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Posts Tagged ‘Trentino alto adige’

Corso Italia in Cortina with Dolomites in the background

Just a few final notes on picture-perfect Cortina in case you’re thinking of planning a trip there (you should).

We stayed at the Hotel Corona, which is a 10-minute walk from the pedestrianized center of Cortina.  Our group booked the hotel through a travel agent, who definitely exaggerated its virtues.  Jon and I paid £200 a night for half-board, meaning breakfast and dinner were included.  On the plus side, there’s a ski bus stop right in front of the hotel, and the owner/manager is super helpful and speaks perfect English, as did a waitress in the hotel restaurant who we came to enjoy speaking with.  On the down side, the rooms were pretty spare (we were put in an Annex to the hotel) and we didn’t value having a hotel-provided dinner, though out of laziness and a sense that it would be a waste of money otherwise, we ate in the hotel most nights.  The meals provided weren’t bad, but they weren’t memorable, either.

If I were choosing a hotel based solely on location (and knowing nothing else about these hotels), I thought the Hotel Cortina and the Hotel de la Poste were ideally situated, smack in the middle of Cortina’s pedestrianized Corso Italia.

piste taking us back into town

Jon and I are unambitious skiers, so we prioritized finding (1) long, scenic, easy trails (of which there are plenty in Cortina) and (2) delicious lunches (of which there are plenty in Cortina).  The views in all directions were gorgeous; the  snow was powdery; and the sun shone bright on most days of our trip.  We lucked out tremendously.  And the private instructor who helped refresh our skills encouraged us to ski the easy slopes around the Olimpia lift (just west of the main Socrepes lift), and he was, of course, dead right.  The slopes were beautiful and empty despite the high-season crowds on the surrounding slopes (though not even those slopes felt particularly crowded).

Ski passes for all the Cortina lifts/mountains are sold at an office near the bus station just north of the town center (near the Faloria gondola) and in high season cost about 45 euros a day, decreasing in daily cost as you increase the number of days on your ski pass.

spaghetti alla bottarga at Leone & Anna

The two nights we ate dinner in “downtown” Cortina were pretty eh experiences, and one was an expensive enough mistake that I figure I’ll put future diners on warning:

Leone & Anna came highly recommended by a friend of a friend.  And on TripAdvisor, it was rated the best restaurant out of 24 in Cortina.  Because the place is Sardinian, I thought the food would be a nice change from the heavier Northern Italian fare we’d been eating the previous nights, so I booked it.

Our group of seven took a taxi there (it’s about an 8-euro ride  from the center of Cortina), and when we sat down, there were plates of antipasti already laid out on the table.  Initially, I thought it was just a generous offering covered by coperto, but not only were the antipasti not free, but also servers kept appearing with more, and we didn’t know how to say “no.”  Most of the antipasti tasted fine, but the total bill for antipasti alone came to 70 euros, which annoyed me.  I would’ve preferred ordering what we liked from the menu, rather than having the burden of having to turn un-asked-for food away.  It all seemed a bit tricky by the resto.  Although I enjoyed my spaghetti alla bottarga, prices were well in the 20+ euros range for main courses.  Overall, not happy with the experience, especially for 69 euros a person for antipasti, a main course, and three cheap bottles of wine.

Apes-Ski in Cortina

In terms of apres-ski, when the lifts shut down at 4:30 pm, skiers would stick around at nearby rifugios for a beer, but even those rifugios shut down soon afterwards (and the ski bus back into Cortina center became very infrequent).

Back in Cortina center, we dropped by a few bars (some of which came highly recommended) , but most of the spaces were small and therefore quickly grew packed.

Places that we tried for apres-ski:

Cristallino Disco Bar:  While this place had a lot of attitude on Saturday night (in a bad way), in reality it was just a waiting area for those who wanted to head over to VIP Club once it opened at 11:30.  On other evenings, though, if you ignored the ever-turning, slightly-depressing disco ball, the place had a nice, relaxed apres-ski feel.  A surprise winner for a weeknight drink.

Enoteca Brio Duino:  A small enoteca, so get there early to snag a booth.  The charcuterie and cheeses made for great snacking, as did the range of local wines on offer.  About ten minutes after we sat down at a booth, the place became extremely crowded with a mix of people dressed in sporty ski togs and elegant outfits (the older Italian ladies dressed in their furs were so retro I couldn’t help smiling).

The bar at Hotel de la Poste:  We dropped by on Saturday evening and discovered it was (1) pretty dead and (2) populated exclusively by the 50-and-over crowd.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but just not our age demographic.

LP 26:  Bigger than most places in Cortina and recognizable by the hams hanging in the windows.  Not especially chic or lively despite the tables being full, but at least they serve beer and there are customers in theirs 20s and 30s there.

VIP Club at Hotel Europa:  this was supposed to be *the* place to be on Saturday night, opening at 11:30 pm.  So we showed up at around midnight and discovered the act of the evening was country music-sounding.  Not what we were expecting.

Cortina was a great destination for skiing, and based on our lunches, it was a superior place for eating.  Dinners in town weren’t half as impressive as the food offered on the slopes, and apres-ski was pretty quiet, but even so, I’d go back in a hearbeat.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also enjoy reading about Baita Pie’ Tofana, a rifugio serving top-notch food in Cortina.

