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LA DOLCE VITA IN ITALY`S DOLOMITES
 
(2017 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: ROCHELLE LASH



Cortina d’Ampezzo glows with many of the superlatives of Italy. 

Imagine La Dolce Vita in an exquisite mountain village with exceptional year-round sports, the harmony of spa life and seductive Italian gastronomy. Did I mention shopping? This is Italy, after all. Treasures by Bulgari and Valentino are among the temptations, and the cobblestone main walkway is lush with antique shops and sport shops in 200-year-old buildings.

Cortina’s bella gente (beautiful people) parade their finery along the Corso Italia, in the daily passeggiata (promenade), a ritual of socializing and strolling, Italian-style. And Cortina Fashion Week struts its stuff every December with cocktails, fashion shows and parties, parties, parties.

Europe’s elite has found tranquility and beauty in Cortina for over 100 years, drawn by the charm of old stone piazzas and vintage buildings with family crests, all glowing with the purity of mountain life. 

But after famous movies by Peter Sellers—a.k.a. Inspector Clouseau—and Roger Moore as James Bond, the beautiful mountain village became a glamorous playground for the jet set, popping with winter polo, art exhibits and a film festival.

Today, you’re more likely to see A-listers such as Sting, George Clooney or Madonna, and TV adventurer Bear Grylls who has conquered the massive mountains. 

The Dolomites are distinctive for their jagged spires of rock that shimmer in pink at sunrise and sunset. The tableau is so remarkable that the Dolomites were named one of UNESCO’s 200 natural World Heritage Sites in 2009. 

WINTER

I’ve long known of Cortina as one of the world’s most prized snow destinations, host of the 1956 Winter Olympics, an annual stop on the women’s World Cup tour, and a favourite getaway of elite athletes such as Olympian Lindsey Vonn.                                                                                                

You don’t have to worry about climate change. Cortina blankets 95 per cent of its terrain with man-made snow. And you’ll never be bored. It is part of the world’s largest ski carousel, the Dolomiti Superski, where one pass is valid at 12 major resorts with astounding scope—more than 450 ski lifts and 1,220 kilometres of slopes.

This snowy alpine village is now also a leader in new winter thrills such as lift-serviced fat biking and snow rafting as well as back-country and cross-country skiing, ski safaris, curling, tobogganing, uphill Alpine touring and snowshoeing.

SUMMER

The world thinks of Cortina as a prized skiing and snowboarding destination, but the resort town is actually busier in summer with Europeans who flock here for La Dolce Vita, to enjoy superb sports and mountain air.

As in winter, Cortina has harnessed much of its splendid landscape for summer leisure, including golf, hiking, mountain biking, road cycling and a car-free bike path. One fascinating excursion is the Via Ferrata climbing adventure along the all refurbished cables used by the military during World War I.

 If you hire an alpine guide, you can tailor your trek through valleys and mountains to your fitness level and you’ll cover more ground, discovering flora and fauna and rare mountain views at the heart of Natural Park of the Ampezzo Dolomites.

THE GOOD LIFE

As a resort town, Cortina is not only defined by its mountains but also by its après-sports scene, a perpetual party of languid lunches, cocktails, convivial dinners and clubbing.

Life starts with vino and segues into prosciutto, bruschetta, pesto, risotto, pasta, pizza, plus meat raised on the centuries-old farms that surround the town.

Cortina’s cuisine is more than Italian. It is intensely local and several restaurants specialize in regional dishes such as sausages, charcuterie, liver mousse, venison stew, beef tartare, braised lamb, bean soup, plenty of luscious pastas and canederli—a dumpling plumped with cheese, spinach or cured meat. It is robust, high-Alpine cuisine that can be tasted so many ways.

Ristorante Rifugio Col Drusciè is perched high atop a mountain, accessible only by cable car, and is an exceptional Alpine experience. Ristorante Crignes is popular with savvy locals who know good food at good prices. Enoteca Cortina, a local institution, features a connoisseur’s selection of wine in a vintage cave, built for sipping and mingling.

LINGER A WHILE

Cortina can accommodate all budgets in all styles, including camping, condos, hiking refuges, bed and breakfasts and nearly 60 hotels. Adventurers can cosy up in mountain refuges where a dorm bed starts at about $50 or a private room at about $100, including delectable, home-cooked mountain cuisine.

At the top end is the chic boutique hotel Rosapetra Spa Resort, a masterpiece of modern rustic design that uses timber, stone, concrete and glass in a new, streamlined look, and updates Cortina’s traditional cuisine with artful presentations and innovative fusions.

I found bliss at the four-star Faloria Mountain Spa Resort, a 30-room, all-suite mountain chalet that has it all—an impressive spa area, an indoor pool, a piano lounge and a fine dining room. Mostly, Faloria is about a relaxed atmosphere and terrific service. This impeccable Alpine chalet is on the outskirts of town—a shuttle ferries guests for the five-minute drive to town and ski lifts—so it has a pristine view of mountains and meadows.

Guests at Faloria can fashion a spa day, starting in the heated indoor swimming pool or gym and flowing into the sauna, steam room and relaxation lounge, all followed by a stimulating dip in a cold-water basin. Total spa immersion means divine beauty and body treatment with fruit or herbal extracts, plus a choice of massages.

Faloria’s food is traditional mountain cuisine, starting with an energizing breakfast buffet of fruit, cheese, ham, eggs, pastries, yogurt and, of course, great coffee. After an exhilarating day, Faloria’s cosy piano lounge is the place to be for Italian wine and canapés before dinner.

Faloria has a romantic side—imagine a couples’ massage with Prosecco—but it also is an exceptional family getaway, with a playroom, summer lawn games and spacious suites suitable for two, four or six guests.

BEST OF THE ALPS

Cortina is one of the prestigious Best of the Alps association that embraces 11 iconic resort regions prized for their cultural heritage, dramatic landscapes and spectacular sports.

The magical Alpine destinations span five European countries: in Italy, Cortina d’Ampezzo; in Austria, Lech Zürs am Arlberg, St. Anton am Arlberg, Seefeld and Kitzbühel; Garmisch-Partenkichen in Germany; Swiss treasures Grindelwald, Davos and St. Moritz; and in France, Megève and Chamonix–Mont-Blanc, the awesome mountain that is arguably the third most visited natural site in the world. 

What sets the villages of Best of the Alps apart is that they are historic, authentic communities rooted in the life and soul of the mountains. They’re real places that have been on the map for centuries, not condo pop-ups.

The scenery is a postcard of horse-drawn carriages, livestock grazing on hillsides and meadows of wildflowers growing at the foot of snow-capped mountains.

Visitors enjoy local food and wine and explore plazas and tangles of tiny cobblestone streets. Most of these remarkable Alpine resorts are best-known as snow-sport destinations, but originally—more than two centuries ago—adventuresome hikers and mountaineers trekked here for the pristine air, folksy flavour and wondrous climbing challenges.

Today, the Best of the Alps resorts pop year-round with fabulous celebrations and outdoor experiences. Summer rocks with the annual Jazz Festival in glamorous St. Moritz, equestrian show-jumping in the toney town of Megève, a Strauss concert series in Garmisch-Partenkichen and an important antique car show in picturesque Lech Zürs.

TRAVEL PLANNER

More information can be found at:

Best of the Alps: bestofthealps.com

Cortina d’Ampezzo: cortina.dolomiti.org

Faloria Mountain Spa Resort: faloriasparesort.com

 
 
 
 
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