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Cortina D Ampezzo Travel Guide

Cortina d'Ampezzo
Cortina d'Ampezzo © Manuel Bierbauer

Regarded as one of the most beautiful holiday resorts in the world, Cortina overlooks the spectacular Dolomites region of the Italian Alps. Cortina is considered Italy's most fashionable ski resort and most of the visitors are Italians, particulary weekenders from Milan and Venice visiting their second homes. Many rarely make it to the slopes, instead they come to enjoy the restaurants and shops and wander through the streets in their finery, partaking in the traditional Italian early-evening passeggiata. This leaves the slopes wonderfully empty for those who come to ski. Cortina is a two hour drive from Venice or Innsbruck.

There is skiing for all standards at Cortina with some fantastic groomed runs for beginners and intermediates and a scattering of challenging slopes for experts. The skiing is fragmented, with three separate unlinked ski areas. The Faloria-Cristallo ski area is closest to the town, and can be accessed via cable car rather than bus, but at just 1225m this is not a ski-in, ski-out resort. As in much of the Dolomites, the snowfall is not that reliable, but the resort has good snowmaking facilities, and it's almost guarenteed that there will be snow on the pistes. Although Cortina's popularity means the town can become busy, the slopes are generally surprisingly uncrowded, and when it does snow, there is less competition for virgin powder than in other well-known resorts. The Hidden Valley (accessed from the Lagazuoi cable car) is one of the world's most beautiful ski runs; not particularly challenging, but which winds down the mountain through stunning scenery, to the river valley above the hamlet of Armentarola.

Cortina offers some of the best and most upmarket shopping of any European holiday ski resort, with a number of clothing boutiques and plenty of sport shops selling ski and snowboarding equipment, which during summer focus on mountain biking needs. Shopping is one of the perks of a holiday in Cortina, fuelling the resort's fashionable reputation.

Traditional Italian fare is what it is all about in Cortina and holidaymakers can enjoy delightful, cosy restaurants offering good times and great views. Both fine dining and more casual options are available. Eating out in Cortina tends to be expensive, but the quality of food is generally high.

Cortina is easily as popular for its amazing nightlife as for its skiing. There are glamorous night clubs and bars, which see the fashion brands and furs on parade, but also some more basic and unpretentious apres-ski venues. The main concentration of the nightlife is on classy wine bars rather than the karaoke-style fun one finds at some more mainstream resorts.

One of the things that sets Cortina apart as a ski resort is the fact that even during peak ski season the town attracts many travellers who are there to enjoy the shopping, restaurant scene and mountain scenery. It is not necessary to hit the slopes to have a fun and interesting holiday in Cortina. The Olympic Bobsled is most definitely worth some attention and the chance to gain speeds of 75 mph (120km/h) can be enjoyed by those brave enough. Sledding is another popular activity for those needing a break from ski or snowboarding boots, as are snowshoeing and hiking trails. Day trips to Venice and a number of other exciting destinations can be arranged.

Cortina can get crowded with day visitors during peak periods and is quite expensive as Italian resorts go. Snow reliability can vary.