Ciao from Cortina: Time to travel
February 24, 2015
Cortina, Italy — Unfortunately, my husband's hockey team managed to lose the first round of playoffs last week. Now his season is over — in February. No one has ever heard of a hockey season being over in the middle of winter.
In Italy, when anything bad happens, it's not just unfortunate or bad luck; it's un disaster — a disaster. So for awhile last week, we sat around feeling really sorry for ourselves. But then we realized that we've never been in Italy for two months with absolutely nothing to do.
First, my husband did what any good Steamboat native would do: he went skiing. Then, we planned a trip.
When Americans think of Italy, they think of a country with layers of history and culture (they're thinking of Rome), fresh pasta, homemade olive oil and the best red wine they've ever had (now they're thinking of Florence). They think of seaside towns built up precariously on the side of a rocky cliff (anywhere on the Amalfi Coast) or dark-haired Italian men scooting around on Vespas, wearing expensive leather shoes (OK, anywhere in Italy).
For a country that only takes about 13 hours to drive from top to bottom, there is an incredible amount of diversity from region to region.
For example, in Cortina, we don't get any of the things that I just mentioned. Compared to other cities in Italy, Cortina has only been on the map for a very brief period of time. In fact, it wasn't even part of Italy until 1923 when Austria handed it over after World War I.
We have completely different wines than what you find in Tuscany, and while there is plenty of fresh pasta, it's usually accompanied by a ragu sauce made of venison rather than briny clams with tons of garlic and parsley. The houses aren't pink and yellow and orange like you see in Cinque Terre; they're wooden and Alpine and all have huge, wrap-around decks where you can sit outside and gaze at the mountains.
One of the best things about Italy is that every region is so completely different, that it would be nearly impossible to get bored of the country as a whole. Unlike America, where you can eat fresh oysters in Colorado and bison in Massachusetts, the different Italian regions pride themselves on being the only place in Italy where you can eat fried artichokes for lunch or drink a Bombardino after skiing.
And as a result, each region has a different feel culturally, socially, architecturally and gastronomically.
Due to my husband's (normal) hockey season, we haven't been able to travel too far away from Cortina for long periods of time. In four years, we've seen and done a lot, but the farthest south we've ever been is to Rome. But now, there is so much of this country to be discovered; so many pizza margherita to taste, hill towns to explore, beaches to lie on and locals to meet.
In my opinion, losing in the playoffs isn't un disastro, but un miracolo – a miracle. Sardinia, here we come.
Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer living in Cortina, Italy, where her husband and Steamboat native, Ryan, plays professional ice hockey. While in Italy, she loves to eat, cook, explore and drink red wine. You can follow her adventures online at http://www.sophiedingle.blogspot.com.