Built at the end of the 19th century as a guesthouse for the nearby Hotel des Alpes, Villa Principe (Furstenvilla, Villa dei Principi) began as a summer residence hosting Hapsburgs and other European nobility who, following the lead of Francesco Giuseppe and Elizabeth of Austria (Sissi) who chose Madonna di Campiglio for their summer holidays.
As the town became a popular tourist destination, locals from nearby towns in the valley came to work for the nobility and rich borgeoisie and Villa Principe was divided into apartments for families of these workers.
At the time this was mainly a summer destination but after the second world war Madonna di Campiglio began its ascent to becoming one of the leading italian ski areas in the Trentino region and in all of Italy. In 1947 the skilift association was created in order to promote ski tourism as previously the area was used for adventure hiking tourism during the milder months.
This, in turn, brought investment from various entrepreneurs and one businessman, an industrial papermaker called Giovanni Villa (1910-2006), bought all the properties including the hotel des Alpes and its nearby guest quarters, Villa Principe, from the Oesterreicher heirs and made a great effort to conserve the beauty of the original buildings.
A lifetime mountain lover, he frequently visited Campiglio in1928-1929 to train with the elite mountain warfare military corps (Alpini) and here he became fast friends with Bruno de Tassis who was defined by Reinhold Messner as a “Giant of the Mountains”. Giovanni Villa fell in love with the valley and the Brenta Group mountain range and for this reason he chose the area for his honeymoon in 1946. All 12 of his children have been coming to Madonna di Campiglio since birth and they have all inherited a love for the mountains. In fact his son Mario opened several climbing trail in Val di Mello with his friend Ivan Guerrini and another son, Beppe, was part of the 1979 Italian climbing expedition to Annapura.
Downsizing in the paper production of the late 70s put several industry players in trouble including the family paper company, Cartiere Villa, but with foresight and innovation he transformed Villa Principe into one of the first holiday apartment residences in town and in the Brenta Dolomites and its management became his main activity. He always said, “the mountains should be available to all, accessible to all” and adhering to this pricinple he chose practicality over luxury. Still today Villa Principe maintains its character as a charming locale created and managed by a family who loves the mountains.