The pretty town of Cortina D’ampezzo, located deep in the Dolomites is not normally included on most people’s travels to Italy (or for that matter, Europe), but it should be as it is truly a breathtaking place to visit. Located approx. 160 kilometres north of Venice and within a stones throw of the Austrian border, this alpine wonderland is packed full of forests, jagged peaks, snow-capped mountains, fast flowing rivers and quaint villages to explore.
Italy and Austria have been taking turns on ruling this part of Europe for centuries, the most recent flare up was during World War 1. There are still remanence of this conflict with bunkers and military positions high up in the mountains that can be explored.
There is also a small open air museum that’s well worth a visit. The food and architecture is very Austrian in this part of Italy, which makes it a very unique and special place to visit.
Cortina D’ampezzo hosted the winter Olympics in 1956 and is now dedicated to tourism, mainly in winter, attracting the rich and aristocratic European crowd to ski its snowy slopes.
This is most evident in the town centre as it’s lined with expensive designer boutiques and restaurants. It’s a great place to do some window shopping and grab a bite to eat after a day exploring the surrounding alpine delights.
There is a real push now in Cortina D’ampezzo to get tourists to visit in the off season (summer) to boost the local economy, so it’s now becoming a popular year round destination. In summer the main attractions are still the great outdoors, with a wide range of mountain biking tracks, alpine hiking and mountain climbing.
During our time in the Dolomites we took the gondola up to the top of one of the mountains and enjoyed an alpine hike for a few hours; it was still cold for us Australians.
Also as an Australian as soon as we hit the snowline we had the mandatory snow ball fight, a lot of fun for some of us that did not get hit by a heap snowballs (Inger ha ha).
On top of the mountain there was a restaurant with outstanding views, plus some great lamb chops which we ate after our strenuous hike. A funny sight we came across was behind the restaurant there was a terrace that was packed full of European on deck chairs trying to get some sun.
Europeans love the sun.
One random fact we learned about Cortina D’ampezzo during our visit was that the 1993 Hollywood blockbuster “Cliff Hanger” starring Sylvester Stallone was filmed in the mountain’s just outside of Cortina D’ampezzo. You can still see posters of this movie in some shop windows and in the tourism office.
If you can spare a few days to explore this beautiful and vastly different part of Italy, please make sure you do as it won’t disappoint.