Photo: © Simone de Cillia/Cortina Marketing
The Ultimate Guide to Cortina d’Ampezzo
Issue 42 / 31 July 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Cortina d’Ampezzo

Explore our guide to Cortina d'Ampezzo to find out what to do, where to eat & where to stay in summer & winter.

Jackie Slaughter

Cortina d’Ampezzo - Queen of the Dolomites

Standing at 1225m in the Dolomite mountain range, Cortina d’Ampezzo, or Cortina as it is more widely known, is located in a large valley in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Situated on the Boite river, the resort is renowned for its spectacular scenery with dramatic limestone cliffs surrounding the resort. Known as the "Queen of the Dolomites", Cortina has been a tourist destination for a very long time and has hosted many major international sporting events, including the 1956 Winter Olympics.

Cortina is the perfect paradise for winter sports enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Despite its rich historic heritage as a famous ski destination, Cortina is also one of Italy’s most fashionable resorts where fine dining, designer boutiques, shopping and culture are arguably as important as skiing. That said, the resort most certainly delivers if skiing is your priority. Cortina forms part of the Dolomiti Superski, one of the world’s largest ski circuits with 1,200 km of slopes across 12 ski regions, accessed with one single ski pass.

The resort has good transport links and is easily accessible from several airports, the closest being Venice (150 km) and Treviso (140 km), both about a 2-hour drive away. The town used to have its own railway station on a branch line until the 1960s but the railway line is now a cycle path and the nearest train station is now around 30 km away at Calalzo di Cadore (with connecting bus service).

Things to See and Do in Cortina

Cortina has a wide variety of shops and boutiques selling a diverse range of local crafts, mountain clothing, jewellery, luxury designer wear and tourist souvenirs. Head for the popular shopping area on the pedestrianised street of Corso Italia where you’ll find luxury boutiques selling famous brands and see exhibits of the latest offerings from top fashion designers. A must visit on the Corso Italia is Cortina’s historic cooperative store, founded in 1893, which has almost everything a visitor could possibly want, including a supermarket and an excellent range of mountaineering guides.

From an artistic viewpoint, there is much to visit in Cortina, beginning with the 18th-century parish church in the heart of town, dedicated to St. Philip and St. James. Its picture-postcard bell tower is the most notable landmark in the town, and at 71m tall with its gold-leaf covered globe, it is easily visible from all over the Ampezzo valley.

On the Corso Italia you will also find the Ciasa de ra Regoles, a historic building housing the three museums in the town. The first of these is the Paleontology Museum which is famous worldwide for its ancient fossils dating back 220 to 230 million years which were found in the Dolomites by Rinaldo Zardini. The second is the Ethnography Museum of Ampezzo, which traces the region’s history and traditions, with collections of ancient objects. Finally, the third museum is the seat of the Mario Rimoldi Collection of Modern Art, one of the largest private collections of sculptures and paintings by the greatest Italian artists of the 20th century, with over 300 works of art.

There are music and literary festivals throughout the year in Cortina as the town has a long tradition of welcoming poets, writers and intellectuals, such as Ernest Hemingway, from the world over, who holidayed in the town and participated in the many cultural activities. “Una Montagna di Libri” (A Mountain of Books) brings writers and readers together in two annual festivals, summer and winter, in an effort to inspire, entertain and exchange literary ideas.

Further afield from the town centre itself, you can visit the planetarium and observatory at Col Druscie or one of the fascinating outdoor museums in the nearby mountains including Mount Lagazuoi Tunnels - where during the First World War, soldiers dug tunnels and trenches inside the mountain.

Where to Eat & Drink in Cortina

There is a great variety of eateries in Cortina, both on the slopes and in the town, ranging from a simple pizzeria to a gastronomic Michelin-starred restaurant. The car-free main street of Corsa Italia has many options on or nearby, and there are others just a short hop by taxi from the town centre. Many are popular with the glitterati and Italian jet set.

On the slopes, at the top of the Cinque Torri, dine in the award-winning Rifugio Averau with specialities such as venison, local sausages, homemade ravioli and pappardelle and prosecco & amaretto cake; or try the Rifugio Scotoni, which can only be reached on foot or on skis and is renowned for its hearty Tyrolean dishes. For great food and wine in a fantastic setting, Rifugio Scoiattoli is hard to beat.

One of the best restaurants in the area is El Camineto, near the foot of the Duca d’Aosta chairlift on Tofana-Socrepes and popular with non-skiers and skiers alike at lunch and dinner for its unusual specialities such as black cod and pasta, white polenta with scallops and porcini mushrooms and fabulous desserts. The views are delightful too.

