Cortina d’Ampezzo, or the Queen of the Dolomites, is a stunningly fashionable and luxurious ski resort in the north of Italy, about two hours away from Venice. It hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics and ever since it has etched its name in the ski resort hall of fames. If you are visiting nearby Venice in the south, you should definitely stop for a weekend ski holiday in Cortina d’Ampezzo to take advantage of what this pretty town offers.
Since 2009 this area, including the Dolomites Mountains surrounding the town, are under UNESCO World Heritage Protection, making a visit feel even more special.
I flew to Treviso Airport from London with Ryanair for £42 return, booking the flight three months in advance. I rented a car in Treviso from Goldcar through Argus Car Hire and drove to Cortina for a weekend of skiing. Driving from Venice to Cortina d’Ampezzo takes about two hours on the Motorway A27 directly north.
I was staying at the Hotel Ambra Cortina in the heart of Cortina d’Ampezzo thanks to the generosity of its owner Elisabetta Dotto. I met Elisabetta, or the locanderia (innkeeper) of Hotel Ambra at the World Travel Market in London in November. After a short chat she offered a couple of nights at her place to review for this blog which I gladly accepted! I love skiing and this hotel is only a ten minute bus ride from the slopes so it was a great occasion to visit.
Elisabetta also gave me and my friend a VIP pass to the World Ski Championship which was on that very weekend! On top of this, we also got a free pass for the ski lift, a dinner invitation for the first night, a bottle of champagne in the room and some oysters on the second night.
Inside the Hotel Ambra
The Hotel Ambra is extremely stylish, fitted with luxurious materials according to the taste of Elisabetta. As you enter the hotel the reception will be on your right, facing the bar and lobby area. The lobby is where you will find Elisabetta, sitting in the evenings, talking to the many guests.
Elisabetta has run the Hotel Ambra for ten years, decorating every wall with stylish art and filling all the rooms with sumptuous furniture. Going up to the room there was artwork at every turn of the stairs, representing Elisabetta’s style.
Inside the room called “Sissy” was a huge double bed, an LCD TV and lots of wood panels covering the walls. I especially liked the soft bed sheets and the thick curtains, blocking out the light completely.
There was also plenty of storage, a minibar and a safe as well as lots of magazines in the room. The bathroom was spacious with a sink, a toilet and a bidet as well as two shower heads for comfort. The towels were very soft and each room comes with a thick bathrobe to warm you up after a long day of skiing.
Breakfast At Hotel Ambra
The breakfast was downstairs in a cosy room serving continental and cooked breakfast. There was lots of artwork even in the breakfast room, in particular many lovely oil paintings.
I had breakfast tea with lemon (the Italian style), a glass of fresh orange juice, two croissants and a toast with scrambled eggs for the first morning. I then noticed they put a fresh carrot cake on display so I had to have a slice of that too!
The second morning I decided to double up the scrambled egg portion as it was super tasty and I also had a jam-filled croissant, a toast with nutella, orange juice and tea. I was completely stuffed both mornings but everything was super delicious so I just couldn’t resist!
Ski Hire in Cortina d’Ampezzo
The Snow Service Ski Center is a rental shop in the heart of Cortina d’Ampezzo, five minutes from the main bus stop in town and just opposite the Hotel Ambra. Guests of the hotel get a 10% discount on all ski equipment which you then carry to the bus stop or order a taxi to take you to the base of the hill.
Here I rented a pair of boots, skis and a helmet for €31.50 for a day of skiing in the Italian Dolomites. The staff were super friendly and the system was very seamless. I walked in and the manager told me to register my details at the computer. After this I had to sit down in the corner and they brought out a pair of boots and helmet to try on. Once this was out of the way I received the skis, we paid and we were on our way! All this took about 10 minutes and believe me the shop is always busy!
Ready to Ski in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The main square of Cortina , along with Corso Italia, the main shopping street in town, is a 2 minute walk away from the rental shop and the hotel. It is here where you can catch bus 3 and 3a to Socrepes (the beginner slopes) and bus 8 to the Teleferico (difficult slopes).
Socrepes is about 10 minutes away from Cortina by bus, offering slopes for the less experienced. It is here you can learn to stand on the skis, walk and slide down the baby slopes. The views are absolutely breathtaking on either side of the ski lift and if you are lucky the sun will be shining like it did when I was there.
The Dolomites completely dominate the area and are now protected under UNESCO World Heritage status. The best way to check out the mountains and the amazing views from them is to take the Teleferico (Cabin) up to the top of the mountain. You can catch the cable car from Via del Castello, or as others call it TOFANA.
Another option is to catch the chair lift at Socrepes, slide down through the forest route, and arrive at the Teleferico that way. The cable car will then take you up to the top of the mountain at more than 2,800 meter height.
As you are ascending Cortina will be behind you in the valley or in front of you as you stand at the edge or the cliff.
The Other Rooms at Hotel Ambra
During my second day Elisabetta showed me some of the other rooms, including the upstairs double where only a glass panel separates the bathroom from the bedroom – making for a special experience for the guests. Elisabetta designed each floor in a different style, so as a result almost every room is completely different. Some of them have darker wood panels, while the others are more light, with white marble in the bathroom and a softer wooden floor.
My favourite room was most definitely the top floor room with a the painted woman on the wall and the glass panel separating the bathroom from the bedroom. The views from this room were also spectacular, overlooking the square in front and the crowning beauty of the region: the Dolomites!