Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy


Photographer Tim O’Brien provided the details and images for the Cortina D’Ampezzo destination.

Cortina d’ Ampezzo, Italy

Cortina d’Ampezzo is a town in Italy about 100 miles north of Venice. Cortina, as it is commonly known, is in the Dolomites, the southern part of the Alps. The peaks there are very craggy. The town is in a picturesque alpine valley along the Boite River. A number of movies have been filmed in the area, including The Pink Panther, the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only, and Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone.

Cortina is a popular ski area. (I actually traveled there with a ski group in January, even though I do not ski.) Cortina was scheduled to host the 1944 Winter Olympics but was unable to do so due to World War II. The Olympics were finally held there in 1956. When we were there in January 2016 there was not a lot of snow. They were having to make snow for the ski slopes. The last night that we were there they had the drawing for the bibs and starting positions for the Women’s World Cup races to be held the following day. The travel agency that organized the trip recommended not making it obvious that you were American. But we went to the drawing in the center of town, waved American flags and banners with the names and pictures of Lindsey Vonn and the other Americans competing. Lindsey did win all her races the next day.

While the rest of the group skied I hiked the trails in the surrounding area. One trail kept high on the valley wall and at one point had to tunnel through a rocky crag on the side of the mountain. While the tunnel had some electric lights you had to travel a ways into the tunnel before you saw the light at the other end. There were large icicles hanging from the roof and evidence of rocks falling inside the tunnel. Given that I was hiking alone and five miles from town it might not have been the wisest move but I did go through the tunnel. And of course I had to come back the same way. While hiking I saw hot air balloons flying high over the mountains. They must have a spectacular view.

The feel of Cortina is Tyrolean, rather than the Italian style of nearby Venice or Florence. One interesting architectural feature was that some of the houses had chimney covers that mimicked the roof line of the house itself. This is Europe so there was, of course, a church in town with a beautiful interior. Its steeple was a central feature of the town. There was also an amazing cemetery in town. The graves are all dug into stone and gravel. The grave markers are elaborate. Many look like miniature chalets with photos of the deceased and other mementos. A few have more typical headstones and others have traditional or abstract sculpture. There was also a very interesting painting of death in the mausoleum under the cemetery chapel.