Ciao from Cortina: Appreciating Italy

Sophie Dingle/For the Steamboat Today

— This winter we’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of visitors.

We love showing our friends and families around our town, introducing them to our Italian friends and feeding them homemade pasta. We love to teach them about Aperol Spritzes, the typical Venetian drink, and show them the proper way to dry fresh pasta before lowering it into a pot of bubbling water.

Having visitors also reminds us of all the Italian things we take for granted now and don’t think twice about.

Last week, my parents were in Cortina. We went to a wine bar for a drink before dinner one night and no one waited on us for approximately 20 minutes. I didn’t think anything of it until I realized that my mother was nervously scanning the room looking for a waiter.

The drinks were finally ordered, and when we were finished with them, my dad waited for the check to come so that he could pay and we could leave. In Italy, no one will bring you the check unless you ask for it; we could have sat there all night chatting and no one would have come over to our table. Here, you usually get up and go to the register to pay.

And then there’s the issue of tipping. During the week my parents were visiting, my dad paid all of his bills, leaving a wake of extra euro behind, much to the surprise of every waitress we encountered.

“You don’t need to tip,” I kept telling him. He looked at me like I was crazy.

“But then how do you get rid of all this heavy change in your pocket?” he asked.

One day we went for lunch at a rifugio (an Italian chalet) on one of the ski mountains. When we sat down, the waitress brought out a few platters of various meats and cheeses.

“Did we order this?” my mother asked, surveying the scene. No – just another perk of Italy – they love to feed you.

Another morning, we went grocery shopping and then stopped at a café for a coffee before walking home. After finishing our macchiatos, my father noticed that a few of the men at the bar were drinking beer, and he wanted to stay and have one.

“But we haven’t had lunch yet,” my mother cried.

“But it’s midday, and those guys are doing it,” my father replied.

So we sat for a bit longer and had a few beers.

Having visitors always reminds me of what Italy looks like from the outside, which is something that I can’t always see anymore. In our day-to-day lives, we can get bogged down with how long everything takes from the grocery shopping to the laundry; we’re focused on hockey practices, deadlines and exactly how long it takes to make homemade pasta from start to finish.

But when I look at life in Italy through my parent’s eyes, I remember just how delicious the homemade pasta tastes once it’s finished and how much fun it is to stop for a quick coffee before heading home to make another meal.

I remember that it’s fun to sit and chat and have a beer and not worry about your schedule for a while, which is something that Italians do so well.

Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer living in Cortina, Italy, where her husband and Steamboat native, Ryan, plays professional ice hockey. While in Italy, she loves to eat, cook, explore and drink red wine. You can follow her adventures online at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.