Bormio lies in Sondrio, in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. This Alpine haven has a particular draw for skiers, with the largest vertical drop in Italy, the World Cup men’s downhill run and opportunities to be coached in freeriding without charge. However, Bormio has much more to offer than skiable mountains!
Bormio, the ‘beautiful land’, is a famous spa town and has been since Roman times. Centuries ago, Roman aristocracy used to travel from afar to benefit from the calming powers of the baths and even today people travel for thousands of miles to indulge in the town’s thermal baths which include Bagni Vecchi, Bagni Nuovi and Bormio Terme. A dip in one of the spas is said to make anyone feel tranquil and rested, as well as catalysing healing processes.
Bormio’s town centre retains its 17th-Century character thanks to its rustic atmosphere and historic architecture. Imagine cobbled streets, whirling water fountains, pretty palaces in Palazzo di Simoni and oldy-wordly chapels. Make sure to pop by Kuèrc Sqaure, or Piazza Cavour, where justice courts were held in times gone by and the Collegiate Church of Gervasio e Protasio has been rebuilt, complete with fine art and an organ, after it was ravaged and burned down by Spanish soldiers in 1621. Meanwhile the town’s road Via Roma is hemmed by the imposing Torre degli Alberti and the dainty sundial structure in the clock ‘Tower of the Hours’, as well as the Church of SS Gervasio Protasio and archaic wooden-clad houses with their filigree carvings. The Romanesque Church of San Vitale holds a beautiful 14th century wooden altarpiece inside.
You can learn more about the town’s history in the Civic Museum of Palazzo de Simono which has exhibits of art, history and ethnography; you might search out anything from historical sleighs and carriages to 11th century gilt wood and World War I memorabilia; there are even old tools displayed which would have been used for anything from wool-making to butchery! There is also the mineralogical exhibition in the Natural History Museum which includes many crystals and fossils found in Valtellina. Taking a wander around this richly historic town will make you feel like you have stepped back in time to a long lost Alpine world, as Bormio has managed to hold onto to the authenticity which much of the modernity seems to lack, thanks to its rich selection of charming architecture, museums and churches. The oldest coat of arms in the County of Bormio is even still visible on the House Giacomelli-Compagnoni. After soaking yourself in culture, to change things up and enjoy a bit of rural greenery, take a sunny walk through the pretty Botanic Alpine Garden; a great spot for a picnic.
During the summer months, Stelvio National Park is a verdure mecca for hikers and bikers alike. Limitless meadows and rugged rocky crags make for a striking landscape, whilst the Baths of Bormio add an extra element of enchantment to the area. The Stelvio Pass is also world-renowned amongst motorcyclists with its incredible topography, mountain bends and sheer outlooks. It’s worth taking a trip over the Combo Bridge which mounts the Frodolfo River, as this will lead you into the ancient Combo district where you will find more impressive churches including the Church of the Crucifix., whose right chapel holds the miraculous crucifix which is only carried in procession on extraordinary occasions, and the Church of St Ignatus which is home to several Jesuit graves. The bridge’s delicate arch is made ornate with two chapels sitting at its heart, displaying ornate religious paintings. The bridge is also connected by two buildings on each of its sides; House Imeldi guarded the passage and the ‘South-Eastern Customs’ was where duties were paid on goods.
For something different, there’s something special about the Rhaetian Railway in Bormio. The small red train travels from Tirano to St.Moritz in Switzerland, whirling you through peaceful mountain terrain and sweeping valleys. Make a day of it in St Moritz and then travel back to Bormio under the stars! Another good day trip is to Livigno.
Once you’ve enjoyed all of the sites of Bormio, settle down in one of the lovely continental style cafes, with their sunny terraces and delectable selection of pastries. There is of course also a wide choice of bars and restaurants for the evenings; warm yourself through with some traditional Italian cuisine and move on to a piano bar to dance the night away. Or rave it up in a discotheque...