Cortina MountainsCortina d'Ampezzo - Not Your Average Alp
And so the ski season begins, which we kick off by celebrating New Years in Cortina D’Ampezzo. The Italian elite converge upon Cortina for the holidays, ringing in the New Year with a pure elegance that only the Italians can achieve. Cortina defines glamour,with its impossibly stylish people, fine dining you wouldn’t expect from a ski resort and a picture perfect town. Its stunning views are literally taken right out of a scene out of a James Bond movie-the Pink Panther to be exact. Surprisingly though with all its glamour, Cortina is off the tourist map, which makes it the perfect getaway for the New Year and well into the winter ski season.
A past Olympic village, Cortina is not your average Alp. In fact, it’s not an Alp at all. The majestic DOLAMATImountains, with their signature red rocks, surround this little slice of perfection. With its gorgeous scenery, skiing for all levels, après ski scene, restaurants and shopping as good as any large city, this is how a European ski vacation is done.
If you’re looking to be in the center of town, check into the Hotel Ancora, which is the definition of charming. From this vantage point, you walk feet to each après ski bar, restaurant and shop, making it quite desirable for those who partake in more than just the skiing. While frequented by the very wealthy Europeans and their piles of Louis Vuitton luggage, this is a low-key place where the rooms and bathrooms are spotless, but the Four Seasons this is not. Our favorite room here is Room 309, which has views of the mountaintops, two baths and a sitting room. If high-end luxury is your deal, check into the Hotel Cristallo, right outside of town. If the Ancora is the Breckenridge of hotels, the Cristallo is the Aspen. Here, you also have the Monkey Bar, which will be the scene of the crime for New Years, gorgeous restaurants and the most luxe spa in the region.
Ski-in, ski-out is virtually non-existent in Cortina proper, but the slopes are but a quick bus ride away. And what slopes they are, with unforgettable red rocks, challenging runs to tear it up in Faloria, and for the ski bunnies, some of the easiest on the eyes instructors in the world. They are not only easy on the eyes though; they are also some of the best instructors who will have you skiing the blues and blacks in no time. What sets Cortina apart from the other gorgeous European ski destinations is the philosophy of skiing. Here, you’ll tear it up on the slopes, but take time to have a leisurely boozy lunch, sitting outside on a large terrace overlooking the stunning valley with its jagged rocks. And the natural scenery is rivaled by those who will surround you, in their fashionable clothing and beautiful Italian accents. There will be no mistaking you are in Italy, indeed.
The people watching does not stop there, where après ski is quite the sport. For the social scene, Cortina brings it. PETA would not approve; Cortina is where everyone from the baby to the baby’s daddy is clad in fur from head to toe. For all the après ski spots, it’s not step off right from the slopes, but rather change out of your ski gear and bring on the glamour. It is an experience to watch the night unfold at the Hotel de la Poste. The potion here is the sparkling wine served alongside the homemade potato chips, olives and peanuts. For a first night, the scene here is more than enough to take in before dinner. Otherwise, it’s the first stop on the circuit, before heading over to LP 26, where the younger, rowdier crowd partakes in the festivities. At some point on your trip, there’s even après ski bar-hopping, stopping by Bottega di Vinoand Enoteca de Brio, which are high on the romance factor.
The quality of the food is especially exceptional in Cortina, and dare we say the best of all the European ski resorts. Everything from the simple pizza at 5 Torre, to the Italian version of the diner at Croda Café, which is no Denny’s at all, will have you raving over even a simple bowl of pasta. Speaking of which, you will become addicted to the casunzei,a beet ravioli with poppy seeds, which is the regional specialty, influenced by Italy’s Austrian cousin. There will be very few places that you will find this dish in the world, and it will leave a lasting impression.
Dinner is an affair with white tablecloths, stunningly beautiful dining rooms and five star food. The dining room at Hotel de La Poste will make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to the roaring 20s, with tuxedoed service and the grand presentation of food. For more quaint dining experiences, but equally delicious, Pontejel is a local favorite as is La Tavernata, which is a quick ten minute walk from the center of town. All of these, plus the option to stay in at the Cristallo, will help you refuel after a tough day on the slopes, or if you don’t ski, a tough day on the shopping circuit.
The shopping circuit here is one of the best in Europe, shying away from the bold-faced large shops, but rather the local stores, which perfectly edit your couture selections. The Corso Italia is the main thoroughfare, where you can easily spend a day doing some major damage. Buy your cashmere sweaters at Dello Revere, haute couture at Le Noirand the chicest ski gear and winter clothing at Bredo. The ski shops here take looking good on the slopes to a new level, with Olympia Casa dello Sportoand Marinotti. The latter, has an outlet after its namesake, where there is perpetual sale, though clothing that never goes out of style.
To make your home as gorgeous as you will look after a shopping spree here, you’ll spend some quality time at Antionol, the local linen shop so good it put Frette out of business next door. Gorgeous handmade placements, napkins and towels are unique gifts for friends and family, or just you. Our favorite shop in town is La Bottega de Amelie, which has possibly the most beautifully selected glasses from Artel and candles from Lemani home, both of which are near impossible to buy in the U.S. The food shops here are unrivaled, and exactly what you would expect from a culture passionate about their ingredients. La Piazettais the takeaway and specialty grocery store, to pick up your olive oils, baslsamico, truffles and other culinary delights to bring home and remind you of your trip to Cortina.
Nightlife is low-key, but still entertaining enough for those who want to get their party on. Besides LP 26, the Monkey Lounge is the place to be for bottle service, MASQUERADE parties and as its name implies, a certain type of business. After a weekend in Cortina, you will be forever spoiled on how a ski vacation should be.