Travel: Top 20 resorts: Cortina d'Ampezzo

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The Independent Travel
FOUR separate ski areas, none of them big, linked by an erratic bus service? You must be joking. That might have been my reaction a decade ago, if someone had suggested a holiday in a resort like Cortina. My priority then was high-mileage piste-bashing. Today, the mellow charm of Cortina seems far more compelling.

Cortina is the most Italian of resorts, which gives it a head start in my book: the 'frontier' with the German-speaking part of the Dolomites (what was the Sud Tirol) is a good few miles away. It is a holiday resort, rather than a weekend dormitory for thousands of Torinesi and Milanesi. And it is Italy's smartest, which adds an amusing people-watching element.

The skiing has something for everyone, from extensive 'green' runs (with abundant artificial snow) to exciting couloirs of the classical Dolomitic kind, plunging down between towers of rock. Mountain restaurants are numerous, and the best excellent.

But the key attraction is the scenery, which is simply breathtaking. Whichever ski area you are in, you look across the town to spectacular pink-grey spires and crags, soaring out of forests and snowfields. If ever there was a resort where you are encouraged to lift your eyes from your ski tips, this is it.

CHRIS GILL'S VERDICT: Cortina offers a lesson in what a holiday amid skiing mountains can be once you start to focus more on quality of life and less on quantity of miles covered. No one rushes for the first cable-car here; many of the 'mountain' restaurants are accessible by car, so if you're very late up, you can cut out the pre-lunch skiing altogether.

(Photograph omitted)