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Baita Pie Tofana, a rifugio (hut) near the Rumerlo chair lift

Jon and I spent last week skiing in Cortina d’Ampezzo and despite some residual soreness (seriously, I must have thighs of steel now), I loved every minute of our trip.

I grew up skiing almost once a week in the ultra-icy Poconos, which means that while I know how to ski, I have long associated the sport with anything except glamor and fun.  But when our friend, Jane, proposed a group ski trip and responded enthusiastically to the idea of going to Cortina, I jumped at the chance to experience a little dolce vita on the slopes.  Cortina, several friends had told me, was a great place to ski if you value eating as much as (or more than) skiing.

And just 24 hours after we’d booked our flights to Venice, this article (“Fresh Powder Meets Fine Dining in Cortina d’Ampezzo”) appeared in the New York Times travel section.  Thus validating the feeling that we were on to a good thing.

As the article describes, in Cortina, there are lots of rifugios (huts) where you can eat on the slopes.   A few Cortina rifugios serve what you’d expect at a ski resort – sausages, schnitzel, french fries – all self-service on trays.  But others, like the ones written up in that New York Times article, serve high-quality, delicious northern Italian food, sometimes on white tablecloths.

The rifugio that caught our fancy so much that we ate lunch there three times was, surprisingly, not mentioned in the New York Times article:  Baita Pie’ Tofana.

A friend of a friend owns a house in Cortina, and he recommended Baita Pie’ Tofana as not just the best rifugio in the mountains, but also the best restaurant in Cortina.  So despite having to ski down a few steeper-than-we’d-like bits to reach Baita Pie’ Tofana, Jon and I showed up for lunch on Day 1 of our ski trip, and three lunches later, Baita Pie’ Tofana holds a special place in our hearts.

radicchio and speck salad dressed in balsamic vinegar (16.50 euros)

Our favorite starter was a warm salad comprised of radicchio and speck, both popular local ingredients.  Setting aside the axiom that all things cooked with bacon are winners, this salad was a masterpiece of textures and flavors.  The mildly-bitter, crunchy radicchio complemented and balanced out the crispy speck and tangy-sweet vinegar.  Of course, eating it outside on a sunny deck with views of the mountains and to a soundtrack of happy Italian diners helps.  Perfetto.

speck and aubergine gnocchi (12.50 euros)

Given the kitchen’s masterful way with speck, it’s no surprise that I also loved Pie’ Tofana’s homemade, pillowy-soft gnocchi with speck and aubergine.

casunziei all'ampezzana (beetroot-filled ravioli) (12.50 euros)

I’m not a lover of beetroot and left to my own devices wouldn’t order it when there is speck on offer, but casunziei all’ampezzana is the local specialty, so Jon and I gave it a try.  The beetroot filling was, as expected, sugary, but the dish was saved from cloying sweetness by salty Parmesan and nutty poppy seeds.

bigoli (bucatini) (12.50 euros)

Everyone loves a mountain of snowy Parmesan curls on their rustic bigoli served in a spicy tomato sauce, no?

tagliatelle with veal sweetbreads and black truffle (18 euros)

And on our last day in Cortina, we pushed the boat out and ordered the tagliatelle with veal sweetbreads and black truffle.  The kitchen was generous with the black truffle, and the woody-mushroom shavings mixed well with the creamy sweetbreads.  Definitely not your everyday ski fare.

ossobuco with saffron risotto (22 euros)

Ossobuco needs no introduction, but Baita Pie’ Tofana’s version included the biggest portion of marrow-in-the-bone that it has ever been my pleasure to scoop out and savor.  And because I was skiing in between meals, there was no guilt.  Score.

il coniglio (21 euros)

Despite its somewhat bizarre presentation (i.e., the rabbit bacon cone shoved into the polenta mound), Il Coniglio (rabbit served three ways) was another standout.  There were roasted rabbit ribs and a juicy, meaty portion of rabbit loin stuffed with rabbit liver.

mignardises

And there can’t be many places on the slopes that end your meal with mignardises.

Jon and I loved eating at Pie’ Tofana.  It wasn’t just the food that won us over, but also the unique experience of sitting down for a fine meal dressed in grubby, sweaty ski clothes while taking in the mountain scenery and sunshine.  Servers were always polite and professional, and by Lunch Number 2, they gave us a lot less attitude for not having made a reservation in advance.

The only downside to Pie’ Tofana was the price tag.  For the quality, the food was reasonably-priced, but I’ll admit I was annoyed by the 5-euro-per-person coperto (a bit high, I thought) and 4.50 per bottle of water (because God forbid you can successfully order tap water in Italy).  Jon and I generally each had a pasta and shared a main and starter.  With a shared glass of wine, our lunch tabs averaged 65-70 euros for two.

So if you’re an easy-going skier but a champion eater, get thee to Cortina, and be sure to stop by Baita Pie’ Tofana.

Baita Pie’ Tofana, Cortina d’Ampezzo, at the base of the Rumerlo chair lift and easily reachable from the easy slopes of Socrepes; +39 0436 4258.  [And Cortina is a relatively-straightforward 2-hour drive north from Venice Marco Polo Airport.]

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