The origins of the name ‘Livigno’ are unclear.
According to historian Sertoli Salis, Livigino was called "Vinea et Vineola" in the archaic language. The old scripts excluded the "Li" prefix, which was utilised until 1399 and had nothing to do with the cultivation of the vine. So we can rule out the possibility that there could ever have been vineyards growing in the area. Others trace it to the term "lovin", meaning lupine.
The more likely etymological origin is a bastardisation of the term "lavina"; in Ladin: "lavina"; in the Bormio dialect: "Leina"; in old German: "Lobine", meaning snow avalanche.
Considering that the Livigno Valley lies submerged under a thick layer of snow for several months in the year, we can more readily trace the origins of the name of Livigno to the archaic term for avalanche.
First human settlement:
The time and manner in which humans came to settle in the Livigno Valley has been the subject of much historical debate. Most historians are inclined to take the view that the first humans to have settled in this Alpine area were members of the Ligurian or Rhaetian tribes. Others argue that the first inhabitants were originally Etruscan.
The Livigno Valley of yesteryear - The Livigno Valley today:
A schematic representation of the origins of the Spöl Valley: the River Spöl, known to the ancient Livignians as the ’Akua Granda’ has shaped the Livigno Valley over the centuries: the cutting down of trees as well as the redirection of the river and the construction of the dam – have all contributed to modifications in the topography of the valley.
There are also other legends and speculation as to its origins, such as that postulating that the first humans to settle in the valley were people of Slavic origin who travelled up the Danube to its tributary, the Inn, before moving further up-river to the Spöl. Proponents of this theory claim that some Asian physical features are still manifested in the modern-day local population.
Situated between the Engadine and the Upper Valtellina, Livigno lies in an enchanting valley stretching across 12 km. Nestling between two mountains ranges progressively descending from an altitude of 3,000 m down to 1,800 m, Livigno is made up of a several of wood and stone buildings. Together with neighbouring Trepalle, an attractive location (with the added distinction as the highest permanent inhabited settlement in Europe), Livigno is today a premium-level Alpine holiday resort. Situated in a pristine natural landscape, there over a hundred modern hotels with all the mod cons, welcoming visitors throughout the year with the traditional hospitality typical of this Alpine area.
THE BAIT AND TRADITIONAL HOUSES
To better understand the concept behind the traditional house in Livigno, one has to consider the three pillars on which the local economy is based: the forests, the pastures and snow. Lasting only four months per year, the centuries-old forests in this region have a very limited growth cycle and during the remaining eight months in the year, the vegetation hibernates in a state of limbo. These forests provide the source of wood from which the houses in Livigno have always been built and the wooded areas have also had to make way for the encroaching meadows. The farmers in Livigno are well known for their capable management of the wide grassy mountain pastures and since the hay is only harvested once a year, livestock farming (the only type that is feasible in these parts) requires an ever-increasing amount of grassland. Due to these factors, a high degree of deforestation has taken place over the centuries.
Even the structure of the permanent dwellings are different from those of nearby Bormio and are the result of a much more severe climate as well as the abundant availability of timber.
The oldest type of traditional living complex is made up of the house (the ‘báit’) and a barn (‘toilá’ and ‘stalá’), juxtaposed in straight lines or at right angles. The house is completely wooden structure (and if it has a concrete base, then it’s a sign that the building is of more recent construction) with logs stacked against each other.
The double-pitched roof (‘téit’) with slightly oblique gables is covered by a larch-wood partition with cross beams preventing snow from sliding off. It may also be covered in small ’shards’, (i.e. larch-wood flakes). Chimneys are uncommon though the windows tend to be smaller and are fitted with double glazed and darkened windows to reduce heat loss.
THE FIELD, THE HOUSE, THE FOREST AND SNOW
The suggestive Livigno landscape is largely due to the topography of its mountains that open out into the valley. It almost completely flat, as it spreads out along the 12 km-long valley bottom with an altitude differential of only 100 m. This unusual conformation helps to accentuate the ethereal nature of this thread-like village. Livigno follows the pattern of a traditional ‘street village’, comprising small wooden houses neatly arranged in rows and located just below the fields. This is partly to facilitate the laborious transport of hay as well as to provide shelter from avalanches. The buildings are separated from each other to forestall the spreading of fires.
Up until the 50s, Livigno tourism was only possible in the summer, due to the closure of access because of the snow during the winter and only a few enthusiasts, especially Germans, in winter, would go up to Livigno with their sleighs to make the most of the wide fields of virgin snow.
In 1952, though with varying degrees of success, the road to Bormio also began to open in winter.
The first two ski lifts were built in 1959.
The final tourist consecration of Livigno happened in 1965 with the construction of the Munt la Schera tunnel, linking it to Switzerland, openings the Spoel Valley to new markets for both summer and winter: Northern Europe, via the Engadine Valley, and the South and North-East Italy via the Brenner motorway system.
Thus began the development of tourism in Livigno.
1965: 6 hotels and 2 ski lifts.
2002, more than 100 hotels with 4,800 beds and more than 900 apartments rented weekly, 32 lifts, 110 km of slopes, 40 km of cross-country trails.
Today Livigno has ten thousand acres of pastures and a vast expanse of meadows. This forest which offers high shade recedes to make way for the green, sublimated in the Livigno mountain hut.
Until a few decades ago, the appearance of Livigno was that of an open-air museum.
Preserving Livigno as a museum would have meant the depopulation of its inhabitants and would probably have condemned it to an even more cruel isolation than the secular nature had intended.
The choice of tourism development was therefore an opportunity to give a future to the area.
This has inevitably led to new developments and it lost that shelled trait of the town separating one house from another for security reasons, marking the isolation of Livigno with the individualism and the self-isolation of the family groups of Livigno. Everything, therefore, in the Livigno family was organized for self-sufficiency, in order to survive long periods of isolation.
The livestock economy almost completely reduced external dependence. The house was the terminal appendage of the lawn and its branching point. La "Téa", that is, the temporary summer residence, was located a bit higher up on top of the grassy areas.