Surrounded by spectacular hiking trails and situated in the very heart of the Dolomites, vibrant Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of Europe’s best-known resorts.
Cortina d’Ampezzo: An Overview
The town of Cortina d’Ampezzo is located high up in the mountains in the north of the Veneto region of Northern Italy, in the eastern part of the Dolomites. The picturesque town has a formidable reputation as a ski resort, and indeed, even hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956. Visit out of the winter season, and you’ll discover a very different side to the town, as when the sun shines, people from all over the globe visit to enjoy the vibrant summer ambiance.
Surrounded on all sides by the rocky peaks of the Dolomites, a real draw of Cortina d’Ampezzo is its remarkable landscape, and the town manages to feel quite concealed from the rest of the world. However, there is a definite taste of the cosmopolitan in the atmosphere; hardly surprising, given that both ‘For Your Eyes Only’ and ‘The Pink Panther’ were both filmed here.
Unlike many other towns in the Dolomites, Cortina d’Ampezzo maintains a distinctly Italian personality; perhaps due to its distance from the German border. In the hotels and restaurants, Italian is widely spoken and the cuisine also reflects this proudly Italian attitude.
Venture beyond the pedestrianized town centre and you’ll discover a huge number of hiking trails, and not just in the mountains. There is also a spectacular nature reserve, and there are many wildflower-covered Alpine meadows and pretty lakes to explore.
Come in the winter, and you’ll find the area filled with tourists, eager to take to the slopes. The town maintains its popularity for much of the year, and there are plenty of activities to keep all outdoor enthusiasts entertained for the duration of their stay.
Exploring the Cortina d’Ampezzo Area on Foot
There are more than 400 kilometres (245 miles) of hiking trails and footpaths in the area surrounding Cortina d’Ampezzo. The area caters extremely well for keen walkers, and the vast majority of routes are well signposted.
In the mountains, there are refuges (mountain huts, which often provide food and even rooms for the night if required), and this provides a lot of freedom in terms of exploring the many trails. As you might expect, the high altitude trails offer breath-taking views of the peaks and valleys below.
However, despite the obvious appeal of the UNESCO World Heritage protected Dolomites, there are many other areas to explore by foot in the region. Lake Sorapis, with its emerald-green waters and scenic surroundings, is a popular choice, as are the many trails through the forests, such as the Col Rosà route, which leads to the Fanes waterfalls.
Things to Do in Cortina d’Ampezzo on a Rainy Day / Rest Day
Aside from the plentiful hiking, there are many other things to do in Cortina d’Apezzo.
If you’re feeling adventurous, then there are established mountain guides in the area, providing rock-climbing courses, or climbing trips into the heart of the Dolomites. For the truly brave, there are the famous Dolomite’s Vie Ferrate (plural for Via Ferrata, ‘iron roads’) in the surrounding area, which lead a path along open rock-faces with the help of a guided rope.
To the west of Cortina d’Ampezzo, there are the Tofane Mountains, of which Tofana di Mezzo is the third highest peak in the entire region (3,244m / 10,643ft). A cable car (the Freccia nel Cielo) runs from Cortina d’Ampezzo to nearly the top of Tofana di Mezzo, and as you might expect, the views are impressive. To the north-west, there is the Cristallo mountain range, which also offers spectacular landscapes. The highest peak is the Monte Cristallo (3,221m / 10,568ft)
Alternatively, venture to the north of Cortina, and you’ll discover the Ampezzo Dolomites Nature Reserve. Founded back in 1990, this huge area covers 11,000 hectares and is home to many protected species, including the Golden Eagle. It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty, and within it, walkers can enjoy mountains, lakes, forests and waterfalls.
Back in Cortina d’Ampezzo, there is plenty to see and do. The Museo all’aperto delle 5 Torri provides insight into what life must have been like for the many young soldiers stationed in the area during the First World War, as does the Museo della Grande Guerra.
The historic centre of the town is also well worth spending an afternoon in, and provides pleasant surroundings in which to admire the historic architecture and sip a coffee or two in a local café.
How to Get to Cortina d’Ampezzo
Cortina d’Ampezzo is only a two hour drive from Venice, making it a viable option for those touring Italy by car; and the route is mostly via the main highway, and then well signposted after that.
Venice has the nearest international airport (Marco Polo), and if you don’t have a car, it is easy to get to Cortina d’Ampezzo via public transport. The nearest train station is at Calalzo di Cadore (approximately 35km from Cortina) and there are two buses a day running from Cortina to Dobbiaco (45 mins), from which you can catch a bus to Bolzano, which has its own airport, or alternatively, you can catch the train to Venice.