Our guide to Italy’s most glamorous ski resort, Cortina
Perched in Italy’s stunning Dolomites – a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009 – is the country’s most luxurious ski resort, Cortina D’Ampezzo. Simply known as Cortina, and also the “Queen of the Dolomites”, it has been much filmed, providing the setting to classics like The Pink Panther and For Your Eyes Only.
With its medieval history (both Austria and the Republic of Venice laid claim to it) the resort offers a slightly different feel to its larger, showier European cousins, with the tranquility of a small town. Walk the streets and sit in cafés and bars, and if partying is your thing you might be better heading elsewhere, as Cortina is more about sipping wine at an enoteca, or supping a Bavarian beer.
That doesn’t mean luxury isn’t in abundance, it certainly is, and a loyal following of glamorous and well-heeled Italians return each year to sample its charms – as well as the likes of George Clooney and Naomi Campbell. The Grand Hotel Savoia and the Cristallo are the two 5-star hotels to choose from if you’re after full service. The former, the original grand hotel and fully renovated in 2009, offers slick, modern interiors, an excellent wellness centre, large suites (the rooms can be a little small), a cigar bar and winter garden, whilst the pricier latter matches in the luxury stakes but takes inspiration from its Art Noveau past for interiors that are sumptuous and grand (their Presidential Suite has hosted Tina Turner, Frank Sinatra and Peter Sellers). Away from the large hotels, and for a truly unique experience, try bagging The Starlight Room, a bedroom made of nothing but glass and see the Dolomites lit pink and red (known as “enrosadira”) as the sun sets and rises, with a full evening dining and morning breakfast menu provided.
When it comes to the main winter focus Cortina certainly delivers, and as part of the Dolomiti Superski, access to the largest ski carousel in the world, including 12 ski areas, 450 lifts and 1200km of runs, is yours with a single ski pass. There are some particularly stunning intermediate runs, and excellent nursery slopes, and given that there is ample focus away from the slopes Cortina is an excellent choice for a mixed group – in terms of ability as well as when you might be with those not fixed on skiing every day.
The social life in the day focuses on the main pedestrian street Corso Italia, and as well as numerous shops selling the requisite designer clothing there are many cafés, and the chance to simply enjoy strolling and people watching – the popularity of which means slopes and lifts are a lot less busy than other resorts across the alps, especially early morning and during lunchtime.
As well as the more simple dining options in the town’s centre there are wonderful restaurants a short journey away. The resort boasts one Michelin-starred restaurant, Tivoli, which is definitely worth booking, as is Ristorante Al Camin, where chef Fabio Pompanin serves up homemade pastas, seasonal soups, fish and game, as well as his signature timbale of black rice with prawns and curry sauce.
As Italy’s most fashionable skiing resort Cortina exudes luxury but does it in a surprisingly understated way. With the stunning Dolomites as a backdrop, escape to Italy’s Veneto before ski season is out for uncrowded slopes, well-appointed accommodation, and of course the chance to taste some Italian favourites as you settle into skiing the way Italians like to do it.
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