Castel dell'Ovo in Naples, fortress & former royal residence

Trading the beaches for the mountain
 Livigno – A pearl in the Italian Alps

Livigno/Italy (2017) – To trade sandy beaches for grassland in high altitude for a little summer vacation seems wrong already at the first thought. Especially in Italy, where the beaches and
the sea are a synonym for "La dolce vita". It's tough to turn your back on something you know
would be great and instead try something you can't even predict the outcome because you know literally nothing about it. Well, I did the unthinkable anyway in this year's so very hot August and drove up north, against the main stream, towards the mountains, right into the Italian Alps. Destination: Livigno, at 1,816 meters (5,958 ft) above sea level in the province Sondrio in the Lombardy region. Actually well known as a first class ski resort rather than a summer escape for daring vacationer. Livigno is the prettiest mountain village I have ever seen, full of flowers, authentic and well preserved traditional houses, shops wherever you look as well as bars and restaurants. And this lovely mountain village knows how to convince the skeptics:
by offering everything one wouldn't even dare to expect and more.   
Pizza made in the famous Pizzeria "Da Michele" in Napoli
The drive into the Italian Alps is already an event
It's a long way from the sea to the mountains I thought while driving up to Livigno, located near the border to Switzerland in the Italian Alps. In fact to arrive in Livigno I had to cross Switzerland since I took the route via the highway A4, the Lago d'Iseo and then up to the Bernina Pass. Shortly after the city of Tirano, in Campocologno, I entered the Swiss and a few hours later, after a truly amazing scenic drive, the "Forcola di Livigno" brought me back onto Italian soil, right before arriving in Livigno. Never was a 1.800 meter climb by car more spectacular. What Mother Nature offers in this part of the country is simply incredible. I could have stopped at every corner to take pictures and at times I didn't really know through which car window I should look first to not miss anything.  

Flowers wherever you look – Cool pedestrian zone with shops and restaurants
Arriving in Livigno is like entering a huge open-air museum, full with traditional houses, each single one lovely decorated with as many flowers as you can imagine. If you ever had flowers on your balcony or patio you know how much work it is to grow them, take care of them and have them bloom all summer long. In Livigno it's like a challenge, who has the best flower decoration on the house, very much to the advantage of the visitors. The village is spread out throughout the valley, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) and framed in by mountains left and right, in the back and in the front. Turns out, the village is not only a true treasure box but also a real shopping paradise. I didn't count them but there must be at least up to 200 shops within the village, spread out from the south to north end. Via Fontana, in the center of Livigno, is the designated shopping mile. There is no designer brand you can't find in one of the shops and outlets here. Speaking of shopping: visitors profit from the fact that Livigno is a toll-free Zone since Napoleon's time, so everything is "a little bit cheaper". Reason enough to stock up on some perfume, after shave, Whiskey and some cool designer outdoor clothing, I guess.
 
Livigno is no secret, the village is packed with tourists, hiker and biker
My attempt to leave the masses behind failed big time. Turns out I might be one of the last ones to discover the mountains as a vacation alternative to the beaches. Even though Livigno is located at the very northern part of Italy, bordering Switzerland, and is by all means not just "around the corner", the village was packed with visitors. Talking to the locals about it I learned that this is the status quo all year round since years now, which truly came as a total surprise to me. Who would have thought. Livigno is not only a very much frequented winter resort location but for years now also the place to be for bikers and hikers but especially for mountain bikers. Everything which serves Alpine skiing in winter is converted in the summer month to fit the mountain biking sport. There are bike rent shops on every corner. And they have all the bikes you can imagine, the cheaper ones and very expensive one. And for a little fee you can rent them. In case you lack the necessary outfit, no problem, the shop next door carries everything one would need to bike. The valley is paved with bike paths (not only for mountain bikes) and very professionally laid out. Advanced mountain bikers get their dreams fulfilled in Livigno. On both sides of the valley they can get up to the top of the mountain with chairlifts and race down to the village on professional prepared downhill paths.

The lake at the north end of the village, the Lago di Livigno, seems too cold – at least for me – to have some serious water fun, even though I've seen people swimming in it. There are electro boats for rent, so there is an alternative to hiking and biking, boating. Also horseback riding is an option. There are guided tours multiple times a day. There is no way you won't go hungry in Livigno. The many pub's and bars, the restaurants and pizzerias, they all keep their guests happy with great food. The Livigno local specialty: Pizzocheri, made of buckwheat pasta with potatoes, cabbage and Taleggio cheese. For those not in favor of local food, there is enough pasta and pizza around.

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