Livigno’s second settlers were probably shepherds during the Middle Ages. The first documents called this area “vinla et vineola”. This Latin name does not refer to the presence of vineyards in the area, but comes from the German language, meaning “avalanche”. The valley has always been at risk from this point of view. The last avalanche hitting the village was in 1951, which caused seven deaths and damage to a dozen houses.
Politically, Livigno has always followed Bormio’s history, although the relationships between the two communes have always been tense, Bormio being dominant and more populous than Livigno. Until the 1970s Livigno was a farming village. In recent decades, however, things have changed, and nowadays Livigno enjoys a better economic situation and a higher number of inhabitants. Livigno has recently enjoyed one of Italy’s highest birth rates (19.4 births per 1000 inhabitants). Livigno’s economy is based on tourism, both in winter and in summer, and on its duty-free status, with goods sold at bargain prices.
Saint Mary’s parish church was erected at the end of the 19th century, on a previous church. The current building incorporated the previous one, which was left standing until the end of works, allowing church services to be carried out as usual.
Other buildings of note are the Caravaggio church, with some ex voto paintings and a picture which is traditionally attributed to Caravaggio, and Saint Rocco church, built at the beginning of the 16th century as an offering for protecting the village against plague. Other sights are represented by the breathtaking panorama, with high peaked mountains and marvellous valleys.
Livigno enjoys a special tax status as a duty-free area. Italian VAT (Value Added Tax) is not paid. Although tax advantages for Livigno were recorded as far back as the sixteenth century, the current tax exemption was first introduced by the Austrian Empire around 1840. It was then confirmed by the Kingdom of Italy around 1910, then by the Italian Republic and the European Economic Community in 1960. Although no VAT is paid, income taxes are, thus Livigno cannot be considered as a tax haven.
The justification for such a status is the difficulty in reaching Livigno during winter, and the centuries-long history of poverty in the region. The various states wanted to ensure people would have an incentive to live in the area (so that they could claim it territorially). At the same time, the tax revenue from Livigno would have been negligible.
Only three roads lead to the town. Two link to Switzerland, one through the Forcola di Livigno, elevation 2,315 metres (7,595 ft) and open in summer only, and the second through the Munt La Schera tunnel. The third road connects to other parts of Italy through the Foscagno Pass, elevation 2,291 metres (7,516 ft).
Leaving Livigno into the rest of Italy on the road there is a custom checkpoint manned by Guardia di Finanza militaries. Entering or leaving from Switzerland there is both Guardia di Finanza militaries and Swiss Border Guards.