Livigno is primarily an Italian ski resort in the far north of Italy,
not far from Bormio. The mountains on the west side of the valley are
shared by St. Moritz in Switzerland, and in fact it is possible to ski
there from Livigno. The town itself is an odd collection of Alpine bed
and breakfast type hotels which almost invariably contain a restaurant
and a bar. It doesn't look like much of a town in this picture but when
you consider that each of those buildings contains a restaurant and a
dozen hotel rooms (and in some cases a nightclub in the basement) it
becomes more appealing. When we came out of the tunnel from Switzerland
into Italy, it was already snowing heavily. We checked into our hotel
(The Zodiac - very highly recommended) and went in search of dinner.
Each of the hotels has a menu posted out front so we picked one and went
inside to have our first Grappa experience. Grappa is similar to brandy,
made from grapes usually but it can be any fruit. The mashed remains of
the skins are fermented to form Grappa. We sampled a traditional grape
as well as blueberry before dinner. Grappa tends to be pretty strong by
nature and it is definately warming. Dinner was fantastic involving
venison, polenta, and a northern Italian speciality: pizzocheri. Pizzocheri
is a type of rye pasta vaguely similar in shape to tortellini. It seems
to be very regional but quite popular in the Valtellina area. (Valtellina
is the valley Livigno is located in). After dinner we returned to our
hotel to sip cognac and play cards in the bar.
It continued to snow during dinner, the time in the bar and the apparently
the whole night through. The next morning we rented skiing equipment (always
fun in a foreign language) and headed up to the top of the mountain. As it
turns out, only a few of the lower lifts were running because it was still
windy and snowing heavily. We were disappointed by this at first, but in the
end it was more than sufficient. Visibility was extremely poor, and the snow
was thick and heavy on the ground, leading to David's first skiing encounter
with heavy powder. (Documented for posterity here.) On our second run, we
decided to go off-piste. There the snow was often as much as five feet deep
(Melanie was nearly snowed under). This is really beyond the desirable concept
of powder and when we finally made it down, we didn't leave the pistes anymore.
After a late lunch on the mountain involving pasta and many hot drinks, we
skied down one more time and went back to the hotel for a nap.
It was still snowing when we woke up. We went out for dinner again,
earlier than was fashionable. Most restaurants didn't even open
until 7 or 8, and were not busy until 10 or 11. This time we went
for more exotic food - well Melanie did anyway, feasting on wild boar,
venison, and roebuck. David just stuck with the venison. We also
sampled some of the local Valtellina wines, which are quite good and
at around $6 per bottle, are cheaper than water in most restaurants.
Some time overnight, it finally stopped snowing, and the next morning
we were for the first time able to see the valley we were staying in.
This was the view from our balcony, which happens to be facing the
ski slopes we'd been on.
This lovely view of Livigno's bell tower is from the parking lot, where we
spent most of Saturday morning. This is because our car was completely buried
under the snow. No really - we had to dig into several car-shaped mounds
just to get the color of the car so we could tell which one we should dig out.
While Melanie stood on the balcony and offered helpful advice, David unearthed
the car. Luckily we were the second people to leave the Zodiac that morning,
so we didn't have to dig a path out of the parking lot. As it was a lovely
sunny day now, the town of Livigno had decided to plow and there were now
snowbanks lining the streets which were over 10 ft (3m) high. Apparently,
we'd skied one day too soon.