Madonna di Campiglio, settled in a beautiful valley between the spectacular Brenta Dolomites and the Adamello-Presanella glaciers, at an altitude of 1550 m.a.s.l. was launched out on the touristic scene in the mid-19th century by Giovanbattista Righi, a native of Strembo, in Val Rendena. In 1868 Righi bought the entire ex-monastery of St. Maria di Campiglio, a property previously belonging to the Cathedral of Trento, for 40,000 Italian florins. In the place of the old and crumbling alms-house, built around the late Medieval church, Righi built the first hotel: an alpine establishment conceived to welcome the first tourists of the area. In 1875 he undertook, at his own expense, the construction of the road connecting the villages of the high Rendena valley with Pinzolo and Madonna di Campiglio: at the time, it took 3 hours to run along that road on a carriage.
The ancient mountain “hospice” (old Italian word deriving from the Latin “hospes” meaning “guest”) for pilgrims and wayfarers bought by Giovanbattista Righi was founded at the end of the 12th century by a man called Raimondo; a spiritually troubled layman, he had chosen the area called Campei or Ambino - “a desolate deserted place…whose unfertile ground delimited the borders between Val di Sole and Val Rendena” - to built a shelter and a chapel consecrated to the Holy Virgin Mary. Soon his mission was supported by numerous monks.
In ancient times the area was a crossing for traders in livestock, lumber, iron, wine, salt and food coming from the Po Plane to carry their goods to and from the Sole and Non Valleys or an alternative way to to avoid the heavy duty imposed along the Valle dell’Adige thoroughfare.
The building, formerly composed of a small church and a hospital, was enlarged thanks to the intervention of the Trento Prince-Bishops, but at the beginning of the 16th century it underwent a harsh decline and was eventually suppressed. In 1706 the remains of the building were annexed to the patrimony of Trento’s Cathedral Chapter, where they remained until 1868, albeit ignored and abanoned.
In 1882 Giovanbattista Righi’s entrepreneurial adventure was carried on by Franz Josef Österreicher. Österreicher, who also owned the Grand Hotel Trento, was said to be an illegitimate son of the Emperor of Austria and Hungary, Franz Josef himself!
The transformation of Madonna di Campiglio into a very stylish resort for the Austrian and Central European aristocracy and the upper middle class is due to the very Österreicher.
In 1889 and 1894 Madonna di Campiglio even hosted Princess Sissi and the Emperor Franz Josef himself. They spent their stay in Campiglio walking the forests and hiking up to the lakes that surround the village, to later waltz the evenings away.
The Österreicher family lived in Madonna di Campiglio until 1955, when building contractors from Lombardy gradually bought their properties and transformed the resort.
The end of the 19th century is also the time when numerous mountain-climbers, mostly English and German, began exploring the Brenta Dolomites, led by the first local alpine guides and chamois hunters.
1872 marks the foundation of the local mountaneering association Società Alpinisti Tridentini, in Madonna di Campiglio, i.e. in the village that mostly and perfectly represented mountaineering adventure. In 1855 a group of local alpinists climbed the Cima Tosa peak and in 1864 the English John Ball succeeded in crossing the whole Brenta group, all pioneers of the ascent to the Brenta Dolomites, culminating on 18th August 1899 in the adventure of two Tirolean climbers, - Otto Amferer and Karl Berger, who for the first time ever ascended the Campanile Basso summit.
The Ski-lifts Company of Madonna di Campiglio was founded in 1947, with the aim of further encouraging skiing and promoting the winter resort: the first ski-lift was built in 1948: It was a chair-lift connecting Madonna di Campiglio to Mount Spinale. During the 1950’s the lakes cable-car and some drag-lifts were installed. Today the lifts network connects 60 km of ski-runs. The ski area is also connected to Folgarida-Marilleva and Pinzolo, for a total of 150km.
At the beginning of its history as a famous alpine resort, Madonna di Campiglio could benefit from a really “royal” launch when in the last decades of 1880 hosted the Habsburg Imperial Court and the European aristocracy in 1889 and in 1894.
