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A TOUR OF CORTINA - Katie Bamber, Cortina, The Dolomites
Wednesday March 15, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

A little on the Italian Dolomite resort of Cortina and its history. It makes a fascinating visit.

The resort of Cortina is an ancient, authentic Italian town that just so happens to have skiing almost as an extra.

By that, I mean its setting, its history, its atmosphere and architecture would be enough alone to pull in visitors - summer and winter.

It is also famous for ski racing.

Cortina is Italy's prime destination for the fashionable and chic, and attracts the same guests from across Europe.

And due to being Italian, Cortina is far more affordable than European counterpart resorts with the same reputation for luxury and charm.

Those wandering the main street include ladies and gentlemen in full-length fur coats, families with young children on holiday, Italian teenagers and locals, as well as the odd mountain sportsman that has strayed from the slopes or rocks: It doesn't feel in any way exclusive.

Après ski consists of coffee, cake and aperitivos in pasticceria Lovat and shopping in the main street's many fashionable shops: Moncler, Franz Kraler, jewellers and sports shops line Corso Italia.

And during the day, most people wander, sunbathe, drink Aperol from lunch time on and bump into friends.

That is, apart from lunchtime when everything shuts down in true continental style.

Hotel de la Poste aperitivoHotel de la Poste aperitivo
















Cortina, The DolomitesCortina, The Dolomites














I was shown round the town by Marianne Moretti from the local tourist office.

Marianne and Yours TrulyMarianne and Yours Truly


















It's the minority of Cortina visitors that actually ski.

The season-round sun - this year, anyway - means that the slow life, eating in the many restaurants, visiting the wine bars that are all so easy to come across, as well as the other mountain activities and walking, make the skiing too easy to avoid.

Surrounded on all sides by the breathtaking Dolomite mountain range, yet wide open and receiving an inordinate amount of sun being to the south of the Alps, the foothills are very close and accessible from the town centre; Hiking is a must.

Apres shopping and a touch of 'enrosadira' - the pink Alpine glowAprès shopping and a touch of 'enrosadira' - the pink Alpine glow
















Cortina d'Ampuzzo, The DolomitesCortina d'Ampezzo, The Dolomites
















Or if that word sounds too much like hard work find the old railway track a few steps north of the centre, which ran from Austria to Venice as a post route and has now been made into a cycle and walking path, with just the slightest of inclines.

The old railway track to AustriaThe old railway track to Austria
















Summer tourism started in the area in the mid-1800s.

It was put on the map as a winter destination in 1956 by hosting the Winter Olympics and the resort has really run off this fuel since.

These were the first Olympic Games to be broadcast on television and so the resort found itself in many living rooms across the world.

1956 Olympics Cortina d'Ampezzo



















It is old fashioned and traditional - features that make it such a charming and appealing place - and has to do little to keep up its reputation and keep visitors returning.

The local market is also an attraction.

Cortina d'Ampezzo, The DolomitesCortina d'Ampezzo, The Dolomites
















It will host the 2021 Alpine Ski World Championships, impetus to renew its international renown and buzz as a ski destination.

Throughout the history of Cortina, old and aristocratic families of the area have been running it.

Le Regole still can be found in the old town hall and it is notoriously difficult to build, plan and even buy here.

Apart from managing the territory, the main emphasis of the local laws is to preserve the town's authenticity and heritage.

The family crests are featured on walls and flags in the village, Hotel de la Poste is frescoed with many.

There was recently a vote over whether the rights of said families should be passed down through women, and with the negative outcome there was a march where local women wore burkas in protest.

CortinaThe town hall in Corso Italia
















Cortina basilicaBasilica Minore dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo
































Below is a chapel in Chiave, a township of Cortina d'Ampezzo.

It is a gorgeous south-facing area with beautiful walks by wooden and stone houses and the many shrines surrounding the centre.

It is quite unique in that very rarely is there a devil depicted inside churches.

Here one that looks remarkably human and Caliban-esque:

DiavoloDiavolo in chiesa
















Cortina, The DolomitesChiave, Cortina
















Cortina has had a long journey regarding its history and maintaining its Italian roots.

In the Middle Ages it was under the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1420 it came under the Venetian Republic and remained under Austrian control for four centuries.

An agreement was made at the start of this annexation: No German language, no taxes and we want to rule ourselves, proposed the Italian residents of Cortina, and we will hand over peacefully. 

In this way, Cortina has always maintained its Italian heritage.

Cose by up the way in Alta Badia there is much more of an Austrian influence in the architechture, for example.

World War I brought Cortina back to Italy.

During the war there was a four-year battle for the boundary, it lying in what is now between two major local ski areas.

The Lagazuoi - 5 Torri ski area was once split: 5 Torri being Italian and the next peak over, Lagazuoi, held by Austria.

Soldiers fired across the valley, though as families, neighbours and friends were split by the border, much of it was purposefully mis-aimed.

More fatalities occurred through avalanches and weather conditions.

Inside the Lagazuoi mountain, where now a 1960s-built cable car stands to take you to 2,800m with 360° views.

There are tunnels dug into the rocks where the Italians dug upwards to reach and make an attack on Austrian troops.

DolomitesLooking out to Cinque Torri and the small rock door in Lagazuoi
















The tunnels are open and free to visit now.

And on the otherside of the mountain you can see holes in the rocks where oxygen vents were made for the 1,200m of tunneling.

Legacies from the war include numerous Via Ferratas, pathways soldiers made up the mountains, now dedicated as climbing and hiking routes.

CortinaCortina rush hour
















The resort's main Italian visitors are Venetian, Roman, Bolognese and Milanese, popular with these city folk for second homes.

Farming was once the main trade in the area and the quality of timber due to the mountain air is high.

The wood used to be transported by river down to Venice, where it was used for building gondolas.

As well as the glitz Cortina has a hardcore mountaineering side.

The clientele down in town differs so much from those up in the mountains.

Both are spectacular, the skiing far more extensive than it seems from sight in the centre and the Faloria ski area offering some expert terrain, including the women's downhill World Cup run between the impressive Dolomite rocks.

See here for PlanetSKI's attempt:

There are dozens upon dozens of hotels, mostly charming four and three stars where lodging is not expensive.

Cortina, The DolomitesHotel de la Poste - the Cortina hotel original
















Inghams has the Chalet Hotel Parc Victoria among them, modestly priced and in the heart of the town. See more here.

Cortina, The DolomitesInghams' property,  Hotel Victoria
















See a little here of the 1956 Olympics, with Austria's Toni Sailor on the slalom:

And then more recenty - Lindsey Vonn earlier in the year:

A guide around the ski area, which is fragmented but a real travel round the mountains, adds a lot to the ski experience there, as well as some local insight and a deeper look into the fascinating history of Cortina.

All revealed over coffee with Marianne.

Cortina, The DolomitesPlanetSKI's Katie and Marianne from the Cortina tourist board
















Whether for summer or winter, skiing, sports or relaxing, Cortina d'Ampezzo has so much to offer its visitors in the unique setting of the Dolomiti.

I'm already looking forward to next time...

Visit the Cortina website here.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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