Let’s face it. A winter weekend can be anything but fun at times. Even in Sardinia, where I live, days are short and often miserable in the winter. Temperatures may not be as low as those of Central or Northern Europe; it may not snow all the time; but the air is so humid that the chill gets straight to the bones.
And chances are that if the sun has been shining all week, during a winter weekend it is going to rain, or the wind is going to blow. A reminder that we can’t just go play as we wish.
Until a couple of years ago, I would try to escape the winter altogether. Any weekend vacation I’d take would be somewhere warm, like Thailand or Mexico. The few winter weekend breaks I’d spend at home were actually spent planning my next trip far away from the cold weather.
This year, I have finally decided to toughen up and embrace the winter. I first went on a winter wonderland trip to the Czech Republic – where I thought I was going to freeze. Laten on, when my friend Margherita suggested that we go on a girls only winter weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, I jumped at the opportunity and immediately booked a flight.
That’s how I got back on the slopes, a whopping 17 years after the last time I had been skiing, hoping I’d remember how to ski and fearful I’d fall miserably and I’d ruin my short winter vacation. I didn’t fall, though. In fact, I had a great time in Cortina d’Ampezzo and I realized I had missed the snow and the mountains.
My girls’ only winter weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo was absolutely fabulous, I completely recharged my batteries, ready to confront the rest of the gloomy days ahead of me. I did everything I wanted, and most of all I got to spend time with a dear friend. I have decided to sum up what I did during my winter vacation there, for any girl (and why not, even for any guy) who is ready to have a bit of fun and pamper herself.
Before I get into the itty gritty of what a perfect winter weekend in the Italian Alps looks like, though, let me talk a bit more about Cortina D’Ampezzo.
Cortina D’Ampezzo, the Pearl of the Dolomites
Cortina D’Ampezzo, commonly called Cortina, is known as the Pearl of the Dolomites. It is located in the Italian region of Veneto, not far from Alto Adige at around 1200 meters above sea level. Over the course of time, it’s become a favorite destination in the Italian Alps, not only for winter getaways, but also for hiking holidays during the spring and summer.
This lovely village is often considered the poshest destination in the Italian Alps; a luxury destination. It is not uncommon to find famous people walking around its lovely streets, shopping at designer stores and eating in the best restaurants.
Nevertheless, it is an incredibly pleasant place to spend a winter vacation, thanks to the great ski slopes that are located all around the small city; the spectacular views; the incredible selection of hotels and restaurants; and the overall fantastic atmosphere.
How to have the perfect girls only winter weekend in Cortina D’Ampezzo
Nothing screams winter weekend more than skiing, in my opinion. Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the top places in Italy to go skiing. There’s slopes galore, for all levels, with any view, and for any weather condition.
Margherita and I were super lucky and we got to have one of the best winter weekend breaks in terms of weather. It was sunny every day we were there, and never too cold. We enjoyed skiing along the slopes of the Tofana. We first went up to Col Druscié, and then went all the way to Ra Valles.
Col Druscié has lovely easy slopes, perfect for someone like me who’s getting accustomed to skiing again. Skiing there was a great way to our my winter weekend going.
We then decided to test our skills and went all the way up to Ra Valles, where we first had a typical lunch at the Rifugio, admiring a spectacular view of the valley and of Cortina D’Ampezzo below, and then we went back skiing. I somehow found myself on a high difficulty level slope. It was a real challenge and for a moment I thought I was going to ruin my winter weekend, falling down and breaking a leg!
The costs of skiing in Cortina D’Ampezzo
Renting ski equipment – consisting of skis, ski poles, ski boots and a helmet costs around €40 and there’s several shops in the village where it is possible to rent. The costs go down if renting for longer peoriods, so those going on winter weekend breaks don’t have to break the bank.
The prices of ski passes in Cortina D’Ampezzo vary depending on the season (whether it is high season, the beginning or the end of the season); the duration (one day, one week or even the whole season); and the amount of skilifts the pass is for. A one day ski pass is €49. If planning a winter weekend ski trip, go for the 2 days one which costs €96.
Walk around the beautiful village
Cortina D’Ampezzo is located in a gorgeous valley, completely surrounded by mountains. Walking around the village, and even more so outside of it, is a must during a winter weekend – especially for those who are fans of mountain views.
The village itself is a series of lovely buildings, in perfect Dolomites style, with perfect facades and balconies; a square with a nice church and a bell tower; narrow streets with pretty cafés – just in case that winter weekend is becoming too wintery and a break from the cold is needed. There’s also a couple of interesting museums to visit, such as the Great War Museum (a tour is also available).
From Cortina D’Ampezzo, a series of trails (which can also be biked) lead around the village and offer some gorgeous mountain views and some lovely views of the village. We walked all the way past the ski jump that was used during the 1956 Winter Olympics that were held in Cortina. I guess it was a good way to keep the Olympic spirit on, not to mention, all proper winter weekend breaks should build in a leisurely walk.
