Cortina Call­ing

This lit­tle town in North­ern Italy is great to en­joy win­ter snow and sports, finds Aruna Rathod

The Luxury Collection - - Contents - -By Aruna Rathod

While most tourists visit Italy to ex­pe­ri­ence the beauty of the Re­nais­sance, very few know about the Alps in North­ern Italy. One of the bet­ter known re­sort towns to en­joy the snow is Cortina - which is lo­cated in the Bel­luno prov­ince in the Veneto re­gion. It is ap­prox­i­matly 160 kms from Venice. Cortina prom­ises plenty of ac­tion and is a great des­ti­na­tion to re­lax after do­ing the rounds of Rome and Florence. Known as the Queen of Dolomites, it nes­tles in the mid­dle of the spec­tac­u­lar moun­tains. The Dolomites are a moun­tain range lo­cated in North-east­ern Italy and in Au­gust 2009, th­ese moun­tains were de­clared a UNESCO World Her­itage site.

Sit­u­ated at a height of 4015 feet, Cortina is the rich man’s play­ground during win­ter, when ski­ing and win­ter sports make this beau­ti­ful town come alive. In 1956 it hosted the first Ital­ian Win­ter Olympic Games. Come win­ter and the re­cesses in the

moun­tains come alive with hot tubs and hot­ter par­ties of the rich folk from all over the coun­try. Even when it’s off-sea­son (during Euro­pean sum­mers), there are things to do like bik­ing, trekking and mo­tor­cy­cling. During the peak of win­ter most peo­ple come up here for ski­ing.

The vil­lage is ringed by spec­tac­u­lar Dolomite peaks which rise over 9,800 feet from the base area. Sun­sets are pic­turesque, and if you want some ac­tion, check out the bob­sled races and on-snow horse shows. Night ac­tion in­cludes night clubs and dis­cos.

Get­ting there

The best way to reach Cortina is from Venice. Since most tourists make Venice a stop on their itin­er­ary (the buzz of Venice is mag­netic), a small bus sta­tion next to Venice rail­way sta­tion has su­per lux­ury buses called the Cortina Ex­press that ply to and fro during the day. The ride costs 22 Eu­ros and it takes two-and­half-hours on a very scenic, wind­ing road to reach the city cen­tre in Cortina.

As the bus goes up smoothly, the ma­jes­tic Dolomite moun­tains ap­pear – grey in colour and as the sun sets, they turn a soft pink. In sum­mer, only the peaks are cov­ered in snow. The bus halts at the ter­mi­nus and one has to walk just a few me­tres to reach the city square. Ho­tel An­cora is a good bet to stay. Be­sides the old world lux­u­ri­ous charm, the lo­ca­tion of the ho­tel is also very con­ve­nient. Right in the cen­tre of city square, one can just step down after din­ner to stroll around, or shop, or just chill out at the cof­fee shops. One of the old­est ho­tels in the town, it was built in 1826, in the char­ac­ter­is­tic Am­pez­zano style with wooden bal­conies and in­tri­cately carved and painted in­te­rior de­tails. The ho­tel has a Miche­lin star restau­rant where one can sam­ple the most amaz­ing Risotto with As­para­gus, and other Ital­ian spe­cial­i­ties like Potato Gnoc­chi and Spaghetti.

Cortina has some fine shops with tra­di­tional crafts and a su­perb col­lec­tion for Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tion. It also houses some de­signer la­bels on the shop­ping street as it at­tracts the rich and fa­mous during win­ter.

Day trips

Cortina with the Dolomites in the back­drop is not only scenic but has wit­nessed the first world war. The moun­tain range forms the bor­der of Italy and Aus­tria, thus many a bat­tles were fought here. Once you reach the snow clad moun­tains with the ca­ble car at Fu­niva Lagazuoi, it’s snow ev­ery­where.

A short trek takes vis­i­tors to the place where the guns were placed during the war. If you can spare the time, take the five hour trek into the ar­eas in the hills where the armies fought bat­tles during the war. The walk takes vis­i­tors to all the strate­gic po­si­tions where the armies fought in the ranges. The peak of the Pic­colo Lagazuoi, has a cross erected in the mem­ory of the sol­diers. Leav­ing a small coin in the cracks of the wood is sup­posed to bring good luck, and so the sur­face of the cross shines with the hun­dreds of coins left by the tourists. Of course, this van­tage point al­lows you a fan­tas­tic view of the high­est peaks of the Dolomites.

