A vacation at the Queen of the Dolomites can become the perfect occasion to discover the identity of a territory rich in fascinating traditions and knowledge, passed down from generation to generation.
August is the perfect month for this journey back in time, made of ancient Fires and Bonfires, hikes at sunset all the way to the refuges where you can enjoy the typical dishes of the Ampezzo cuisine, readings and visits to the Ethnographic Museum to discover the ancient arts and customs of the area, and the must-see Festa de ra Bandes (festival of the bands), organised by Cortina d’Ampezzo’s Musical Band.
The traditions of the Ampezzo valley come from a simple and modest life: daily life in a mountain valley, in an environment that is both fascinating and harsh, has taught the locals to value anything that can bring mutual help, a sense of community and belonging. The habits in the Ampezzo area are very similar to those of the other Ladin and Tyrolean valleys, as they share a centuries-long history. Every life event has brought customs that were passed down, many of religious nature.
One of the most ancient, and little known today, is the Fires of Saint Mary: the bonfires that are lit every year in the evening of 14th August, on the eve of the Assumption, on the fields of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The night is also lit up by an “M” made of torches laid on slope of Tofana and clearly visible from the entire valley, honouring Saint Mary.
It is an ancient tradition, related to propitiatory fires, and later to summer celebrations related to the Feriae Augusti, established from the year 18 BCE.
To celebrate this custom, the Hotel Villa Argentina, in the evening of the 14th August, will light a Great Bonfire on the garden next to the refuge (in Pocol along the Great Road of the Dolomites, only a few kilometres from the Giau and Falzarego Dolomite passes). The evening event is open to everyone and will feature traditional music and the Alpine horn, together with a dessert buffet paired with wines and spirits (for further information call 0436 5641 or write to [email protected].
If you want to set out to discover Cortina’s local traditions in August, after The Fires of the Holy Mary, don’t miss Cortina’s tasty cuisine.
The Queen of the Dolomites has always been a bridge between cultures and entails all the great flavours of Veneto and Tyrol, which competed throughout history for the area. Both traditions are present to this date in its cuisine. All the typical dishes and much more can be enjoyed in the numerous restaurants and the typical refuges that match them with a passion for the mountains and breathtaking landscapes. The most typical and best known Ampezzo dish is called casunziei, namely halfmoon-shaped ravioli that can be red if filled with beetroot, or green if spinach or edible herbs that naturally grow in fields in spring are used.
The fava bean is also a popular local product with which the faariesa used to be made: a soup of dried fava beans, smoked meat and potatoes. The fava beans were picked and then left to ripen on the arfe, large hayracks present in every household, which went on to become historic symbols of the valley. Another dish from Tyrol are the canederli, dumplings made of bread cut into small dice and filled with speck and spinach, served in broth or with melted butter. Also the spätzle, small green gnocchi seasoned with cream and speck, typical of transalpine tradition, have become a well-established part of the local cuisine. Many polenta-based dishes come from the Veneto cuisine.
A perfect occasion to discover some of these ancient and delicious dishes, during the Ampezzo summer, is the candle lit Via Ferrata, organised by Cortina’s Alpine Guides together with the Pomedes Refuge, on 19th and 20th August. You’ll go up to the Ferrata Ra Pegna on the Schuss of the Tofane at sunset, along the two wonderful towers near the most demanding part of the track, which will host the World Ski Championships and the ski races of the Olympic Games: the perfect place to enjoy the sunset over Cortina d’Ampezzo. After reaching the refuge’s terrace, enjoy a special apéritif, followed by a dinner featuring our typical dishes (information and bookings on www.guidecortina.com).
From taste to tradition
Not everyone knows that filigree is an ancient tradition passed down from generation to generation by the artisans of Cortina d’Ampezzo, who created masterpieces that have been known all over Europe ever since the mid-1800s. For many years valuable objects and jewellery have been made in filigree that are sought by many tourists, but also by the women of the Ampezzo valley, who used them to decorate the typical Ampezzo dress. This dress is still worn today following the rules from the past, women decorate their hairdo, called ciou, with small and complex hair clips, called tremui, tie their apron, called palegren, with special, artisan-made clips, called zoletes, or close their tissue, called tul, with a pin, called pontapeto.
Today there is only one artisan left in town who makes filigree the traditional way. But some of these precious jewels are displayed at the Ethnographic Museum of the Regole d’Ampezzo,which is worth a visit to discover the roots of Ampezzo and the customs of its inhabitants: in the two rooms you will find not only filigree jewels, but also ancient utensils and tools used in agriculture, silviculture and pastoralism in the area.
Artworks and artisan-made objects made of metal, wrought iron, copper and religious art objects are displayed here. You will see the traditional clothes of the Ampezzo tradition and a faithful miniature model of the typical house in Ampezzo. This museum is a tangible example of how Cortina has been able to safeguard throughout the years its cultural heritage and remember its own origins.
The Ampezzo valley has always carefully protected artisan techniques that were instead forgotten elsewhere. These are regularly updated and supported through the great synergy that unites local artisanship and architecture. Starting from the Industrial School at the beginning of the 1900s, Cortina has always invested in excellence. The Industrial School later became an Art School (a one-of-a-kind educational institution, founded in 1846) and collected the experience of the local workers, through which it has trained generations of excellent artisans. The following development of tourism and construction found fertile ground here, stimulated by the high quality of execution that has always been demanded by clients from Cortina. Here, home is a typical example of well-being, quality and harmony and has achieved high levels of beauty. Traditional techniques and materials from the Dolomites have been used once again and modified with creativity and great precision: furniture, decorations, objects made with the marquetry technique called tarkashi or with carved horn, wood, wrought iron, stoves, glass and fabrics. These experienced a new Renaissance, supported by clients with good taste, great culture and sensitivity. Everyone wanted to home the valley’s charm and harmony, the traits of the spontaneous Alpine architecture, the simple and harmonious furniture. The toulàs,traditional barns with their decoration, the cedar chests, the stue, traditional living rooms with engraved ceilings and the masterfully decorated architraves led to unmatched design and artisanship skills. Designers and artisans from the Ampezzo valley work not only in the small but demanding area of the Dolomites, but all over Italy, in Switzerland, all the way to Moscow and Dubai. Great international figures such as Edoardo Gellner and Luigi Vietti visited the valley and were fascinated by it, thus deciding to create buildings of great historical and cultural value here. Rural architecture is also very important in the Veneto mountains and in Cortina, where some of these original houses draw the attention of both scholars and enthusiasts.
Another pillar of the Ampezzo valley’s history and traditions is the Cortina d’Ampezzo Musical Band, founded in 1861. After more than 150 years, the long-standing association is one of the symbols of the Queen of the Dolomites: an important reference for the entire local community, which entertains tourists and locals with its music.
Many events in August will feature exhibitions of the Musical band: for example, the Assumption concert on 15th August in Piazza Dibona, or on 18th August in Piazza Dibona the opening concert for the Festa de ra Bandes, a musical event (promoted by the Musical Band) that lightens up the streets of Cortina in the last week of August, bringing together more than 25 bands and folk groups from Italy and from abroad. It’s the perfect occasion to celebrate all traditions.
Click here for a selection of photos.
For further information:
Cortina Marketing – Foreign Markets Office
Eleonora Colli – [email protected]
Francesco Corte Colò – [email protected]
t. +39 0436 866252