Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dobbiaco and Cortina d'Ampezzo

Lago Dobbiaco is nestled in the picturesque Dolomites on the Italy/Austria border.  Dobbiaco, Toblach in German, is a city in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy. Every year, Dobbiaco hosts an annual Balloon Festival. We missed it by a weekend, but there were still a few balloons in the air.

Cross country ski trails abound all the way from Dobbiaco to Cortina d'Ampezzo. We picked the trail that started alongside the lake and wound around a half frozen creek. The trees all had a sprinkling of snow and the snow on the ground was covered in a crystallized blanket.

After cross country skiing for about 3 to 4 miles, we watched the locals having a blast playing some form of curling on the frozen lake. Someone had even arrived to take part in the fun on their horse-drawn sleigh! And what Italian winter event would be complete without some vin brule (hot mulled wine)?

Hungry from our workout skiing, we stopped for lunch at Lago Landro, which was also completely frozen over with a cross country ski trail running straight across it. Being on the Austria border, the menu offered a mix of Italian and German fare. We sampled vegetable goulash, stuffed baked potatoes, and wurstel.

Next stop was the town of Cortina d'Ampezzo, which hosted the 1956 Winter Olympic Games. Encircled  360° by the Dolomites and known for its' scenery, winter sports, and skiing, it is no wonder Cortina has had many major motion pictures filmed there. Much of 1963 classic The Pink Panther was filmed there, one of the memorable James Bond stunt sequences in 1981's For Your Eyes Only was filmed on its slopes, as were several scenes in the film Cliffhanger.

The Olympic Ski Jump, Ice Stadium, and Bobsled Run from the 1956 Winter Olympic Games are still there and all are still in use for annual World Cups and World Championships. The Ice Stadium is also open to the public for ice skating. 

To see all of our pictures from Dobbiaco and Cortina, visit:

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Leaving the pouring rain behind in the Friuli region, we headed to clear blue skies in Milan, Lombardy. Our first stop was Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church famous for containing the mural of Da Vinci's Last Supper. We were hoping to get tickets to see the Last Super but having been before, I knew it was a slim chance. The Last Supper was, of course, sold out with no cancellations. Santa Maria delle Grazie is quite interesting in and of itself. The night of August 15, 1943, bombs dropped by British and American planes hit the church and the convent. Much of the refectory was destroyed, but some walls survived, including the one that holds the Last Supper, which had been sand-bagged for protection.

After a quick lunch, and I do mean quick, at the Mercanti Caffe, we were off to the Milan Duomo. The Duomo is the 4th largest church in the world at 157 metes long. A series of large canvases, the Quadroni, are currently exhibited along the nave in honor of the birthdate of the San Carlo Borromeo. For  a small fee, you can climb a very narrow and winding staircase up to the roof of the Cathedral for a bird's eye view of its 3,500 spires. The main spire was topped in 1762 with a polychrome statue of the Madonna, to whom the Duomo and its predecessor have always been dedicated.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II links the Piazza della Duomo on the south to the Piazza della Scala on the north. Named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of united Italy, it was originally designed in 1861 and built by Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. Many designers such as Prada and Louis Vuittion reside inside, along with restaurants and cafes.

Right in the center of the Galleria is Paul Cocksedge’s installation “Kiss”. This is a large-scale installation in form of a mistletoe for the “Ottagono”. The installation will be a celebration of love and affection as well as a charitable event. Covered in LED lights, the inside dome of the galleria will light up when two persons kiss or caress under a mistletoe, activated by the conductive properties of human skin. Each time this occurs, in spirit of the Christmas season, a sum will be donated to charity which will illuminate the facade of the Galleria. There is a special counter that will count the number of kisses, and each kiss will be turned into 1€deposited into an account of the association Cesvi. The hope is to raise at least one hundred thousand euros, a figure that will help Uganda’s sixteen thousand children who daily suffer from hunger. The special installation will be on display December 6th - January 10th. Tim and I were kiss number 23,880.

Next we wandered down Via Dante toward the Castello Sforzesco, which used to be the seat and residence of the ruling family of Milan in the 14th century and now houses several of the city's museums and art collections. The castle was severely damaged as a result of the allied bombardment of Milan in 1943 during World War II and reconstruction was undertaken by the BBPR. The Sforza family coat of arms remains on the round tower. On special display until January 10th is the Madama Butterfly exhibition with a larger than life geisha flanking the castle garden.

And of course while in Milan, you can't help but notice the designers on every street. From the hip big screens replaying Vivienne Westwood's spring show in her boutique and showroom to the LV monogram of Louis Vuitton glittering in the boutique's window, it's no wonder Milan is the fashion capital of the world.

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