The Renaissance of Cortina

Cortina d’Ampezzo was introduced to the world as the host of the 1956 Winter Olympics as these were the first games ever to be televised. The stunning backdrop to the competition caught the imagination of a global audience including filmmakers and stars who, over the ensuing decades, came to regard the town as their playground. 


The scene was set for the golden era of Cortina, with visitors reading like a Who’s Who of stage and screen, from Prima Donnas including Ingrid Bergman, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardo and Liz Taylor to David Niven, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda and Frank Sinatra. Blockbusters including “The Pink Panther” with Peter Sellers and “For your Eyes Only” with Roger Moore, only added to Cortina’s irresistible allure. Such silver-screen heritage continues into the modern era with Stallone’s “Cliffhanger” (1993) and Ron Howard’s Star Wars spin-off: Solo (2018), celebrating the other-worldly peaks of the Dolomite mountains.


The ‘Queen of the Dolomites’, as Cortina is affectionately known, has many secrets. Romans and Barbarians battled through her strategically important valleys, the Venetian Republic claimed ownership, before 400 years of Austro-Hungarian rule, coming to an end only after 3 years of bitter and ultimately futile battles in the Great War wasting the lives of a generation on a frozen front-line in the mountains high above the town. The Ampezzo valley was eventually ceded to Italy in 1920, but it remains today a fascinating melting pot; rooted in the Ladino culture of the early-middle ages, combined with the noble heritage of Habsburgs and Emperor Maximillian, mixed with the Mediterranean warmth of the Italians. 


Fast forward to today and Cortina is preparing to host the 2021 Alpine World Championships, and, with Milan, jointly host the 2026 Winter Olympics andWinter Paralympics. It’s a town undergoing nothing short of a revolution, as investment pours in, hotels enjoy face-lifts, new lift systems are finalised and the doors are swung open again to the world to showcase the extraordinary beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Cortina is again the place to be and be seen.



The surrounding trails, lakes and peaks of the Ampezzo valley offer anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors with a seemingly never-ending choice. Take any path from the centre of the town and within a couple of minutes you’ll be winding through meadows, taking in beautiful mountain scenery from every angle. There’s amazing hiking, biking, horse riding, bouldering and climbing all on the doorstep and the infrastructure is in place to access all these pursuits with guides and equipment all co-ordinated by Powder Byrne locally. And because the town and surrounding villages are all linked by cycling paths, it is incredibly easy to get around without the intrusion of cars, allowing you to really slow down. For families looking for a healthy and active escape we don’t think it can be beaten!


We believe the most unexpected adventure awaits for families who join us for a via ferrata tour during their stay. The slopes around the area are crisscrossed by dozens of iron cable ways which, accompanied by a local guide, can be navigated to give you a totally different connection and perspective of these stunning mountains. Each via ferrata route is different, some quite short and others much longer, some more of a gentle walk, others requiring skill and nerves of steel! We’ll design your experience to incorporate lunch at a beautiful mountain hut along the way, or even an overnight in a summer farm or Refugio if you want something truly memorable. 


Anyone who is reasonably fit and active can enjoy via ferrata, even people who are scared of heights. It’s great for active children and we’d recommend 8 years upwards as they do need to be able to take responsibility for their own safety as they move along the route, which are all graded by difficulty so we can design your experience accordingly. You will always be accompanied by an experienced local mountain guide who will help you and share all their local knowledge and stories. The equipment is very simple and easy to use for adults and children and we work with a great rental partner who will provide you with everything you need: helmet, gloves and harness and can advise on the best clothing and footwear. You are connected to the cable-way the entire time and it is amazing how safe and secure you feel on terrain that you might otherwise never have dreamed of attempting!


We recommend building your confidence on one of the more gentle routes, for example a half day’s adventure to the Fanes waterfalls. You can approach the waterfalls by e-bike (more on these later) with a gentle 1 hour ride from your hotel with your guide. You’ll then get into your harness and clip onto the via ferrata cable and follow the path for around an hour through beautiful scenery, eventually arriving at the waterfalls. On your return there are various options for lunch at one of the local mountain huts, or you can return to your hotel for an afternoon of relaxing in the spa. 


Once you have gained your confidence, you can embark on a full day programme. We recommend our local team drive you 20 minutes up the pass to Pass Val Parola, location of the largest open air museum from the First World War. The route starts with a walk up through a tunnel blown out of the mountain during the war, with the via ferrata taking you up through the Austrian army trenches, which brings the reality of mountain warfare to stark reality. The ascent takes 2 hours and you are rewarded with sensational views across Cortina and the surrounding peaks. After a one hour walk back down your guide can arrange lunch in a local refugio, access to the museum, or you can head back to Cortina to celebrate your achievements. If the kids still have energy to burn and want to brush up on their climbing skills, we can arrange a session at the enormous indoor climbing centre.

Please contact our travel consultants via the in-app message board to hear more about our new destination, Cortina.