Around about now is the perfect time to be gearing up for ski season ’21 (if it actually happens), and so we thought it would be helpful to spend the next couple of months sharing our favourite winter destinations with you. To kick things off with a bang, why not start with Italy? After all, its home to la dolce vita…
Few alpine resorts have more to offer than the great Cortina D’Ampezzo. Fewer still are able to sufficiently cater to both skiers and non-skiers alike. Firmly at home amongst the best resorts in Europe, if not the world (in my opinion!), Cortina has long been popular amongst travellers from both near and far. Despite a rich heritage in snow sports – hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics – the town is equally appealing to those looking for a winter of relaxation and ultimate serenity. It is one of the few resorts in Italy where fine dining, designer boutiques and culture are held in as high a regard as the skiing itself.
However, as part of the Dolomiti Superski, which is comprised of 1,200km of slopes spread across 12 ski regions, Cortina undoubtedly delivers for those strapping on the chunky footwear. Did I mention all of these slopes are accessed via a single ski pass? That alone makes this jet-set haven an attractive winter destination.
There are a multitude of great hotels in Cortina, but I’d recommend a stay at the iconic Cristallo, a hotel which has hosted the likes of Brigette Bardot, Luca de Montezemolo and “Ol’ Blue Eyes” himself, Frank Sinatra. Steeped in history, the Cristallo hotel has played a pivotal role in Cortina ever since its inception in 1901, surviving first as a military hospital through World War 1 and then thriving during the golden age of travel.
Nowadays the hotel is as luxurious as ever; the perfect environment for the laidback European skier. With daily breakfast and lunch served at La Veranda, a 5,200 square foot spa, and panoramic views out of almost every window, the Cristallo succeeds in being a home away from home in the Ampezzo Valley.
It would be a crime to discuss Cortina without any mention of the 1981 James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only”, and the Lotus Esprit Turbo. Two cars were used for filming in Cortina; originally painted white, however, to contrast the snowy backdrop of the location the cars were resprayed in copper. The addition of ski racks to the roof helped to create a truly iconic Bond car, which I’m sure many of us would love to drive up to the mountains.
For a vigorous morning of snow sports, there are three main ski areas around Cortina itself: Cortina Cube, Tofana, and Lagazuoi-5 Torri, comprised of 115km of slopes. For those more experienced, opt for the Cortina Cube area, where the abundance of scenic red and black runs will keep you entertained, whilst offering views across the Ampezzo valley. Tofana meanwhile caters to a wider range of abilities, from green runs suitable for beginners, to the Olympic runs of 1956.
By lunchtime you’ll either be in need of a break, or calling it a day. Regardless, it’s probably a good time for some food. I’d definitely recommend taking lunch at El Camineto, located at the foot of the Tofane Mountains. Popular with skiers and non-skiers alike, this hotspot offers some of the best food in the valley, not to mention its stunning views. Specialities such as the black cod, white polenta with scallops and porcini mushrooms, and the spaghetti in onion soup are bound to satisfy your culinary needs. The provision of heating lamps and blankets won’t limit your lunchtime seating options to inside, so you can fully appreciate your surroundings whilst sat on the terrace.
Credit: El Camineto
Once the skis are off and the essential midday nap has been had, Cortina still has plenty to offer. The 18th century church with its iconic bell tower is situated near the centre of town, close to the street of Corso Italia. Here you’ll find the designer district of the valley, with an abundance of fashion houses and boutiques lining the pedestrianised street. You could even opt for something more active, such as snowshoeing through the forests of the Dolomites Nature Park.
Credit: Slim Aarons
Soon enough you’ll be looking for dinner, and Michelin-starred Ristorante Tivoli is reputed to be the best restaurant in Cortina. The rustic El Toulà or chalet-style Al Camin are attractive alternatives, serving the finest seafood and traditional Italian dishes for miles around. The choice is all yours…
Fingers crossed the ski season will go ahead as planned, and we’ll be seeing some of you out on the slopes. Stay tuned for further editions of our ski guide where we'll share some other destinations we think you’ll love!