Cortina d’Ampezzo – Venelo, Italy
The Dolomite Drive
The drive through the majestic beauty of the sawtoothed peaks and needles of the Dolomite Mountains in the northern reaches of alpine Italy is to mountain lovers what the cliff-hugging Amalfi Coast is to fans of cerulean blue sea.
The 68-mile white-knuckle drive linking Bolzano and the premier ski resort town of Cortina is a study in road engineering, through an awe-inspiring mountainous landscape that comes as a shock to those who think of Italy as rolling vineyards and olive groves.
With the Passo del Pordoi (Pordoi Pass)—the heart of the mountain range—as its apogee, the road ends in Cortina, anointed the “Pearl of the Dolomites.” At close to 4,000 feet, it is Italy’s number one ski area and one of the best in Europe.
Given world-class status when the 1956 Winter Olympics were held here, it is actually an advanced intermediate’s paradise, with 95 miles of ski runs. But this is a sophisticated year-round resort where the bella gente of Rome and Milan come not only to ski and hike through the bracing, rugged countryside, but also to practice the art of il dolce far niente, the sybaritic pleasure of doing nothing.
Those who come to relax, shop, sleep late, enjoy two-hour lunches, people-watch—and perhaps squeeze in a little leisurely skiing—can do no better than to stay at the celebrated 100-year-old Miramonti Majestic Grand Hotel, a former Austro-Hungarian hunting lodge set in a magnificent mountain valley location on the outskirts of town.
Most of the rooms have balconies and captivating views, while inside, amid the alpine decor, a blazing hearth and cozy bar offering eighteen different kinds of hot chocolate keep things inviting.