As a memo­rial to the tragic events of the war, the most ex­ten­sive mu­seum of the First World War has been set up in Cortina, con­sist­ing of the open air mu­se­ums of the Lagazuoi, the 5 Torri, the Sasso di Stria and the mu­seum of the Tre Sassi Fort. The mu­seum com­plex ex­tends to a ra­dius of 5 kilo­me­tres and lets you dis­cover the var­i­ous as­pects of the Great War in the moun­tains, in one of the most breath­tak­ing walks of the Dolomites.

After do­ing the rounds of var­i­ous points, you can de­scend to the base sta­tion of the ca­ble car – where the tem­per­a­ture is bear­able around 15 de­grees. The drive back to the ho­tel takes one through some amaz­ing sites like a stone cliff, a small lake sur­rounded by pine trees and then it’s back to the ho­tel for a breather.

De­pend­ing on the num­ber of days you are in Cortina, you could just spend an en­tire morn­ing or af­ter­noon ex­plor­ing the fash­ion­able vil­lage with its cob­ble­stones, de­signer stores and some fash­ion la­bels, (if you are lucky there could be a sale). Stop by at a lo­cal café and en­joy the pleas­ant at­mos­phere, while sip­ping on a cof­fee. There are plenty of craft stores and sou­venirs are well priced. If you want to soak in the at­mos­phere just sit at the cen­tral pi­azza, next to the church and ad­mire the views.

Camp­ing at sites is a pop­u­lar way to spend days in the midst of na­ture in Cortina. Since the re­sort town of­fers ac­tiv­i­ties and beau­ti­ful views at ev­ery level, camp­ing is a won­der­ful op­tion, next to the gush­ing river, or on the foothills of the mighty Dolomites.

What to eat

You can have the fa­mous Ital­ian pizza and pas­tas but the re­gion is fa­mous for the lo­cal Am­pezzo dishes like the Ca­sun­ziei – stuffed with beet­root or spinach and ri­cotta cheese. And yes, red or white wine to ac­com­pany each dish is a must in Italy. Desserts,

could be lo­cal del­i­ca­cies or the world-fa­mous tiramisu. Don’t for­get to wash down ev­ery meal with the fa­mous Es­presso that packs in a punch. A dou­ble Es­presso for those who can han­dle it but be pre­pared to re­main awake for hours then.

Where to eat

The Ris­torante Lago Scin is sit­u­ated in the heart of the Dolomites of Bel­luno, on the banks of the moun­tain lake of the same name, housed in a wel­com­ing typ­i­cal moun­tain build­ing with el­e­gant wood fur­nish­ings that give you a sense of warmth. The ideal place for can­dle-lit sup­pers or lunches in the sun, to sam­ple the typ­i­cal dishes of Am­pezzo and re­gional cui­sine. The starters range from pâté of veni­son with pan brioche to wild boar ham with ap­ple salad and warm salad with ham and bal­samic vine­gar; the first courses in­clude caned­erli (a kind of dumpling) with cheese or speck, potato gnoc­chi in but­ter, and pap­pardelle in a hare coulis; for your main course, there is goulasch with po­lenta or caned­erli, grilled beef chop, or veni­son stew with po­lenta.

Pizze­ria II Ponte

Italy and piz­zas!

The piz­zas baked in the wood burn oven at the Pizze­ria Il Ponte are crispy and light. Luisella and Mas­si­m­il­iano, own­ers of the restau­rant have been in the busi­ness for twenty years. They even bake a spe­cial one with soya based dough. The restau­rant is in the Cortina city cen­tre and is open all year round; it has large rooms over three floors. Be­side piz­zas, the cook­ing also of­fers rich sal­ads and main courses for all taste­buds. The wine list of­fers dif­fer­ent la­bels of full bod­ied wines from Sar­dinia which are per­son­ally se­lected by Mas­si­m­il­iano.

For those who would like to ski, win­ter in Cortina is a great bet. Be­sides ski­ing, one can opt for a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties like trekking and hik­ing which are re­fresh­ing and re­ju­ve­nat­ing. The two-anda-half hour jour­ney is ex­tremely re­lax­ing with an Ital­ian cof­fee break be­fore touch­ing Venice for yet an­other great ex­pe­ri­ence.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.