I didn’t go, as it wasn’t exactly easy to reach during a winter weekend with snow on the ground, but there also are a couple of forts and castles in the area.
If there is one thing Cortina D’Ampezzo is famous for, that’s its amazing shopping. Any proper winter weekend in Cortina would include a shopping spree. I may disappoint you all, though: I am not much of a shopper, and Margherita isn’t either.
My winter weekend shopping spree was more like a window shopping spree. True, I admired a lot of beautiful dresses, and the most fabulous shoes. Definitely fun every once in a while, and Cortina is the perfect place to do that.
Eat delicious food
A winter weekend in the Italian Alps – or actually, any weekend or any day in Italy – means eating good food. It’s just the way things are in this country: we enjoy quality food, and we are quite spoiled with it.
Needless to say, Cortina is packed with great restaurants and eateries, and sure enough, as in any proper winter vacation, we girls made the most of it.
For a great treat during a winter weekend, Al Camin is the top choice. This is an upscale restaurant a bit outside the center of the village, offering traditional dishes cooked with a modern twist. The results are outstanding: full of flavor, yet delicate. There’s a great wine selection too. It’s a place where both the locals and tourists love to go.
Al Passetto is a restaurant and pizzeria located close to the center of Cortina D’Ampezzo. It’s the kind of place that anybody should visit during weekend getaways: easygoing yet classy, friendly and cozy. There is a good selection of local dishes, grilled steaks, and pizzas of course. As well as fabulous desserts.
Prosciutteria Dok Dall’Ava is a rather easy going place to have a quick yet tasty lunch. It serves very good salads with cold cuts. It’s a good place to have aperitivo, as there’s a good wine selection – and any winter weeend in Italy has to include an aperitivo!
Stay at a fabulous hotel
A proper winter weekend deserves a good hotel. Besides, Margherita and I were in need of some pampering. So we treated ourselves to the gorgeous Ambra Cortina Hotel. It was an excellent choice.
Ambra Cortina is located in the center of the village and it is full of character. Rooms are located on 4 different levels, each one following a different style and different theme. I stayed at the nature level, where rooms are beautifully decorated in the tones of green. Mine also had a fantastic terrace. Other levels themes are theater, cinema, and fashion. I guess they reflect the essence of Cortina D’Ampezzo – the ultimate winter vacation destination in Italy.
The only word I have to describe the lobby area of Ambra Cortina is a wow. It’s just so stylish, so cozy, so in armony with the local atmosphere. There’s a gorgeous fireplace, comfortable chairs, and a bar that serves homemade snacks and great cocktails (remember I said that an aperitivo is a must when on a winter weekend in Italy).
Breakfast is served on the lower level, and there’s a lovely cold buffet which includes cold cuts, fruits, cereals as well as home made cakes and pastries. A hot brunch is also available. A good breakfast is the best way to start a ski day while on a winter weekend in the Italian Alps.
Needless to say, staff at Ambra Cortina is incredibly professional and kind. Yet, it is the owner Betty Dotto that is the true soul of this place. A strong, resilient woman who exudes passion in what she does, who has taken it upon her to bring what once was a small “pension” to its full splendor, and to being a favorite local hotel for winter weekend breaks in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Gearing up for a winter weekend in Cortina D’Ampezzo
Though we were quite lucky with the weather and never felt it was unbearably cold, I wholeheartedly recommend anybody who’s planning to go on a winter vacation to gear up appropriately. I don’t mean to suggest to pack every item in the closet. But packing smartly is a must.
As I literally traveled just for a winter weekend, I only packed my 40 liters Cabin Zero backpack. Here’s what was inside:
- A pair of ski pants – if planning to ski during a winter vacation, these are a must. Nothing else can substitute them.
- A ski jacket – better to have one with plenty of pockets to guard important belongings such as a smart phone (taking pictures on a winter weekend is a must!), a ski pass and the very necessary chapstick and sun block.
- Ski gloves, and a pair of extra gloves to wear when in not skiing.
- A hat and a scarf – it’s easy to see why I recommend them.
- A good pair of ski socks – they make wearing ski boots much more comfortable, and when skiing on a winter weekend it is important that feet are warm!
- Thermal underwear.
- A thermal top such as Alva by Kuhl, and on top of that wear a good fleece sweater.
- A proper winter weekend calls for some going out at night, so I recommend wearing some stylish yet comfortable clothes: a pair of cozy pants; a nice flannel shirt such as Greta Flannel shirt by Kuhl; the super warm Alska zip fleece sweather. Top it off with a fabulous extra jacket – I love the Artik Parka by Kuhl as it is cozy, comfortable, stylish and keeps me super warm.
- A pair of good walking boots.
- A pair of sunglasses, as the sun reflects pretty strongly in the snow.
Have you ever been on a winter weekend in Cortina D’Ampezzo? What did you like the most about it?
Legal Disclaimer – Margherita and I were guests of Hotel Ambra for the duration of our stay, however all the views expressed in this post are mine.