The Livigno basin, located on the northern slopes of the Alps, is split in half by the river Spol, which runs into the river Inn which, in turn, joins the Danube. This remote area remained almost completely untouched until the 1950's when Livigno underwent a spectacular transformation as it became a no-tax zone.
The poor agrarian economy which characterised the land for generations has now been almost completely surpassed by tourism. Livingo is a world-class ski resort and tax free shopping haven, but the rolling countryside, heavy snowfalls and old wooden huts with their wooden slat roofs remind many a visitor of the "great north", taking them back in time when Livigno was one of the poorest and isolated villages in the Alps.
Up until 1952 the village could only be reached via sledge from Semogo in Valdidentro. This image, thankfully faded, contrasts strikingly with the present day crowds and richness.
With more than 35 magnificent icefalls, Livigno is fast becoming an obligatory destination for ice climbers. the geological formation of the territory and the steep limestone walls are an ideal breeding ground for steep, vertical drips, at times even free-standing. The average temperature is another important factor: the mercury level is the lowest in the entire region and the season can extend well into March.
Ice climbing exploration began at the end of the 1980's, with the ascent of the obvious Piscia da Salient in the Salient valley. As a result the local climbers began exploring the area in earnest, discovering magnificent ice jewels.
Note: Mario is author of the guidebook Cascate Alpi Centrali: Lombardia e Svizzera, published by Blu Edizioni Turin. Almost 500 icefalls with maps, photos and detailed descriptions. This complete guide covers 458 icefalls in the Central Alps, Switzerland and Lombardy (Northern Italy). Many icefalls have never been published before and still await their second ascent.