Livigno! Even the name sounds exciting, like an overexcited daytime TV advert, designed to jolt slumbering OAPs out of their midday stupor.
Livigno! Nestled like a sparkling jewel in the crown of the Italian Alps. Livigno! With its family-friendly clean streets and clean mountain air! Skiing in Livigno! Come for the skiing. Stay for the overexciting place name! Say it with me! Livigno!
The decision to go for a family skiing holiday was a bit of a surprise to me, mostly because, apart from an abortive attempt at a dry ski slope as a teenager, I have never expressed a desire to ski, Mrs B had never expressed a desire to ski.
Our children didn’t even know what skiing was, never mind express a desire to wear a brightly coloured shell suit and strap two planks of wood to their shoes, in temperatures hovering around the sub-zero mark.
Skiing, to me, was a very expensive way to fall off a mountain.
Skiing in Livigno
“We always go to the beach, Jim” explained Mrs B. “I’d like to try something different. Skiing in Livigno.“
I was duly shocked. Something … different? Different … is bad. Different goes against my lazy instincts. Doing something different would involve things like time and effort.
My God, the number of Google tabs I would have to have open at any one time alone to do research, made me reach for the bottle of gin I keep hidden in my desk drawer. Anyway, my main objection to winter sports is that – and I know this will come as a shock to some – they generally take place in winter. In the cold.
“We can go with friends!” explained Mrs B brightly. “It’ll be fun.”
As every true English person knows, the amount of fun that something is promised to be is inversely proportional to the actual fun you will have. For example, at no stage has any pub in England used the word “fun” to entice people inside and yet, you’ll always have a roaringly good time after the third drink.
Conversely, you know that when you take your kids to “Captain Whacky’s Mega Fun Overpriced Soft Play Experience”, you 100% know there will be tears in the car park later, and most of the tears will be yours.
Anyway, keeping my reservations to myself, as is tradition, I was duly placed in charge of the Google machine, fired up the first of many Google pages, poured a stiff glass of secret gin, and punched in the words “Family Skiing in Livigno”.
Getting to Livigno
Livigno is about as far North in Italy as it’s possible to get, perilously close to the Italian/Swiss border. You can nearly hear the yodelling and cuckoo clocks if the wind is in the right direction.
In fact, it’s that close the nearest airport to Livigno probably isn’t even in Italy – Zurich or Bern are probably closer, but that comes with the cross-border faffing and in this post-Brexit world, I’m not sure how much you’d want to risk extra customs and border checks – especially if you have young children in tow.
Other options that don’t involve humourless Swiss border officials include Milan and Verona Airports, both comfortably inside Italy and both admirably served by either RyanAir, EasyJet, WizzAir and, for Milan only, British Airways.
This comes with the bonus of keeping your holiday in one country, and less chance of having your baggage searched for smuggled Toblerone. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.
Tip: While budget airlines may entice you in with cheaper headline prices, remember, this is always exclusive of any add-ons, like food and, crucially, baggage, and when you are planning a family holiday skiing in Livigno, you’re going to have baggage. A lot of baggage. Not least, emotional baggage.
Now, I’m no mathlete and only just scraped by with a passing grade in GCSE Maths, but even by my shabby arithmetic, I could work out that a budget airline return flight, plus snacks, plus the cripplingly large fees for suitcases, ski poles and comedy dayglow ski suits worked out to be more than a carrier like BA, where you get snacks and a more generous baggage allowance. Real airlines aren’t shocked that people carry more than one pair of underpants with them when they travel.
So it was with a certain feeling of smugness that I parted with £101 per head for our BA flights to Milan, topped off with extra smugness because I had some unused air miles knocking around that knocked a few more quid off the top.
Tip: BA offers a 10% discount on certain flights to Armed Forces Veterans, spouses/partners of Serving Personnel and other members of Defence Discount Service. You can book your flights with a 10% discount (excluding First Class).
They offer a similar discount for Blue Light Card holders (i.e. those actual heroes in our Emergency Services and NHS, unlike layabouts like me). Google for details.
The next challenge was getting from Milan to Livigno ski resort. For reasons that escape me, I am a Europcar Privilege member, so was able to secure an actual minibus for just under £210 for a week’s hire.
Now, I know Mrs B is fond of reminding me that “size isn’t everything, Jim” but I can assure you that when it comes to hiring cars for skiing in Livigno, size is absolutely everything.
It’s a long drive, so you need to be comfortable. You have a lot of luggage and even the Swiss Family Robinson would be losing their shit with each other if you had to drive half a day into the mountains with luggage falling all over you.
So take the hit, go large and give yourself the best start to the holiday that you can.
Tip: If you haven’t already, join the Europcar Privilege Club or a similar companies programme – Europcar will give you an immediate 10% discount on the published rates and it has a number of affiliate partnerships with other companies so you can gain or transfer points between the two. Europcar is also partnered with Sainsbury’s Nectar points for additional discounts.
There are other loyalty schemes with similar benefits, but this isn’t a money-saving blog – the tip is to do a bit of research and find one that works best for you.
Tip: If you don’t want to tie yourself into a loyalty programme, Europcar also offers a separate 10% MOD discount if you’re Armed Forces, Reserve Forces, Forces Veteran or a MOD Civil Servant. Google their dedicated page “Europcar MOD Discounts” to claim your discount!
Another Tip: Hire snow chains. You might land in Italy in blazing sunshine and the need for snow chains might be the furthest thought from your mind as you breathe in the Italian air and admire the Italian ladies discretely behind your duty-free sunglasses.
You’re going high into the mountains. If you’re naively relying on Italian authorities to have dutifully remembered to clear the roads of snow, I have a bridge here that I can also sell you. Get the snow chains.
