Monday, December 22, 2014

This December in Cortina

It's no surprise that we love December in Cortina (last year I wrote about it here) and last week, I wrote an article for the Steamboat newspaper (here) about how living in Cortina in December is like living in a snow globe.

And it is, of course, because there are lights! And glasses of Prosecco! And giant Christmas trees! And skiers! And fur!

There are also some things that you have to battle in December though (and I don't just mean the crazy tourists with their crazy dogs).

The post office, for one. This December, I went to the post office six times - pretty standard for December, you may be thinking. Here's how the post office in Italy works though:

There are no lines (of course, because no one would stand in them anyway). Instead, when you walk in, you take a number from a machine by the door. The number system works like this: there are three letters (E, C and P) and then there are numbers to follow each letter. So, you may get E33 or P55 or C18, depending on which button you press on the machine.

There are usually two postal workers working at any given time, although there are windows for four. The workers make their way down the list calling out "E55! C20!" as they become available to help you.

Now, I'm not Italian, but I know how to read my slip of paper that says P40 on it. Other people though, are very confused by this. For example, if E20 is called, they may run up to the available window even though they have P20. Apparently, no one is actually reading the whole number which includes the letter.

Anyway. As you can imagine, it takes quite a long time to buy stamps.

Once you finally get up to the available window, you have to be prepared to spend. Of course the price of stamps to North America shot up this year (right before Christmas), to 2 euro and 30 cents per stamp. So to everyone we sent a Christmas card to this year: please save those for next year as well.

The other problem with the post office is that it's the only place in town where you can buy boxes to mail presents in. This means that people tend to bring shopping bags filled with presents that they pour out on to the post office counter while the postal worker finds a big enough box which is then assembled, packed, taped, addressed and finally, paid for. In Italy this process takes about 23 minutes per person. Also the post office only takes cash.

But! Now that it's December 22, I'm done with the post office! The most expensive Christmas cards in the world have been sent and all the presents have been mailed. Now it's time to tackle the grocery store. With that in mind, I'm taking the rest of the year off!

Ryan's mother is arriving tomorrow for Christmas and we're going to be relaxing and drinking Prosecco and watching Ryan's games (you can watch the live ticker here).

So! We hope you all have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year and we'll be back on January 5th, ready for 2015! xo

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Last Sunday, Ryan had a few days off so we decided to head to Switzerland! Neither of us had been before and we were excited to check out a new country.

We started in Lugano, which was probably beautiful but we couldn't see the lake or the surrounding mountains because it was SO rainy and foggy! So instead we gazed at their giant Christmas tree and decided that we might have to go back again in the spring....

We huddled under our umbrella and walked around downtown and then escaped the rain and had glasses of Prosecco (Lugano is Italian-speaking and Italian-cultured so we felt right at home). Luckily all the cafes were warm and cozy and had blankets that you could wrap yourself in while having a drink.

That night we had fondue which was hot and drippy and delicious:

The fondue was served with cubes of bread and small potatoes and we drank white was a very white and completely delicious meal.

In the morning we drove to Lucerne, passing through the Gotthard road tunnel which, at 17 kilometers (10 miles) in length, is the third longest road tunnel in the world (FYI).

It was also gray and foggy in Lucerne but it was a great day for a hot lunch and a nap followed by a walk around the Christmas market.

And no trip to Switzerland would be complete without chocolate! So we took some home as a souvenir and road trip snack...

PS - Our December trips from last year: Salzburg (also rainy!) and Prague

Friday, December 12, 2014

Radicchio Ravioli

Italians don't make Christmas cookies. They make Panettone, which I would never make for multiple reasons, the biggest one being that it takes something like 20 hours to make because the dough has to rise three times. And also, I don't like it, but you're not allowed to say that in Italy.

This December though, instead of Christmas cookies or Panettone, we decided to make ravioli.

Radicchio is everywhere in Italy, and it comes in all different shapes, sizes and colors.

Italians eat it raw or grilled; they stuff it into things, mix it into salads and use it as a garnish. So if you don't feel like making Christmas cookies this's another idea:

Radicchio Ravioli
(Serves 2)

For the pasta:
Here's a previous post on how to make pasta, but for two people, we used one cup of flour, one egg and a little water for the dough

For the filling:
1 cup cooked and finely chopped purple radicchio
1/2 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

First make the filling by cooking the radicchio in 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat, then chop it finely and add to a bowl followed by the Parmesan and ricotta. Mix together and add salt and pepper to taste. Roll out the pasta dough into strips and place about a tablespoon of the filling on the dough. Depending on how long the strip of dough is, repeat, leaving about an inch or two in between each dollop of filling.

