The Duchess of the Dolomites. The Ceiling of Italy. The Saint Moritz of Italy. However you describe Cortina, it’s undeniably oozing with old-world glamour and classic Italian style.
With year-round appeal, the mountain town just two hours from Venice makes for an excellent foray into the Dolomites. Cortina d’Ampezzo, to use the town’s full name, was the forerunner for winter sports in the Italian Dolomites. From the early 20th century, what was once a charming but provincial village gradually became Italy’s most chic mountain resort. In 1903, the Cortina Ski Team was established, and in 1956 the Winter Olympics were held here for the first time.
The Cortina ski area has an impressive 120 km of slopes, with 70 ski runs and 13 lift facilities. There’s something for everyone, with a handful of challenging black runs and plenty of beginner slopes too. The Dolomiti Superski pass gives you access to the whole area, as well as the 12 interconnecting valleys: together, these make up the world’s largest skiing carousel, with over 450 lift facilities and 1,200 km of ski runs.
In 2026, the Milano – Cortina Winter Olympic Games will be held here once again. The whole region is a hive of activity, even as the organising committee struggles to get all the infrastructure in place. The aim is to create a “cultural and infrastructural legacy for future generations,” and there’s a strong focus on environmental impact. Hoteliers, restaurateurs and tourist operators are busy polishing their offerings, which in some cases have become a little complacent thanks to Cortina’s glamorous reputation.
Of course, Cortina is no stranger to recent international sporting events. The Ski World Championships were held here in 2021 (for which the new Freccia nel Cielo cable-car was built). The area is also home to the Ladies FIS Alpine Ski World Cup each year, which takes place on the legendary and recently re-landscaped Olympia delle Tofane ski run. Visitors who want to see curling and have a go at ice skating (or watch the professionals) can head down to the original Olympic Stadium in Cortina town itself.
Dolce Vita Lifestyle
It’s not all sport and action in Cortina, however. Lunch is a leisurely affair on the slopes, with a number of wonderful rifiugi (mountain huts) to stop off for a hearty lunch. A paradise for gourmands, Cortina is a melting pot of Italian and Tyrolese flavours, with hearty stews and dumplings served alongside more familiar Italian pasta dishes.
Be sure to try a bombardino, the Dolomites’ famous mountainside cocktail, made from egg yolk, brandy and lashings of sugar (think egg-nog, but better). In December 2022, the inaugural Cortina Cocktail Weekend was held in the town, with mixology events, tastings, parties and bar hopping throughout the town.
To reach Cortina, the easiest way is to fly or take the train to Venice Mestre, where an international airport has direct flights to the US, UK and other parts of Europe. From here, there’s a comfortable two-hour ski bus, which leaves several times a day and drops guests right in the heart of Cortina.
What Hotel De La Poste (Piazza Roma, 14, 32043) lacks in modern amenities and comfort, it makes up for in timeless atmosphere. The 200-year-old hotel, once a stable for the horses who delivered post to the then remote mountain village, is right in the middle of the town’s central piazza, perfect for the art of people watching. Breakfast is nothing to write home about, but the post-skiing negroni out the front of the hotel is an iconic Cortina experience.
Cortina’s newest addition is the eco-conscious and oh-so-stylish Hotel de Len (Via Cesare Battisti, 66), which draws on a cool Scandi palate and plenty of local materials to offer a welcome alternative to Cortina’s sometimes staid hotel scene. The staff are some of the friendliest in town, and breakfast is a nourishing mix of cooked dishes, smoothies and mountain specialties to fuel you for a day outdoors. The real appeal, however, is the top floor spa area and panoramic outdoor Jacuzzi.
Another new and rather luxurious hotel to arrive in Cortina is the Rosapetra Spa Resort (Località Zuel di Sopra 1), which has just finished an extensive refurbishment. A short drive outside the town centre, the 33-suite boutique hotel has a vast spa, featuring a 12-metre indoor pool, Finnish sauna, Mediterranean and Turkish bath, “emotional showers” and a plunge pool. The heated pool is the highlight, thanks to views overlooking the Tofane massif and the entire Ampezzo valley.
Restaurants, Bars and Cafés
A short stroll from the main bus station and village centre, Ciasa Lorenzi (Via Cantore 1) is an excellent choice for lunch in the sun on your first or last day in Cortina. The outside courtyard is a sun trap even in winter, with charming wooden tables and alcoves to sit and watch the world go by. The dishes are refined and creative, using local produce combined with flavours from the rest of Italy.
Ristorante il Passetto (Via Marconi 8) may be famous for their pizzas, but this local spot just off the main strip by the bus station serves typical Italian and mountain fare with plenty of heart too. Snag a seat in the main dining room overlooking the open kitchen for the best atmosphere – and save room for the tiramisu.