Above all,the Elisabetta di Wittelsbach Princess – the famous “Sissi” - and the Francesco Giuseppe Emperor left lively and deep memories during their stays in Campiglio and in the valley, where they were used to walk along the Brenta itineraries with the local alpine guides and to hold receptions in the halls of the “ Des Alpes alpine establishment”.
Madonna di Campiglio offers a “revival“ of those atmospheres from more than 20 editions with the historical evocation of the “Habsburg Carnival of Madonna di Campiglio”.
During this event people can meet the Habsburg Court in the heart of Campiglio with hussars on horseback and ladies in constumes, or they can just tasting some Viennese pastries and dancing waltz in costume of that time in the famous Salone Hofer.
Madonna di Campiglio has been the heart of a magical world: the romantic and sparkling world of Vienna in the time of the Emperor Franz Joseph and his beautiful wife, Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, nicknamed "Sissi" in history and in legend. Towards the end of the 19th century, Campiglio was already one of the most magnificent holiday resorts of the Habsburg Empire. Sissi and Franz considered it as a special place for spending carefree times together, far from the clamour of Vienna. Today, in the same halls that saw the imperial couple and their court spend unforgettable moments together; the Emperor's Great Ball is still celebrated every year in honour of "Princess Sissi". During the carnival period, the hall revives the glories of those days and of that fairy-tale world. On the notes of the "Blue Danube" those wonderful moments come to life once again...
Sissi is one of the most fascinating figures of the 19th century. Born amidst the woods and forests of Bavaria, she was married very young to Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria, and in Vienna she met with all the pomp and glory of a unique city, with its balls and receptions, and the spirited life of the capital of an immense empire. The festivities for the imperial couple's wedding in 1854 were memorable, indeed. Sissi was at the Emperor's side almost throughout his reign, which was one of the longest in history: it began in 1848, the day after the revolutions that inflamed the whole of Europe, and ended 68 years later; in a Europe that had changed profoundly, devastated by the First World War. This was a period that saw the Habsburg empire under the historical spotlight, with Vienna the capital of a cosmopolitan society. But Sissi, a restless and independent spirited woman living in a romantic and intense time, found the rigid ceremonial of the Habsburg court suffocating and she always tried to escape it when she could. Thus, this rebellious and sensitive spirit, an aesthetic and poetess, travelled far and wide, always in search of beauty.
She loved nature, lengthy horse-rides in the open air and physical exercise, always taking the utmost care of her figure and, above all, of her magnificent long hair.
Sissi came to the Trentino region towards the end of the summer of 1889. She chose Madonna di Campiglio for a brief stay to rest after a particularly dramatic period of her life. At the time, Campiglio was already a well-established holiday resort, popular with the nobles and wealthy bourgeois of Europe, who enjoyed the hunting and appreciated the incredible spectacle offered by the Dolomites. She was so taken with the place that she was determined to return. The mountains were not just a matter of clear air and splendid landscapes for this sensitive, poetic lady; they were a source of inspiration and literary charm. So, six years later the imperial couple returned to Trentino. Sissi and Franz Joseph were received by festive villages and fireworks among the mountain peaks, and they stayed at the Grand Hotel Des Alpes. The dainty steps of the Empress' ladies-in-waiting could be heard echoing through the luxurious hotel's vast halls with their vaulted wooden ceilings, while the boots of the Emperor's aides-de-camp strode by in their colourful uniforms, with all the court ritual that accompanied the couple. A piece of the charming and carefree Vienna had stretched up into the mountains, between clear skies and deep green forests. Campiglio was to remain in the heart of the two monarchs, and the echo of those moments, of their world, reaches down to us today, taking shape in the celebrations of the Habsburg carnival.