Using your finger, trace a line of water around each spot of filling (this will help the top layer of dough adhere). And a side note - when we made this, Ryan accidentally dipped his finger into my wine glass and that worked fine too...

Place another strip of dough on top of the first and seal the top strip to the bottom by pressing your finger around the filling - make sure that you get all the air out for cooking. Cut out each ravioli square using a ravioli stamp or a knife.

Bring a pot of salted water to a gentle boil and cook in batches for about 3 minutes each. We like to eat our ravioli topped with olive oil, black pepper and extra Parmesan.

PS - Spinach and ricotta ravioli

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Market Season


...Christmas market season!! Christmas markets originated in the Late Middle Ages in Germany, Austria, Northern Italy and South Tyrol - which means that we're right in the thick of it. If you find yourself in this region in the month of December, you can't miss them. We put together a short list of our favorites:

Lienz, Austria - for "The Potato" 

"The Potato" is something that we dream about in July. It's a baked potato with a really crispy skin that gets split open and filled with a bacon and onion mixture and a sour cream - garlic sauce....and it's heaven. We usually have to hit this market twice in the month of December because once is just not enough. (

Munich, Germany - for the ornaments

This market dates back to the 14th century and has amazing ornaments (a lot of the ones on our tree come from here) and gingerbread. And a bonus - this market, too, has an amazing potato dish - but their version is flat like a pancake and you dip it in to a different but still amazing sour cream - garlic sauce. (

Salzburg, Austria - for the glitter

It's not December without a little lot of glitter and Salzburg's market has tons of it. I snagged as many glittery ornaments as my husband would allow (and yes, they have a good potato here too). Also, if you like Christmas music, Salzburg is a very musical city and has tons of Christmas performances - some are outside, right in the middle of the Christmas market, some are in church basements and some are in fancier halls. (

Bolzano, Italy - for the best warm drinks (and Italy's largest market)

Vin brule (gluhwein) is a staple at all Christmas markets but Bolzano takes it one step further with the Bombardino: it's a popular apres-ski drink in Northern Italy (although not so much in Cortina) made with Advocaat or eggnog and brandy and topped with whipped cream. At the Christmas market, they serve it in a small ice cream cone. (

Innsbruck - for the odd doughnut and sauerkraut snack they thought up

This is fried dough that you can eat plain or with a sauce like vanilla cream or Nutella - but the most popular way to eat it is topped with sauerkraut. It's oddly tasty and definitely worth a try. (

And last but not least....

Cortina - the hometown favorite

Cortina's Christmas market is tiny compared to the ones listed above but when it opens, it's fun (and festive) to buy a cup of vin brule and stroll through town. Our favorites are the lavender hut and, of course, the chocolate hut which sells fancy chocolates with pistachios and hazelnuts. (

Monday, December 1, 2014

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

December is HERE! It's always been my favorite month and being in Cortina just makes it that much better. In this region of the world, they take Christmas very seriously. There are Christmas markets all over Northern Italy, gluhwein is everywhere, and Cortina is decked out in twinkling lights. I love the people watching, the light at the end of the day and having aperitivo - even the Prosecco tastes better in December.

There is a rule in the Dingle household that on December 1, you are allowed to start singing Christmas carols. So, in honor of one of our faves, we decided to roast chestnuts at home. I love chestnuts almost as much as I love December. They're in season for a few months beginning in November and luckily they sneak their way into all the Christmas markets. When I saw them in the grocery store though, I realized that I didn't have to go to Innsbruck to eat chestnuts! I could roast them at home. So while we didn't quite do it over an open fire, like this:

...we still did it in the oven! (The above picture was taken from a chestnut festival that Cortina hosts every year).

Roasted Chestnuts
(About 20 chestnuts; serves 2)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut a fairly deep slit in each chestnut, about an inch long. Place chestnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. When they're done, the shells will be separating from the meaty part inside. Take them out and place in a bowl - careful - the shells are hot! Peel the shells away and eat.

PS - Chestnut of our friend's made this last year and it was heaven.

And also...the only bad thing about December

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to Have Thanksgiving in Italy

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home! We celebrated on Tuesday because the Coppa Italia tournament starts today so Ryan (and team) are away in Val Pellice.

Since this was our fourth Thanksgiving in Italy, we've gotten pretty good at celebrating in another country - one in which most people have never heard of Thanksgiving. So we put together a list of Thanksgiving staples and how to make them in Italy:

Turkey - First of all, make sure you get your kilos to pounds ratio correct. On our first Thanksgiving in Italy, four years ago, we ordered a 20 pound turkey. Since there are no pounds in Italy, we ended up with a 44 pound turkey (a 20 kilo turkey).