Around four kilometres from the centre of Cortina, you’ll find Baita Fraina (Via Fraina, 1), a rustic tavern which feels a world away from the glitz and glamour of the town itself. Here, you’ll find elegant fine dining within the sleepy and deeply traditional setting of an Alpine farm, complete with frilly curtains and wooden stube dining rooms. The wines are outstanding, with over 500 local and international bottles in the cellar, as are the various tasting menu options. In summer, there’s a panoramic terrace looking out over the green valleys below. If you prefer staying out of the village in general, it also has a few guest rooms and a scrumptious breakfast.
On the slopes themselves you’ll also find plenty of excellent dining options. Chalet Tofane (Lacedel, at the foot of the Gilardon Roncato chairlift) is new this year, but is quickly becoming a favourite among skiers and holiday makers thanks to the excellent wine list and quick, friendly service. Find all the mountain classics, as well as some surprisingly delicious shellfish antipasti.
Another mountain restaurant well worth a visit, if only for the location, is Capanna Ra Valles, which lays claim to being the highest pizza restaurant in the Dolomites. From the terrace, skiers and walkers are able to enjoy breathtaking views over the surrounding peaks. The menu offers Italian pizza and typical mountain dishes, made with the best produce from the area.
For an extra romantic evening with someone special, push the boat out and book a moonlight dinner experience halfway up the mountains at Rifugio Averau. The mountainside refuge organises dinner events – with an advanced booking required – served under a starry sky. The restaurant, which is also open during the day, can be reached via skiing, riding a snowmobile or by chairlift. After dinner, guests will descend by snowmobile under a starlit sky.
It may not look like much from the outside, but historic Bar Sport (Corso Italia 132) in the centre of Cortina has the best apres-ski vibe in town. On most evenings of the week, you’ll find fur-clad Italians and raucous tourists drinking beer on the small tables outside, or posing in front of the hanging vintage gondola. Inside, the old-fashioned wooden bar doesn’t feel like it’s changed for decades.
The first wine bar in the Dolomites devoted to fine wines and cuisine, Masi Wine Bar “Al Druscié” was recently launched below the terrace of the famous Ristorante Col Drusciè 1778m, in cooperation with the Masi winery from Verona. Here, you can sip Franciacorta and dive into a bistecca at 1800 metres above sea level, with a panoramic view across Cortina and far beyond. It’s a perfect stop-off for skiers and hikers in summer, but you can also take the new Tofana-Freccia del cielo cable car directly here.
Ignore the name – there’s nothing blingy about this magical slope side refuge, perched high in the mountains above Corvara, Alta Badia. Instead Las Vegas Lodge (Strada Piz, Str. Sorega, 15) has got sturdy wooden tables, low beams, chequered cushions and disused wooden snowploughs, with the day’s newspapers hanging from them. Head to the balcony for the most impressive mountain views, and linger into the afternoon for the DJ set to get going. Though it’s not strictly in Cortina itself, it’s an easy day trip by both ski lift or car.
Skiers of all levels will be spoilt for choice with what’s on offer in Cortina. Specific areas and destinations not to miss include the Vitelli ski slope, which is among the most scenic in the Dolomites, and the equally picturesque Armentarola, which runs down a stunning valley dominated by majestic rocky castles and iced waterfalls for about 8.5 km. For hardcore skiers, meanwhile, the newly conditioned Scoiattolo black diamond slope has opened with a state-of-the-art snow-making facilities as well as timing systems, in view of obtaining the certification as racing track for Slalom competitions. This year, the brand-new Cortina Skyline connects skiers and non-skiers alike to the Cinque Torri area.
Cortina has over 700km of biking routes, including downhill itineraries (which require you taking a cable car at the start of the day) and family friendly routes. Those who like tricks and technical trails can head to Cortina Bike Park, adjacent to some of the 2026 Olympic slopes. If you prefer a slightly more leisurely adventure, or simply want to get further faster (and without huffing and puffing your way up hill), try e-biking.
Throughout the summer, there are alpine lakes, rivers, springs and waterfalls to explore by foot around Cortina, which has more than 400km of signposted footpaths and hiking trails. Chart routes of all different levels of difficulty through meadows and forests, seeing the Dolomites in a whole different way. Many lifts are open in the summer season, and the Hiking Pass gives access to all of Cortina’s cable cars and chairlifts, as well as to city buses by means of a single card. For something different, spend a day husky dog trekking, or go trail running.
Ice Skating and Curling
You can enjoy both these Olympic sports at Cortina’s Olympic Ice Stadium all year round. Besides the 30-metre-wide and 60-metre-long ice rink, the Ice Stadium has a bar, a solarium and a playground for children. For anyone curious about watching curling, you can go along to the stadium at around 5pm every day and watch Cortina’s curling team training. Regular ice hockey matches also take place here.
Wandering around Cortina’s mountains, history enthusiasts will discover the remains of the war in the Dolomites in largest open-air museum of the First World War: the war tunnels of Mount Lagazuoi, the trenches and the military emplacements on Cinque Torri, and the “Forte 3 Sassi” War Museum in Valparola. In the winter, meanwhile, advanced skiers can also take part in the cross-country First World War Ski Tour to discover these historical sights.