Cortina is known for being one of the ritzier ski resorts in Italy, where celebrities and other wealthy Italians own homes and spend their winter holidays. We picked Cortina because Ryan and his father wanted to ski and Cortina boasted the best conditions for that time of year, and because I very much wanted to see the majestic Dolomite mountains.
Similar to the drive to Cervinia, you slowly start to see a change in scenery- the roads start sloping more steeply, the houses have that Swiss and Austrian feel, and the mountains start to loom over you. The Dolomite mountains are particularly steep and jagged, and surround you much more closely than the Alps, giving you the feeling of being enveloped in a wall of mountains. Unfortunately, it was impossible for my photos to emulate this effect.
Our accommodations, Hotel Villa Argentina, was closer to the top of the mountain about a 6 Km from the city center. It was great for Ryan and his dad because it was ski in/ski out and the lift was only a few minutes walk away. While Ryan and his father skied, his mother and I took the shuttle bus to the town center of Cortina . It is an upscale ski village with a church tower in its center. When you walk around, the woman are all wearing fur coats and fashionable moon boots, a clear sign of the wealth of the region. We spent our time browsing shops looking for a rehearsal dinner dress the night before my wedding. We must have walked into over 20 shops and tried on dozens of dresses. Surprisingly, many of the shops did not carry small sizes below a 40 (surprising because I thought Europe had smaller sizes) which made it more difficult for my petite frame. That is besides the fact that the dresses averaged between $500-$1000 everywhere you went, so a sale was the only thing we could hope for. Unfortunately, I came up short in my dress search (I eventually found a handmade one by a local designer in Bologna for much less), but I enjoyed trying on all of the funky Italian brands.
In terms of food, Our two picks for dinner were good but not great. The first night we went to Ristorante Pizzeria Ariston. The antelope carpaccio was excellent and tasted like a leaner pastrami. The pizza, salmon, and salad were just ok. The second night we dined at Tavernetta as recommended by Fodor’s Travel. This was better than the first night, with some interesting local pastas such as beet ravioli, but the pizza Roll up (I cannot remember the name but resembled a calzone) and chicken dishes were nothing special. Our guess is that you need to be ready to spend top dollar to get excellent food in Cortina, a concept that does not apply to Tuscany and the Emilia-Romagna region.
After two days, we made our way back to Strettoia, but not without an impromptu stop in Venice for dinner on the way home . Our hotel was in Treviso, a wealthy town home to the Bennetton family outside of Venice. However, it was a short train ride into Venice, where we made reservations at Do Spade. It was Ryan’s first town in Venice, so we made sure to walk around the narrow streets into the main piazza San Marco. I visited Venice back in 2008 and it was just as lovely and unique as I remembered it. I love how you can lost in the walls between canals, how enticing the food and shops are hidden in between ally ways, and how gorgeous the villas are that line the waterways.
The dinner was an authentic experience, but the food was average. We had squid in black ink sauce, a pasta with duck ragu, a twice cooked spaghetti, and a ravioli with mushrooms. All were fine, but again nothing compared to the other regions of Italy!
Our way home we took the vaporetto back to the train station, where JoJo became an instant celebrity. Within a few days, he had traveled on a bus, boat, car and train!
I don’t think we will return to Venice as I have additional family members visiting with other regions of interest to visit. However, I am glad we got a short, sweet taste of the floating city!