Here are the legs and wings that had to be sawed off at the butcher's and cooked in a separate oven:

Green Bean Casserole - This dish was a staple for Ryan when he was younger (and for most of America, he claims). For those of you not familiar with it, it's made with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup and canned green beans and it's topped with French's Fried Onions. Four years ago, I actually found Campbell's Cream of Mushroom in the Cooperativa here. It cost 3.90 euro which, at the time, was equivalent to FIVE DOLLARS AND SIXTEEN CENTS, which is outrageous for a can of soup, especially when you need to buy five cans. It was the most expensive green bean casserole ever made. Since then, I've bought the Cooperativa completely out of Campbell's and they haven't re-stocked which means that we have to make our own...slightly more time consuming (not what you need on Thanksgiving morning) but MUCH cheaper (and probably healthier).

Cranberry Sauce -  Obviously there is no Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce in Italy or any surrounding country. There aren't even cranberries in Italy. But! There are in Austria. To make cranberry sauce, you must drive an hour away to one specific grocery store in Austria that has cranberries, drive an hour home, and then spend another hour making the sauce. Again, the most expensive and time consuming cranberry sauce ever made.

Dessert - My favorite Thanksgiving dessert is pecan pie....but there are also no pecans in Italy, so that's out. Instead, I bring canned pumpkin with me when we come in September and I usually make this pumpkin cheesecake. The crust calls for graham cracker crumbs - but there are also no graham crackers in Italy - so I use Austrian butter cookies instead. Good thing Austria is so close.

Leftovers -  Arguably one of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftovers. Our refrigerator is a quarter of the size of the smallest American refrigerator which causes a problem when you have a 44 pound turkey to refrigerate. However, Italians have it figured out that if you have a tiny refrigerator, you need a big balcony. We always box up our leftovers and put them outside, then bring them in when we want to eat them.

And if you think you have a lot of dishes after Thanksgiving dinner....just imagine having to do them in a sink this size:

Here was the aftermath from this year:

We managed to pull it off though and we're still smiling! So, have a happy Thanksgiving and a nice long weekend and we'll be back in December!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Our Guide to Cortina in the Winter

We're gearing up for our fourth winter here, and I thought it would be fun to put together a mini-guide for potential visitors of our favorite places to stay, eat and what you can do besides skiing. So! Here we go:

The Hotel Menardi is the most popular hotel with our own visitors - especially with my parents who stay there every year! Most hotels in Cortina have restaurants in them and the one at the Hotel Menardi is very good. In fact, we usually have a New Year's Eve dinner there.

It's fun to grab an aperitivo in the bar before dinner - they have these delicious little cheese sticks to go with your Spritz - and after dinner, you can take a deck of cards and one last glass of wine into the living room and sit by the fire.
(Via Majon, 110)

The first two years we were in Cortina, we lived in the Hotel Savoia which is a fancy five-star hotel near the center of town. You can stay in a room in the main hotel, or if you want to stay longer, rent an extended-stay apartment across the street (where we lived) which have living rooms for hanging out in and kitchens so you can cook your own meals. There is also a really nice spa on the bottom floor of the main hotel where you can relax after a day of skiing - we used to sneak in sometimes when we lived there and it was heavenly.
(Via Roma, 62)

The Hotel Cortina is right smack in the center of town, if you like to be in on the action. The week between Christmas and New Year's is packed in Cortina, and this is the place to be if you like to people-watch. They put out a good spread at aperitivo, with really good olives and chicken wings and they often have a band playing on the weekends.
(Corso Italia, 92)

There are also TONS of apartments in Cortina, owned by families in town or people who live elsewhere in Italy and rent them out. If you're thinking of coming to stay, it's worth it to check on airbnb for an apartment to rent, which can give you a real Cortina experience, most likely complete with Alpine-looking chairs which tend to show up in every apartment I've ever seen here.

My favorite restaurant in Cortina is Beppe Sello for their incredibly simple and delicious ravioli, and for their shrimp and avocado salad. We like to sit in the bar for a more casual dinner, but still order off the main dining room menu. The dining room gets pretty hopping between 8:00 and 9:00 during the high season, so reservations are a must. 
(Localita Ronco, 68)

Our other favorite spot is Cinque Torri, located right in the center of town. We found our favorite plate of spaghetti carbonara here (ask for it with zucchini) and Ryan ALWAYS orders the casunziei and a steak. Casunziei is a traditional dish of Cortina – it’s paper-thin raviolis filled with beets (our favorite) or spinach. Also try the canederli which are big bread dumplings made with speck (a type of ham) and cheese. The dumplings are usually served in broth, as a soup dish.

