Six years after the first locomotive steamed its way up the mountain in 1891, the sleepy village of Limone Piemonte transformed into a ski resort which today is home to 80 kilometers of slopes. Skiing plays such a vital part of its DNA that in 2007 the village celebrated a hundred years since the first official competition took place.
Despite the region’s reputation as a top ski destination, popularity has wavered since the Eighties when tourism plummeted and hotels were converted into apartments. For Monaco businessman Antonio Lombardi, “This is going to change.”
Lombardi owns the first 5-star accommodation in Limone’s history, the 12-room, 2-suite Fiocco di Neve Relais, which opened in 2017. The hotel’s spa, restaurant and bar are also a first for the town. Together with his wife, the couple have spent the past few years refining luxury tourism in the area and they recently opened La Bottega del Fiocco, a concept boutique next door the hotel, selling mostly artisanal products— Pashminas handmade in Capri or leather mountain shoes—as well as home décor items.
“When it comes to bespoke luxury tourism anything goes,” admits Lombardi. Whether it is a romantic weekend getaway or your children need babysitting, the hotel staff can accommodate. “We also have electric bikes if guests want to take a tour.”
It was in 2018 when a group of six Italian entrepreneurs, including Lombardi, set up LIFT Real Estate SRL to invest in Limone with the ambitious vision of turning it into the most attractive ski destination in the Alpes Maritimes and southern Europe over the next ten to fifteen years.
LIFT RE SRL bought a majority stake in the slope management to ensure effective cost-operations over the winter season. As well, €6 million has been earmarked for skiing and the use of artificial snow, and construction of reservoirs at high altitude. At 2,100 meters, the area also attracts enthusiasts of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and snowboarding.
“We want to develop Limone into a brand,” highlights Lombardi, a former lawyer. “This includes Smart City technology, fiber optics and an app that will allow Monaco residents and more generally all tourists to book a restaurant en route or remotely check real-time ski conditions.”
Beyond winter skiing, it is the off season from May to October that looks the most promising in terms of growth and tourism. Riserva Bianca has 400 kilometers of explorable trails, a hotspot for hikers and cyclists from across Europe.
The creation of a €500,000 bike park is in the works and ski lifts in the summer will provide access to new mountain bike and downhill trails, even for those who prefer low-level cycling routes. But it is the organization of various annual events (street theater, mountain concerts, cross-country races) and opening of nightclubs, cocktail bars and a brewery that will tempt less active holidaymakers looking to escape the hot coastal summers.
To accommodate the projected levels of visitors and tourist groups, plans for additional lodgings have been drawn up, which include the renovation of the former 62-room Hotel Tre Amis (€4.5 million).
More impressively, property developments are focusing on private luxury chalets and apartments. Slated to open by winter 2021, the new €1 million Chalet Bottero will be a game changer for the mountain. Built next to the ski lift arrival, a spectacular terrace overlooking the Alps will feature an adjoining solarium, and food service will be off ered from morning till late at night so diners can ski back down to their hotel after dinner, guided by newly installed night lights. For those not inclined to ski, this will be a hotspot for taking in the views with friends over a drink and posting the perfect selfi e. (Yes, there is Wi-Fi!)
Even at 1,000 meters above sea level, Limone now has high-speed internet access through a fi ber optic antenna system. This Smart Mountain technology comes courtesy of Tecnoworld, who have integrated IT support—including 100 high-defi nition cameras and 70 radio links—throughout the territory of Limone Piemonte to provide residents, tourists, skiers, municipal technicians, police and ski-tow employees with the latest generation of services, from Wi-Fi coverage and charging sockets for mobile devices and electric bicycles to weather information and real-time conditions on the slopes.
Lombardi points out that in a bid to signifi cantly reduce and manage the cost of electricity, EGEA, a leader in the cogeneration industry, has been privately contracted (€6.5 million) to supply electricity to LIFT ski tows and to thermally power a district heating network serving public and private users in the municipality.
“This will save us on energy costs and provide indisputable economic and environmental benefi ts for the whole community,” Lombardi emphasizes.