It’s about 5 hours from Milan to Livigno, but once you’ve stopped for a nice lunch, your children have urinated at least six times, and you’ve got lost twice, and stopped once at an Aldi to stock up on food, it’s closer to six or seven. When you’re driving on the wrong side of unfamiliar mountain roads, slow and steady wins this race.
It’s generally the accepted international symbol for “I am having a family holiday” to be parked up somewhere inconvenient while a child wees at the side of the road while you hold up a coat to save some modesty anyway.
And so it came to pass that as the day wore on, the road got steeper, the temperature got colder and at some stage, the Italian authorities had decided that snow clearing was too much like effort for them, so we stopped and, with much swearing, snow chains were dutifully fitted to the minibus.
Now, the problem with this is that as soon as you stop to fit snow chains (because of the snow), the children will leap out of the vehicle to play (because of the snow) and you will have to fit snow chains and keep an eye out, for out-of-control cars careering back down the hill at you (because of the snow).
But if you can survive that, your reward is coming over the brow of a literal mountain to see Livigno ski resort waiting to greet you below. And you’d deserve that first beer.
Staying in Livigno
We booked ourselves into a delightful ski holiday chalet called Chalet Charm. Because I was in charge of the Google machine, I made sure it had a hot tub overlooking the mountains. And that it did!
If I’m going to be cold, I would very much like to warm myself up quickly when I get back in.
Chalet Charm had everything –
- 2 double rooms
- 2 single rooms
- 1 mezzanine with 2 single beds or 1 double bed
- 1 living room
- 1 dining room
- 2 kitchens
- 1 bathroom with jacuzzi, sauna and shower
- 1 bathroom with sauna and shower
- 1 bathroom with shower
- A hot tub outside
Booking.com has a bewildering range of lodges, hotels and AirBnBs for you to select from, and depending on your taste and budget you can find something that suits everyone, from Livigno hotels with spas to lodges on the edge of town.
Regardless of where you pick, I’d heartily recommend you pick somewhere close to the ski lifts – nothing wears you out more than having to hump your ski kit – and inevitably, your tired children’s ski kit – several kilometres back home after a long day on the slopes.
Or worse, after a long afternoon enjoying the apres ski bars. You’ll do enough falling over on the slopes. You don’t need to do any more afterwards.
Skiing in Livigno
As we were a collection of novices, we’d booked ourselves in with the prosaically named Livigno Ski School, which included 4 Livigno ski pass as well as beginners lessons for all the family.
My 4-year-old son was on the slopes for approximately four minutes before he fell over and decided that skiing was not for him and spent the rest of the
day week angrily hiding in the cafes drinking creamy hot chocolate; the first time in my life I’d ever seen anyone look furious while enjoying creamy hot chocolate.
My daughter fared a little better and not only managed to complete a full week’s lessons for 300 euros, but also came 3rd in a local timed ski competition. I guess there are such things as natural skiers.
Me? I found my ski legs soon enough, but with Mrs B deciding that this week would be an excellent time to catch the worst Flu she had ever experienced and retire to bed, between watching a furious boy and a talented girl, I only managed to squeeze in a couple of lessons at 45 euros per hour.
I’ve got to admit, as I hurtled down the slopes, admittedly being overtaken by German children who had skied since birth and a few old age pensioners, once the fresh mountain air was in my lungs and with a bright winter sun glistening off the top of the Alps, I was starting to really enjoy myself.
Was… was Mrs B right? Was this the fun she promised? I think … I think it was.
Food and Drink in Livigno
Unsurprisingly, if you like Italian food, then there’s no shortage of places to eat Italian in Livigno, but of course, because it’s in Italy, they just call it food. And it is everywhere.
There are high-end restaurants in rather grand Livigno hotels bashing out fine dining experiences, where you can gaze enviously at child-free couples enjoying a romantic candlelit date while operas are piped through the speakers.
You’ll also find restaurants at the bottom half of the TripAdvisor rating section where you can find much more reasonable prices and an abundance of wipe-clean surfaces suitable for children to dine on.
It’s all riotously enjoyable because here’s the thing with Livigno. Even in the cheapest place food and drink tastes good – maybe it’s the Alpine air, or the fact you’re hungry after a long day on the slopes but in Livigno, the beer genuinely tastes fresh. The pasta tastes wonderful. The pizza dough genuinely tastes light and bready.
Although my daughter’s desire for pizza with ham and pineapple led to some genuinely furrowed brows of disgust when requested – while the age-old debate rages in the UK about if the place of pineapple on pizza is correct, I can assure you that in Italy, it is very much not correct.
If you fancy something non-Italian, the excellent Mauri’s L’Hamburgheria on the main strip does a fantastically beefy burger and reasonable beers, while the Sushi Bar Al Larice does fantastic sushi if you want something light and easy, noting of course the easy part is ordering it – the difficult part is cajoling your children to try it.
And just like that, suddenly, our time in the exciting Livigno ski resort was over. It was with a tinge of regret that I packed away our brightly coloured ski suits, returned skis that had had various hours of use out of them, and loaded up our trusty minibus to begin the journey home.
Despite Mrs B’s nearly fatal bout of woman-flu, there were tired smiles all around and the satisfaction of having been at least a little bit active on holiday for a change.
As our minibus started the long descent back down to sea level, it occurred to me that despite my initial objections, Mrs B had been right all along. It was fun. The food was terrific, and the accommodation was great.
We’d got some exercise as a family and, sure, we’d spent an arm and leg, but not had to pay for any broken arms or legs.
If you’re considering a family holiday skiing in Livigno, my advice is to just say “sod it” and do it this year. Because if you don’t, you’ll be even older next year and it will hurt even more when you do fall over.
Ski you there?