For really special occasions, we walk up the hill to Leone e Anna which serves traditional Sardinian food and is known for their pasta with fish eggs.
(Via Alvera, 112)

At lunchtime, if you want to grab something quickly, my favorite is the tramezzino which is a sandwich made on a spongy, crust-less white bread. They’re usually filled with chicken salad, tuna or ham and artichokes and they make a perfect light lunch (or snack) with a glass of white wine.

Our favorite bar/café is called Bar Sport. We go there for cappuccinos in the morning and macchiatos in the afternoon (like a cappuccino but with less milk, served in a smaller cup). At aperitivo, usually from about 6 pm to 8 pm, we go there for an Aperol Spritz, the classic Venetian drink or a Spritz Bianco (the same thing without the Aperol), and sometimes we stop in after dinner and have a Montenegro.
(Corso Italia, 132)

For the tiny Italian wine bar feel, we like Enoteca which is under the church in the center of town. It has really low ceilings, delicious Lagreins and tiny sandwiches made with butter and anchovies.
(Via del Mercato, 5)

Villa Sandi is the more trendy wine bar. One of my favorite things to do is to grab a table and order their cheese plate – they’ll bring you about four different cheeses with different sauces (“mustards”) to try them with and a paper bag of cut up bread. This is a great way to fill up before the nine o’clock dinner hour.
(Largo delle Poste, 30)

La Suite has a bustling aperitivo scene with apres-skiers spilling out the front door. This is another wine bar (surprise, surprise) but the bartender has been known to get crafty with his cocktails as well. If you are American, NEVER order a Bloody Mary in Cortina. It won’t be what you think. It’s tomato juice, a little lemon juice, some Tabasco and pepper. No ice, no celery, no HORSERADISH (a crime), no lemon wedge or decorative olive…stay away from the Italian Bloody Mary!
(Piazza Venezia, 6)

My favorite ski mountain in Cortina is Faloria (the gondola is located just up from the center of town, near the bus station). I like to go at 8:30 when the mountain first opens, ski for a few hours in the morning before it gets crowded, then stop and have a cappuccino on the sunny deck before heading back to town. Faloria is small and manageable (or North Americans might use the word “boring”) but it’s fun to do a few runs, stop and have a coffee or a beer, do a few more, stop and have a sandwich, do a few more, etc. Skiing in Cortina is more meant to be a fun few hours, not like the skiing in North America where you’re meant to be on the mountain at 8 am for four hours of skiing before a lunch break and then another three hours after, until you can’t feel your fingertips anymore.

The other mountain in Cortina is Tofana (the gondola is located behind the hockey rink). This is a bigger mountain that has more options for runs and is good for both beginner and intermediate skiers.

Faloria and Tofana are the two ski mountains right in town but there are tons of mountains all over the area, if you don’t mind driving (or taking a bus). Cinque Torri (where we hike in September) turns into a ski mountain in the winter, and there is also a trail called the Sellaronda which takes all day. You ski from town to town, all over different mountains, stopping to have drinks and sandwiches along the way, and at one flat point, you can even get pulled by horses. 

One of my favorite winter activities is people watching, especially during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Literally everyone is wearing fur; women, men, dogs (more than usual), babies, children…one time I saw a man wearing a floor-length fur coat with a bear head hanging off the back. The busiest times in December are opening weekend, which is at the beginning of the month, and then Christmas and New Year’s. If you don’t like crowds, don’t come at these times!

Cortina has a small Christmas market that lines the main promenade in December. It's fun to grab a cup of vin brule - hot wine with spices - and walk around, checking out the different booths. There's usually one with fancy chocolates and another one with lavender products: soaps, pillows, honey, etc.

Even if you don’t like to ski, it’s still worth it to go up to the top of the mountain for the views – and, if it’s a sunny day, for the sun.

If you like to sled, there are lots of places to rent sleds; one is at Mietres, which is a smaller ski hill that was behind our apartment last year. You can rent sleds halfway up the mountain (walk up or take the chair lift) and then sled to the bottom. I'm not one for sledding but many people think this is great fun.

In addition to downhill skiing, there is also a lot of cross country skiing in this area. Or, if you don't like any type of skiing, there's a great walking path that spans the whole town.

If you come in February, you can see the winter polo which is really fun and different.

And you can always go to a hockey game at the Olympic rink!

Come visit!