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To say that Bormio history extends for only 1000 years is an understatement. In fact, Bormio’s first dated events go back to prehistoric times, when groups of hunters camped in the high mountains during the summer months. The roman era began ~2000 years ago and gave notoriety to Bormio and the Alta Valtellina—the territory of the magnificent land—as both Cassiodorus and Pliny the Elder (Antinoris) first bathed in Bormio’s thermal waters, then praised their therapeutic value.
Bormio in the Middle Ages
During the first centuries of the second millennium AD Bormio and the Alta Valtellina was lively and rich, even culturally, thanks to its strategic position in the center of the Alps, along the trade routes between the North and the South of Europe. Although long subjected to foreign powers, Bormio had always managed to maintain a level of independence and autonomy. The XIV and XV centuries were certainly the golden period of history for Bormio, due to the developments in culture and in art, as demonstrated by the churches, palaces, and the works that are conserved within them.
The Birth of Tourism
In 1797 Bormio lost its autonomy and became part of the Cisalpine Republic, which was followed by the unification of Italy in the mid 1800’s. The First World War saw the mountain crest extending from Stelvio Pass forming the front line, more than 25 miles (40 km) in length with an average height of 10,000 feet (~3,000 meters), with Bormio and the other towns only just behind the lines. Both the Italian and Austrian soldiers faced harsh mountain conditions, with fighting in all seasons of the year over precipitous terrain, and more soldiers lost their lives to mountain perils than to enemy fire. Today, you can still visit ruins of encampments and trenches, and perhaps find small war relics. After the Second World War, Bormio experienced a flourishing tourist development, favored by a natural environment ideal for both winter and summer activities, which built on Bormio’s reputation for its natural hot spring baths.