Impressions from Cortina

| January 28, 2015

Impressions from our visit to Cortina, Italy early this month…

They drive as insanely as the citizens of Rome On my first morning, I had a driver who sped like he was trying to get a pregnant woman to the hospital, albeit with no intention of getting her to the hospital alive.  The manner in which he rounded sharp bends suggested that he wanted me to become intimate with the trees, and his tailgating suggested that he wanted me to become intimate with the backseat passengers of the car in front of us.  My driver was skilled when it came to forming two lanes on a one-lane street.  I suppose I should be grateful that he checked his phone for text messages only twice while driving.


The Hotel Mirage was absolutely perfect.

Hotel staff is surprisingly punctual.  When I signed up for the 0930 hotel shuttle and was not in the lobby at 0929, they called the room.  Granted, they then learned what happens when you rush me: I grab my backpack and get on the shuttle.  We hit town.  I realize my wallet is in my purse, in the room.  I awkwardly communicate my need to return to the hotel.  I arrive at the hotel and cannot find my room key.  The front desk gives me a key so I can get into the room.  I find my wallet.  I return to the lobby.  I search the lobby, the van, and the grounds for my key.  Eventually I find it.  In my backpack.

Chivalry is hit or miss.  I was surprised when a shuttle driver did not open the door for me.  After he walked around to the driver’s side, I tried to open the back door of the van.  He pointed and told me to get in the front seat.  Well, open the door for me and I’d know that.

italian hot chocolate


Hot cocoa is just melted chocolate.  Like, for reals: they bring you a cup of thick, rich, melted chocolate.  If you don’t drink it quickly enough, it coagulates into a candy bar. When my first hot cocoa arrived, I could not believe my eyes.  I mean, they aren’t messing around. After having some at one cafe, I ordered it at another cafe just to verify that it wasn’t a fluke (in the name of science).  By the end, I was using my spoon out of necessity.  Holy Heaven.

Seriously, I drank it everywhere.

Seriously, I drank it everywhere.

They drink wine before noon.  I walked into a cafe at 11:30 and first nearly bumped into a wine-sipping man who was pelting the barmaid with a paper ball while laughing uproariously.  I was then barked at by the larger of two dogs belonging to customers; that just added to the cacophony coming from a relatively small clientele.  Amidst all of the wine drinkers, I ordered a hot cocoa and still water. Because cocoa.


Siesta!  Okay, I forgot about siesta.  I forgot that just before 1300, every store clerk will start rushing you out the door and dump you on a street where everything is closed.  Curse you, siesta!


So.much.cashmere.  I was surprised to find store after store specializing in cashmere.  It was, in general, a very fashionable town.

weird italian fashion pelt fox coat

Except this. What the fuck is this.

Not everyone speaks English*.  Including the saleswoman at the lingerie shop, where I was buying new bras.  When she asked my size, I opened my coat.  Some things are universal.  When I showed interest in panties, she asked my size.  “My butt is grande.”  We conducted business in English-Spanish-Italian, and I left with hot new lingerie.

This also includes the two saleswomen at a mall where I wanted to buy an art sponge for my daughter (I smashed the case to hers when I accidentally ran over her school backpack at the car wash—don’t ask).  NOTHING worked.  Not the English word, which one of them asked me many times, as if she wasn’t sure that I knew the English word. (In English? Sponge. But what is it in English? Still sponge.)

They didn’t know it from the German word (or name for Songebob Squarepants), and I couldn’t recall the Spanish word.  You know what is not Italian for ‘sponge’?  “E-sponge-a.” I know because I tried. (Now that I know it’s ‘spunga,’ however, I’m a little disappointed that “Sponge–It comes from the ocean and you can use one to clean and it absorbs water and you can use it for painting” didn’t work.) I left without an art sponge. The great news?  Not one single person was rude about my lack of Italian.  Just skeptical about my handle on English.

*I don’t think everyone should speak English.  It’s just noteworthy because people often assume that everyone in Europe does.  A great portion of European populations do speak English, but certainly not everyone.

P.S. I lost my prescription sunglasses.  If you find them, let me know.




Category: Europe, In Germany A Broad blog, Italy, SGH blog, Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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  1. Holy Heaven indeed, you may not survive the crazy driving of Croatia but at least you leave this world with a chocolate smile on your face! I’m still looking for your sunnies!
    Wren x