The magical duty-free Italian town where you can enjoy a relaxing winter break

Hidden away – quite literally for centuries – in the Alps of Lombardy, the small town of Livigno has slowly been emerging as a favourite spot for visitors from both Italy and abroad.

The stunning town of Livigno had a late start when it came to attracting visitors because of the peculiar geographical position it was built on.

Standing approximately 1,816m above sea level, for centuries the mountainous enclave had to live with no contact with nearby towns for the whole of winter as all access was cut off by the snow.

Because of its inability to trade or do business for months, Livigno benefitted from special measures that made it a duty-free zone – an arrangement still in place to this day.

VAT does not apply to products sold in this small town located in the northernmost spot of Lombardy, a further benefit that has slowly turned the area into an attractive shopping stop for tourists and nearby residents.

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Fuel in particular has brought commuters knocking as they are allowed to refuel on the cheap and also “export” up to 10 litres with approved jerrycans.

The duty-free system has made Livigno a hotspot for commercial tourism, a state of affairs highlighted by the high density, structure and size of the shops.

In 1914, the Italian Government authorised the construction of the Foscagno Pass which, for decades, remained the only way to access Livigno without detouring through Switzerland.

But it wasn’t until 1952 that Livigno residents were able to move freely in the winter as the pass would until then remain shut between October and March.

The change opened up opportunities for the tourism sector, and Livigno has grown to become a go-to destination for families from holidaymakers opting for a relaxing winter break away from the more popular Cortina d’Ampezzo, St. Moritz and Selva Val Gardena.

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Between November and May, the town teams up with visitors eager to enjoy the 115km of slopes the area has to offer and take in the full Italian winter experience.

The Sky Club of Great Britain praised Livigno for having “one of the best networks of cross-country skiing trails in the Italian Alps” – and remarked on the excellent food available.

The area is particularly renowned for homemade mushroom pappardelle, local cheeses, and deer stew.

Snow is also never too far away in the summer as the town’s narrow streets are covered in fresh snow to host the Palio Delle Contrade – a Nordic skying competition for residents.

In 2026, Livigno will join Milan, Cortina and Bormio in hosting the Winter Olympic Games, becoming the backdrop of the snowboard and freestyle competitions.

Despite having been annexed to the then-Kingdom of Italy alongside the rest of the Lombardy region in 1859, the closest airport is 120km away in Innsbruck, Austria.

The airport has a regular shuttle service ferrying holidaymakers to Livigno, as does the train station of Zernez in Switzerland.

Visitors can also opt to travel through Milan where they can either rent a car for the three-hour 50 minute journey to the snowy town or jump on the train to Tirano and then catch a bus.

In the winter months, Milan Malpensa offers a direct shuttle service as do Milan Linate and Bergamo Orio al Serio.

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