Sunday, June 20, 2010

August 2007 - Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy - The Jewel of the Dolomites

As we crossed over the ridge, we caught our first glimpse of town of Cortina d'Ampezzo, nestled in the Ampezzana valley, completely surrounded 360 degrees by some of the sharpest and most dramatic mountains we've seen in the Dolomites.

Cortina d'Ampezzo is in the region of the Veneto in Northeast Italy, right on the border with the Trentino/Alto Adige/SudTirol region of Italy to the west (and not far from the Austrian border to the north). It is an Italian-speaking city (like most of the Veneto), though it has close historical ties with Trentino/Alto Adige, having a German-speaking minority. During World War I, Ampezzo (the city's name back then) fought with the Austrians against Italy, but when Italy was on the winning side of the war, the city and surrounding region became part of Italy.

After the Great War, Ampezzo was renamed "Cortina d'Ampezzo", taking "Cortina" from one of the six villages comprising the territory of Ampezzo in the center of the Ampezzana valley.

Since before the first world war, the city has been a popular "holiday" destination for elite British tourists, and after the War, Cortina became a favorite resort for upper-class Italians.

Originally scheduled to host the 1944 Winter Olympics, which was cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II, Cortina did host the 1956 Games, after which it became a world-renowned world-class resort for both winter and summer outdoor activities.
Since the 1950s, Cortina has been a playground for the rich and famous, including Audrey Hepburn and many other movie stars and moguls, and is considered by many to be the "Jewel of the Dolomites".

These dramatic cliffs make fabulous movie backdrops and have been featured in a number of films, including the Pink Panther, Cliffhanger and the 007 film For Your Eyes Only. James Bond (Roger Moore) has his famous bobsled chase scene on the slopes just outside the city.

If you say this looks more like Austria than Italy, you would be paying the residents a compliment.

Indeed, shortly after we left Cortina, the city seceded from the Veneto and joined the German-speaking region of Trentino/Alto Adige.

We look forward to coming back one day and seeing these mountains covered in snow and skiers, although Casandra is not sure she's brave enough to ski Italian slopes again. These people need some reverse tort reform to teach them the importance of guard rails and signage.

Believe it or not, all of these incredible photos were taken on our bus ride into town.

We finally made it to center of town and the main square and boy were we glad to be here after the negotiating we had to do to get here from the Alpi di Suisi. Apparently, you can't just hop in a train to Cortina from anywhere you want.

From the main square the town's bell tower, we walked through town to the quaint little inn we made our home for the next 5 days. This will be our last stop in Italy after traveling for a full year before we leave to explore Central Europe. We can already tell by the draw-dropping beauty of Cortina and its surrounding mountains that this was the perfect finale to our year living "the sweet life".

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