party and celebrate!!! This was the mood in Cortina D’Ampezzo in June when the
highly anticipated announcement was made. And—lucky us—my grand-daughter
Maddie and I got to celebrate along with the locals!
After days visiting ancient monuments in Rome, soaking up the balmy
Mediterranean sun and waters, gazing at the Renaissance beauties of Florence,
sampling fruits of Tuscan vineyards and olivetti (olive groves), tasting cicchetti
(tapas) across the canal from the Squero (Venice’s historic gondola workshop), we
leaned back and enjoyed a comfortable bus ride into the dramatic landscape of the
Dolomites, aiming for Cortina. (www.dolomiti.org)
As we discovered, grazie to internet sources: “Cortina d’Ampezzo is located
in the Province of Belluno between the regions of Veneto, Trentino and Alto Adige,
at 1,224 meters (4,016 feet) above sea level and has almost 6,000 inhabitants. It
lies in a vast valley surrounded by the spectacular Ampezzo Dolomites. Considered
one of the most beautiful places in the world, this ‘Queen of the Dolomites’ has
also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
In Cortina we expected streets to be clogged with chi-chi tourists, and out- of-sight prices. Instead, we met by friendly, laid-back locals sharing free libations and tasty snacks in honor of the Olympics announcement. Also on hand were an open and enthusiastic welcome in Alpine-style accommodations and typical Tyrolean specialties in the restaurants—all at reasonable prices.
Departing from the center of Cortina, we rode smoothly via the Tofana-Freccia nel Cielo (Arrow in the Sky) cable car to the Cima Tofana (3244 m/10,643 feet). On the wide terrace we savored a stunning 360 ° panorama of the Dolomites; the view is unique, spectacular…some would call it a "spiritual" place.
Passo Falzarego, then a heart-stopping gondola trip up to Rifugio Lagazuoi, an easy, fascinating stroll with a WWI Austrian Re-enactor. In the Rifugio, we enjoyed a convivial dinner with hostel companions, followed by sogni d’oro (sweet dreams) in rustic, cozy overnight accommodations.