Cortina D'Ampezzo, the independent luxury ski resort that Claudia Cardinale enlivened in the original Pink Panther film, is the kind of place where Italian style continuously reinvents itself. Its varied slopes continue to both challenge professional skiers and delight royal dilettantes with a singular, ancient quality of spirit.
Cortina earned the nickname of "Queen of the Dolomites" by hosting royals, nobles and other members of high society throughout the centuries. Indeed, she has stood even as empires rose and fell around her. There have been settlements here that stretch back at least seven thousand years. Legend has it that the privileged young nobles of ancient Rome came here to see and been seen amid the savage beauty of the Southern Alps.
To fully experience la dolce vita, stack your skis beside little Rifugio Averau, one of the many magnificent mountain refuges that serve up authentic antipasti beneath the implacable glaciers. It stands slope side, with wide bay windows looking out over a sheer drop of 2,400m to the road below. Ski in, pose for the paparazzi and disappear down the mountain. You can even spend the night if you wish.
Back in town, stroll down the Corso Italia, a pedestrian street brimming with the sort of premium shops that do not carry price tags. At the edge of town, the most likely place to meet a reigning princess is at the Cristallo Hotel and Spa on Via Rinaldo Menardi. For well over 100 years, this timeless edifice has hosted royals, movie stars and celebrity CEOs with its hand-painted ceilings, dark boiserie and the eponymous crystal chandeliers.
When you are ready to discover what skiing can be, ride a horse-drawn lift and descend breathlessly past frozen icefalls, visit Cortina D'Ampezzo. She will be waiting, as silent and implacable as her stone cliffs among the Dolomites.