Three Days in Cortina d’Ampezzo

March 3-6, 2022

As part of my commitment to truly learn how to ski, I booked a late-season trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo, a popular resort area in the Dolomites. Andy and I were both really excited about exploring a new region of Italy (which is easily our favorite country) and I was feeling much more confident about skiing after our lovely trip to Chamonix in January, but the experience ended up being a bit of a letdown.

We were prepared for Cortina d’Ampezzo being a bit harder to reach (it’s ~2 hours from the Venice airport), but I was really surprised at how hard it was to get around once we got there. There were tons of local airport transfer services available and the ski area is pretty spread out, so I mistakenly assumed that there would be a reliable local transport system — especially since the town is gearing up to host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. The Dolomiti Superski website and our hotel both claimed that the bus network was a reliable transportation option, but the service was extremely infrequent and the routes weren’t very well connected. We ended up needing to take a taxi almost everywhere, which was incredibly expensive.

It didn’t help that our hotel was located a few kilometers above the town on the Tre Croci mountain pass, which is only ~1 mile away from two of the major slopes…yet there wasn’t any way to actually get to the slopes without a car other than walking 1 mile down a mountain in the snow/ice with ski equipment. The hotel was honestly really great and the staff was so friendly, but we truly couldn’t go anywhere without taking a taxi. Furthermore, the ski schools were almost all located in San Vito di Cadore, a tiny village that took 30+ minutes (and €70+) to reach by taxi despite being ~10km from Cortina d’Ampezzo. I really enjoyed my private ski lesson and felt like I got a lot out of it, but we basically wasted an entire day of skiing since the area didn’t have many open runs at altitude and it would have been a huge effort to go somewhere else by the time we got out there. We enjoyed our time on Monte Cristallo much more, thankfully, so we at least got in one good day of skiing.

The other extremely surprising complication was that we encountered more people who didn’t speak any English whatsoever than anywhere else we’ve ever been (including plenty of very small towns in Italy and Greece that don’t get as much tourism). This ended up being an issue on almost every chairlift, ski run, etc. because there were hardly any maps or signage in Italian, let alone English or French, and the Dolomiti Superski app was basically useless.

Although the ski experience was less than ideal, the scenery was absolutely stunning and we really enjoyed being able to eat fantastic, fresh pasta and drink DOCG wine directly on the mountain. The town was also very charming and had lots of excellent shopping and restaurants, including the Michelin-starred Ristorante Tivoli Cortina, which provided us with truly one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had. We ended up having a nice weekend together despite all the logistical challenges, and definitely learned a thing or two about doing more research before planning a ski trip in a new country.

If you’re planning a trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo, click here to access and download my Google Maps list of saved locations in Italy.

Food & Drink

  • Ristorante Tivoli Cortina: The dinner we had at this Michelin-starred restaurant was one of the very best meals we’ve ever had in Italy (and perhaps anywhere). The tasting menu was an incredible mix of reimagined classics highlighting local game and vegetables (e.g., venison tartare, lamb tortelli, mushroom risotto), and the service was divine. The extensive wine list was also quite reasonably priced, and had selections (by the glass and the bottle) from all of the wine regions across Italy.
  • Ristorante LP 26 Prosciutteria: We randomly stopped here while walking around downtown, and it ended up being the perfect choice for aperitivo. As the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in prosciutto and is more or less decorated with hams in various stages of aging. The bar was very buzzy and modern, and the wine and cocktail lists had a wide range of options.
  • Il Vizietto di Cortina: Despite being very highly rated, we weren’t terribly impressed with the dinner we had at this tiny restaurant tucked off of a side street in downtown Cortina. The traditional Italian dishes weren’t bad by any means, but we certainly didn’t have anything special here and the prices were a bit high for the quality of food and service.
  • Rifugio son Forca: This unassuming restaurant is more than 2,000 meters up Monte Cristallo and has incredible views, as well as a surprisingly excellent selection of fresh pastas and other traditional dishes…and a full wine list, naturally. The tagliatelle with white truffle ragu that I had for lunch was just what I needed after a long day on the slopes.
  • Rifugio Scotter Palatini: Located on the slopes of San Vito di Cadore, this tiny mountain lodge had a limited (but delicious) menu of fresh pasta and house wine.

Activities & Attractions

  • Monte Cristallo: Northeast of Cortina d’Ampezzo, Monte Cristallo is the fifth tallest peak (3,221 meters) in the Italian Dolomites and one of the major skiing areas in the surroundings of Cortina. The ski area is pretty large and there were plenty of different runs for all levels — including several long, easier runs for novice skiers like me.
  • San Vito di Cadore: This tiny village is ~10km from Cortina d’Ampezzo and lies at the feet of Monte Antelao. It’s only 1,011 meters above sea level, which makes it the perfect place for beginners and families. We wouldn’t have come to this area if it weren’t for the private ski lessons I booked with one of the larger ski schools on our first morning, but we ended up having a nice and easy afternoon on its slopes.
  • La Cooperativa di Cortina: This gigantic department store in the heart of downtown Cortina d’Ampezzo opened in 1893. It was insanely busy when we went, but it definitely seemed to be the best place to buy just about anything you can imagine, from souvenirs and fine wine to clothing, groceries, and hardware

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