Bormio also belongs to the municipality.
There are many stories about how and why this valley became tax-free. According to tradition, if someone were sent to collect taxes in Livigno, they would mysteriously disappear. Reality speaks less to the imagination.
The grant ensured the valley remained inhabited so the state could claim ownership. Austria-Hungary first granted Livigno’s tax-exempt status around 1840. In 1910, the Italian Kingdom and later the Republic confirmed this status. Finally, tax-exempt status was approved in 1960 by the EEC definitively granted. The reason for this award was the problematic accessibility of Livigno during the winter and the centuries of poverty in the region.
In 1912 the first telephone line was built between Livigno and Bormio. In this way, Livigno came out of his isolation communicatively. It was not until 1914 that cars could be driven to Livigno. The construction of the Via di Döss, which ran over the Passo Trepalle, Passo Foscagno and Passo d’Eira, connected Livigno with Semogo, 40 kilometres away. This partly brought Livigno out of its isolation and got the first tourists to the valley. Yet the community remained primarily self-centred. The First World War only played a role because several young people from the village died at the front. The town itself was spared violence.
In 1920 the first villagers got their driver’s licenses. To make this profitable, a postal service was started. This was the first mail and parcel service in Livigno. It was not until 1924 that electricity was installed in the village, and the first electricity company started operating in Livigno.
Before and during the Second World War, the fascism of and with Benito Mussolini, like in many places in Lombardy, enjoyed great popular support. Again, some inhabitants of Livigno died at the front.
In 1937 the road over the Forcola di Livigno was opened, connecting to the Bernina Pass. The village itself was now involved in the war. The German and Italian allies controlled the border with a small selection of military police from the 4th Divisione Alpina “Monterosa”. Just before the unconditional capitulation, the Allies of the 5th US Army took the village on May 2, 1945.
In the 1950s, the inhabitants of Livigno started the winter opening up of the village on their own. With the purchase of large snow ploughs, the Passo Foscagno was kept passable, and the road to Bormio was also snow-free. This allowed winter tourism to take off, and in 1953, the opening of the first ski lift was celebrated. The ski school was started in 1959. Livigno now definitively started the conversion from a closed agricultural community to an open village, ready for tourism.
In the late 1950s, an agreement was signed between Italy and Switzerland to use the water of the Spöl for everyday purposes. A dam was built, and the Lago di Livigno reservoir was created. The pool was used to generate electricity. Since many materials had to be brought to construct this dam, a tunnel was made between Switzerland and Livigno: the Munt-la-Schera tunnel. The then-mayor of Livigno immediately recognized this tunnel’s usefulness and, in 1963, signed an agreement with the Swiss to open the tunnel and the road over the dam to traffic after the works were completed.