When I think of mountains I think of snow, winter and skiing, I definitely don’t think of summertime. So why did we decide to visit Cortina in the Dolomites, which are actually part of the Alps, in the middle of August? Because the description had me 100% sold on going there! It was described as being a little bit of Switzerland in Italy with the most fabulous scenery. Cortina is incredibly popular during the winter months and it is the skiing destination for many of the world’s rich and famous, but in the summer months it is much quieter.
Cortina is approximately a 2 hour drive from Venice so we decided to do a day trip while we were staying in the area. The first leg of our journey was motorways and it was an easy drive with views over the fields of grapevines. The route took us through tunnels that were cut into the rock and as we came out at the other end the scenery changed dramatically. Suddenly we were surrounded by huge mountains that seemed to disappear into the clouds. The Dolomites are so stunning that UNESCO named them a World Heritage Site in 2009. The kids had fallen asleep thanks to our early start so we woke them to show them the view and the first thing both of them said was ‘wow!’. We stopped for some breakfast at a little cafe that had a terrace over looking a beautiful lake, before continuing our journey to Cortina.
As we got closer to Cortina the buildings started to change from traditional Italian design to looking more like they were from Switzerland and it felt like we had crossed the border into another country. The road wound its way into the mountains and we spotted the ski jump from the 1956 Winter Olympics high up on the hillside.
We parked up and went for a wander around the pretty town. There were little shops mixed in with more high-end boutiques and plenty of restaurants and coffee shops. There are also art galleries and museums with displays about the Olympics but unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit them as we were only there for the day. After spending some time in the town we rode the cable car to Rifugio Faloria 2123m up in the Dolimites where we were having lunch. Cable cars freak me out and I think I held my breath the whole way to the top because I was so scared, but it the views were worth getting scared for! As we stepped out onto the mountain my fear of heights kicked in big time and I was convinced that the wind was going to knock one of us off the side of the mountain. It took a while but eventually I felt at ease and was able to stand at the edge (there was a fence to stop you falling) and have a look at the view below – it was absolutely breathtaking! I’ve never seen views like that before and I’m so glad that I was able to experience that.
Rifugio Faloria faced away from Cortina and gave a view of the ski slopes (albeit with no snow on them due to the time of year). The weather was glorious and we sat outside to soak up the views and the sunshine. The food was delicious and there was so much of it we were all stuffed, I could have happily had a snooze in one of the deckchairs but Mark and the kids wanted to go exploring. Cortina has been used as the backdrop for many films, including Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone and the setting for one of the scenes was just a few minutes walk from where we had lunch. We found it easily and after spending some time looking around it was time to board the cable car and return to the bottom of the mountain.
Cortina was absolutely beautiful and I would have loved to stay longer as there was so much that we didn’t get to see or do. If I have the opportunity to go back I would love to spend some time seeing the museums and galleries and the World War One encampment, not forgetting a visit to one of the spas for some rest and relaxation.
Is Cortina worth visiting in the summer months? – Absolutely!
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