Winter Playground

ACI  551517Polo in the snow and the 4 p.m. passeggiata: The rich and beautiful play in the Italian Alps.

Written and photographed by Arden Ward Upton


Cortina, Veneto, Italy has been known as the winter retreat for celebrities and Europe’s most stylish for years. Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Sophia Loren have all graced the magnificent slopes and gave Cortina its allure in the 50s and 60s. This allure continues with the Italian flare for style and leisure, and Cortina has become the cold-weather hotspot for the young and fashionable from around the globe. The Aprés Ski scene is fashion at its best. You will feel like the town center doubles for a runway show after a morning of skiing and the ritual siesta from 1–4 p.m. (you might find this frustrating to start, as I did, but soon you will wish we had this here at home.) After 4 p.m., the ritual of passeggiata begins. Passeggiata is the art of strolling about to be seen before dinner. To fully understand this custom, you have to think like an Italian: It is better to look great than be on time; it is better to have one amazing statement item in your wardrobe than to have a closet full of less-than items. They believe in presenting themselves well. Italian women take pride in their appearances to a whole new level. Their femininity exudes pure confidence as they stroll through the town. 

Cortina is home to 746 miles of ski runs that travel through 12 valleys. This is the No. 1 factor as to why the 1956 Winter Olympics were located here, a crowning glory for the small town. The slopes are not the only winter activity Cortina d’Ampezzo has to offer. “The sport of kings”—otherwise known as polo—is played here. The Polo Gold Cup is held in the town every year. Quite fitting it seems, as Cortina is regarded as “the queen of the Dolomites.” Snow Polo is a not-to-be missed fashion and social event during the winter season. The teams have players from all over Europe and South America. They are often celebrities in their own right, such as UK’s Jack Kidd (brother to Jodi Kidd, European supermodel). He also plays for England. While at the polo matches, I met barons and countesses. It felt like a modern-day Italian version of Downton Abbey.

For centuries, Italians have been known to have a knack for leisure and dining. The four-star Hotel de la Poste is located in the town center and boasts stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It offers an authentic Italian experience rich with history and tradition. De la Poste also includes two renowned restaurants and the famous American Bar specializing in international cocktails. Restaurant Tivoli is Michelin-starred and gives Cortina its other reputation of fine dining and exemplary culinary experience. Tivoli features exquisite mountain dishes and classic multi-course meals. It is easy to see that in Italy, style takes precedence in all forms and fashions.

Fulfill your New Year travel resolutions early, and book a trip to Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Queen is calling your name.

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