The Habsburg carnival is a week of splendid events that begins with the arrival of the imperial guests in their carriage, escorted by guards on horseback. The fireworks of the Emperor's lime and the toasting of the couple's arrival are repeated once again. During the week, there are numerous parties at the Hofer Hall in the Grand Hotel Des Alpes; the very hall where the couple once stayed. But the most important moment of the carnival is the Emperor's Great Ball, where Sissi, elegant and luminous as always opened the dance amidst two rows of Hussars and Dragoons. These are the moments that revive the great Viennese traditions of waltzing, of the café chantant and the Redoute, and of the fancy dress ball. With their unforgettable waltzes, Strauss father and son provided the official music for this whirling, glamorous world. Even today, carnival week marks the time for the most important Viennese reception, the famous Great Ball at the Opera, an appointment that people look forward to today with the same anticipation as ever. In the spring of 1860, it was Sissi herself who decided to organize as many as six balls, one after the other, within just two months. The Music Society Ball was particularly famous, held on the night of Shrove Tuesday in 1874, where the Empress arrived incognito, in fancy dress and mask, and nobody recognized her. For a week Madonna di Campiglio breathes this magic atmosphere, celebrating the "dream heroine" as she was defined by the Italian poet D'Annunzio, this unrivalled protagonist of a fairytale world.
Following some notes about the “Salone Hofer”.
It is an important place that links together Madonna di Campiglio with its history, from the foundation of the monastery-hospice to the Marian sanctuary till the development as tourist resort.
In 1868 Gianbattista Righi bought the hospice to create an alpine center.
In 1882 Mr. Righi died; in 1886 his heirs sold the property of the establishment to Franz Josef Oesterreicher, who renovated it to make a high quality hotel: the “Grand Hotel Des Alpes” was born.
In 1896 he committed the decoration of the dining hall to the painter Gottfrid Hofer. The painter was formed in the Liberty style of that time, and he painted the canvas in which he imagined the Madonna apparition to the local pastors on the Spinale top, with the reachness and the delicacy of floreal patterns.
From that top, to which he was particularly devoted (he bulit there an alpine hut where he was used to go for painting), he took the perspective of the Brenta tops.
Under the painting, where there are two angels and the two dates, on time there was the bust of the Franz Josef Emperor. In1897 Hofer painted the painting, portraying the Elisabetta Empress.
The painting of the Madonna vision on Spinale is important because the title gives the first attestation of the name of the resort Madonna di Campiglio, reasserted then in a monograph dedicated to Madonna di Campiglio - written in 1900 by the doctor Maximilian Kuntze from Arco - with some Hofer paintings on the cover.
On Friday 13th July 2007 at 6 pm at Salone Hofer of the Relais Des Alpes hotel in Madonna di Campiglio, the ceremony of presentation of “The Madonna of Campiglio” by Gottfried Hofer took place. The canvas had been covered by the theatrical wings for more than twenty years, and on that occasion it came back to be admired finally.
«The Madonna of Campiglio» by Gottfried Hofer reappeared at the feet of the Brenta Dolomites. The big canvas (seven meters and a half for four meters) portrays the Madonna of Campiglio with the Baby Jesus, who received gifts from three young pastors.
A particular figure of painter keen on the mountain; an eclectic artist who joins together methodical studies with different artistic experiences; a connaisseur of the nature and a careful observer of plants, animals and places. He is Gottfried Hofer: he was born in Bolzano in 1858 ad died in Sills (Engadina - Switzerland) in 1932.
An itinerant life: from Paris to Rome, from Brema to Berlino and to Madonna di Campiglio, where the painter was used to spend the summer for many years with his family, and where he created some of his most important works. From the European capitals, from the villas of famous personalities of that time and from the Habsburg Court to the pastures in Val Rendena, and to the silence of a little alpine hut on Monte Spinale whichi still nowadays bears the name of him
The twentieth century was appearing, and the Brenta Dolomites welcomed the first steps of the future mass tourism: the tourism of the rich German world. The fortune of Madonna di Campiglio is linked to the painter Gottfiref Hofer, President of the society of embellishment, a highly regarded and resouceful figure. In Madonna di Campiglio his personal, artistic and human life interweaved with the life of the courts and the protagonists of that time.