A-Z of resorts: Cortina

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The Independent Travel

Despite spawning the name of a suburban saloon car, Cortina deserves its place among the elite Alpine resorts such as St Moritz and Kitzbühel – places where there's as much fur on the guests as on the animals in the woods. Its setting, in the Italian Dolomites, cannot be beaten. Zermatt has one great view – over the Matterhorn; Cortina is surrounded by ragged peaks that reflect the ambient light to create a day-long laser show of pink and red and orange.

Night-time can be equally dazzling, as the beautiful people of northern Italy come out to play. It starts early evening, as in any town in the country, with the passagiata: under the guise of doing some shopping, everyone dons their Prada and Versace to stroll at sub-Oxford Street pace down the pedestrianised Corso Italia. They pause to chat by shop windows laden with haute couture undies and jewellery with a lire price the length of your skis. They stop off for an espresso and biscotti at Lovat, or pop into the Post Bar, where the crisps are home-cooked and the tomato juice in your Bloody Mary is freshly squeezed. And they often end up in the Enoteca, a homely, wood-panelled wine bar-cum-offie – the trick is to taste a few glasses before plumping on the bottles you take home for dinner.

Food is another of Cortina's strong points – and it's not all flash dining for the overburdened of wallet. Game and pasta dishes you'll never find in your local trattoria and piles of grilled vegetables – these are the staples of the fantastic mid-range restaurants to be found here.

And the skiing? Well, it feels good skiing among these beautiful rocks. If you have a Ford Cortina or any other kind of car, a Superski Dolomiti pass gives you access to lots of different areas (Faloria, Cristallo and Tofana from the town; Cinque Torri and Lagazuoi just outside; and 11 other resorts including the Sella Ronda). It's ideal cruising country for intermediates who want to relax, take in the views and enjoy a long lunch. However, there are few challenges for the more daring, or indeed for snowboarders, and the snow is not exactly dependable. Still, if you like to carve fast turns, the slopes are empty after midday as that three-hour lunch begins and thoughts turn to the outfit for tonight's passagiata.

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