In the evening, Cortina’s fine dining establishments come into their own. Michelin-starred Ristorante Tivoli, is reputed to be the best restaurant in town. Alternatively, try Al Camin, specialising in homemade pasta, meat and game and the most decadent desserts in the Dolomites. This is one of Cortina’s best kept secrets, just a short drive away at Passo Tre Croci. A Cortina icon since 1964, El Toulà serves traditional dishes with an innovative twist and is a firm favourite with visiting celebrities, both inside the dining room and out on the terrace.

There are plenty of opportunities to party in Cortina, where the après scene is very sophisticated - think chic bars filled with beautiful people sipping cocktails and expensive wine. Après tends to start in places like Enoteca, where skiers drop in after a day on the slopes. For a spot of late-night dancing, head to Janbo. With DJs, live music and an uber-chic clientele, it’s highly sophisticated, and at the centre of night-time action in Cortina.

"The real culinary action, however, seems to take place not in town, but on the surrounding slopes..."
New York Times
"The real culinary action, however, seems to take place not in town, but on the surrounding slopes..."
New York Times

Where to Stay in Cortina

Chalets LV-01 and LV-02 are two of three fine chalets forming an exclusive ‘village’ just a few minutes’ walk from Cortina’s centre. Both are beautiful, spacious properties with fantastic facilities.

Winter in Cortina

Cortina has three main ski areas: Cortina Cube (Cristallo, Faloria, Mietres), Tofana and Lagazuoi-5 Torri, offering 115 km of slopes. The Cortina Cube area offers spectacular views across the Ampezzo valley and a selection of scenic red and black runs, whilst Tofana ranges from beginner slopes to the unforgettable runs of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Lagazuoi-5 Torri has a wide variety of scenic slopes set in a spectacular landscape. In the company of guides, adventurous skiers can enjoy fantastic off-piste terrain and there are possibilities for ski touring too. Snow is not a problem here as 95% of the pistes are covered by excellent snow-making facilities meaning the ski season runs from the end of November until late April.

If you don’t ski, there is still plenty on offer. Visit the Cortina Adrenalin Center, and enjoy an exhilarating ride down the icy bobsleigh run as a passenger (two per bobsleigh) with a professional pilot and brakeman to keep you safe. If you would prefer to leave the action to the experts and just watch instead, then head to the Eugenio Monti Bobsleigh & Skeleton Track, which was part of the 1956 Olympics, to observe practice runs and races. The track featured in For Your Eyes Only, a famous James Bond film from the 1980s. In the area, you can also participate in a wide range of other winter sports such as snow-kiting, ice-driving, snow-boarding, sledding, curling, ski mountaineering, winter Via Ferrata and much more.

It is also possible to go cross-country skiing, including along a long stretch of the old railway line, or enjoy a magical snowshoe trek through the fabled forests of the Ampezzo Dolomites Nature Park. For cross-country ski enthusiasts, in February the popular cross-country skiing Toblach-Cortina tournament takes place along the famous former railway line.

Summer in Cortina

Cortina is also busy during the summer months and the region offers a plethora of activities such as mountain biking, trekking, trail running, rock climbing, tennis, golf and swimming.

One of the largest cycling events in the summer is the Marathon dles Dolomites, which takes place in early July, regularly attracting over 9,000 cyclists, who traverse the most beautiful Dolomite passes while the roads are closed to traffic. 2021 will be the 35th anniversary of the event and many thousands of participants and spectators are expected. The mountains also attract trail runners during the summer months, and the annual Lavaredo Ultra Trail series of international trail running races is based at Cortina.

Golfing is another big draw with several courses nearby. Spend an afternoon on the challenging course at the Cortina Golf Club or visit the nine-hole golf course in Corvara, a little further afield and at 1,700m above sea level, one of the highest golf courses in Europe.

For car lovers visiting Cortina in late July, the Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti, a showcase of vintage cars parading through the Dolomite passes, is a real sight to behold. The event started in 1947 as a pure speed race and nowadays is open to only classic cars produced before 1971. The combination of spectacular scenery and beautiful classic cars is too good to miss.

Away from sport, every year from late July to early August, Cortina hosts the Dino Ciani Festival and Academy attracting young pianists from around the world who come for classes with some of the world’s leading performers. During the last week of August, The Festival of the Bands is an annual brass band event featuring bands from Italy and beyond. A central attraction since 1861 is Cortina’s own band, which parades in traditional costumes.

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