Ciao from Cortina: Magnetic Italy |

Ciao from Cortina: Magnetic Italy

— If you ask someone to describe Italy in one word, they might say beautiful! Romantic! Delicious!

These words ring true; Italy is beautiful whether you find yourself lounging on a rocky beach or skiing down the jutting peaks of the Dolomites. Italian men are famous worldwide for their deeply romantic gestures. And the country is absolutely delicious with its velvety prosciutto, drippy mozzarella balls and doughy fresh pasta.

But Italy can also be frustrating, confusing and nonsensical. Drivers are constantly passing when they’re not supposed to and driving in the wrong lane with no remorse. Stores open and close as they please. Post office strikes are a weekly occurrence.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my husband’s hockey team lost out very early on in the playoffs and his season was over in the middle of February. This caused a fair amount of chaos. The management blamed the players and the players blamed the management.

Paychecks were threatened to be cut in half. No information was communicated on what the next steps were. All of this made for a lot of frustrated North Americans who are used to order, facts and logic.

Needing to escape for a bit, my husband and I drove to Innsbruck for the weekend to visit friends. I love Italy as much as the next die-hard Italian fan, but let me tell you: it felt fantastic to get away.

In Austria, the apartments are big and airy. There are strict traffic rules that people actually obey. They have exotic ingredients in the grocery stores, like chia seeds and cilantro and cheddar cheese.

We did things that weekend that we can’t do in Cortina, like eating cheeseburgers for lunch and drinking take-out coffee from paper cups. We admired our friend’s seemingly giant refrigerator and modern appliances. We paid €1.10 for gas instead of €1.80. And by Sunday morning, I was ready to get back to Italy. My frustrating, nonsensical, beautiful Italy.

As we approached the toll on the Italian-Austrian border, one car was stopped in the middle of the road, other cars were swerving around it; people were fumbling for change while rolling down their windows. There was no sense of any sort of line. But we drove our little Saab into the madness anyway, paid the nine euro and made it home in under an hour due to the lack of speed limit.

Personally, I agree with all the words that people use to describe Italy; beautiful, romantic, nonsensical, frustrating, delicious, confusing. But if I had to pick one word for myself, it would be magnetic.

Because whenever I’m away, I can feel Italy pulling me back in, like it’s saying “I’m sorry the Internet never works and the grocery store is closed on Sunday and your husband’s paycheck is always two weeks late. But let’s have one little glass of wine and sit in the sun for an hour or two and maybe go skiing a bit. Let’s do whatever we feel like and everything will be okay.”

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

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