Livigno, duty-free and tax-free shopping. The liter premium fuel is here still at 1,35,- Eurocent (prices as per summer 2013)
In the meantime we arrived at 2.315m/7,596ft. Here, just a few steps in front of the Italian border post the road runs over a small plateau, framed by the Piz dals Legis mountain on the right hand side with its 3.044m/9,987ft and on the left by the Mont Vago with its 3.059m10,036ft. From the border post the view ranges far into the valley of Livigno. The eye can follow the pass road over nearly 5km/3.1mls, which swings along the left side of the valley like a worm down into the valley of Livigno.
Due to its strategic location for trading across the Alps, the history of Livigno has seen many difficult times and fights about the ownership during the centuries. These fights were mainly influenced by the regions around that valley and the history was mainly written by the provinces of Lombardia, Bavaria, the Republic of Venice, the Habsburgers and the Oberveltlin as well as the Engadine.
Livigno never could be conquered by someone and fought always with pride for its liberty. Indeed the Grison county, sovereign of the Veltlin, ensured already in the 7th century the independence of Livigno, liberty which was made clear again when Napoleon gave Livigno the exemption from tax and duty which was confirmed again by the Austrian-Hungarian Kingdom in 1818 and again and finally in 1910 by the Italian government. 1960 the EEC finally signed the actual valid document as duty-free zone.
Duty-free zone means lots of traffic, and so we join the queue of the waiting vehicles in front of the border post. Busses, motor homes, cars, motorcycles all would like to enter the tax-free heaven of Livigno and the border police take their task very seriously. Livigno was actually made accessible end of 1964 when the tunnels, which connect the valley in the east with Switzerland were opened. Before this time there were just four hotels in the valley. Today there are over 98 hotels with a total bed capacity of nearly 4,700. These bed capacities are fed over only three entrances to the valley. The Forcola di Livigno, on which we are right now when writing these lines, the tunnel in the east and the Passo di Foscagno in the south, across which we want to leave the valley today afternoon.
With strong strokes the V2 engine of my Honda Varadero hammers between my feet in the idle speed, when we roll inch by inch towards the border post. Distrustfully the border police looks at us, but then however they wave us through with an elegant movement of the arms. Typical Italian. We draw a deep breath and gain speed, following the descending road down into the Livigno valley. Thanks to the outstanding front view all four-wheeled vehicles can be passed by quickly without any interrupt and after a short period of time we reach the small old and wodden village Livigno. Whereby, the word small is even too big. Livigno, consists of San Antonio and Santa Maria and is only an accumulation of houses along the road over a distance of nearly four miles. The village center is relatively small and totally overcrowded by hundreds of shopping tourists.
We are only able to ride walking speed. The sun is nearly at its summit, and even we are at an altitude of over 1.800m/5,906ft we are nearly grilled in our Goretex textile jackets. On pallets people carry the stuff out of the innumerable stores along the road, and although its Sunday the queue of ”bargain-hunters” does not end.. We are nearly washed away by that situation to stop our bikes and join that group of bargainers, rush into a store and just spend our money, but can sustain the flavor of the situation and move our bikes step by step through the crowds. Doing that, we nearly missed the street sign on the right hand side leading us to the Passo di Foscagno.
In the last moment I recognize the small sign at the end of the village center, which points us right off toward Bormio. We leave the main road and the bulk of the vehicles and cross the valley in north - south direction. At this end, the road leaves in a smooth left curve the valley and starts rising again gently.
The valley can be accessed over the pass of Forcola di Livigno in the West, Passo di Foscagno in the Southeast and the tunnel La Drossa in the Northeast. The tunnel is opened as follows:
- until November 30th
- Monday 05.°° - 20.°°
- Tuesday - Sunday 08.°° - 20.°°
- From December 1st 2013 to April 30th
- Monday 05.°° - 21.°°
- Tuesday - Friday 07.°° - 21.°°
- Saturday 05.°° - 24.°°
- Sunday 06.°° - 22.°°
The toll for the tunnel for a car one way was 30,- Euro, for a motorcycle 9,- Euro (Prices as per summer 2013)