A rich heritage in the center of the Dolomites
From the Belle Époque to the contemporary world: styles change, the cast of characters changes, the music resounds, but the setting and the charm always remain the same.
In 1901 Cortina was a small mountain village under the flag of the Austro-Hungarian Empire when Emilia and Giuseppe Menardi opened the Palace Hotel Cristallo. It was designed by the master architect Gustavo Ghiretti, inspired by art nouveau in honour of noble Viennese traditions, and has overlooked the valley ever since, standing out in white against the bright green meadows. Its elegance, its privileged position on the edge of the woods and breathtaking view of the Tofane mountains, together with the great dedication of the Menardi couple, soon made it one of the most sought-after international destinations. The earliest hotel registers, in fact, already contain the signatures of famous personalities, such as Leo Tolstoy, and guests from every part of the world.
The Great War: The First World War was a tragic blow that ended the golden life of that era in 1915. The hotel was set up as a military hospital, a use that left it almost completely destroyed.
From 1928 – 1932 Leo Zardini, a great sportsman and gran viveur, did much to build up the attraction of Cortina and the Hotel Cristallo: in 1928 the hotel was provided with two tennis courts, which converted to skating rinks in the wintertime, and in 1932, a covered swimming pool, which was a novelty and a new sought-after attraction for a mountain hotel.
With the post-war reconstruction, a new era of tourism began in Cortina in 1947. Careful renovation work restored the Cristallo to its old splendour and, under the management of Leo Menardi and his wife Ofelia Zardini, the hotel once again welcomed guests in that elegant and exclusive atmosphere for which it had always been recognised.
Leo Menardi had the wisdom, sensitivity and organisational skills to anticipate trends and understand and cater to the most extravagant desires. On the sporting level, he brought ice hockey and curling to Cortina, he also promoted the Cristallo Bob Club team and, above all, the legendary “Coppa d’Oro delle Dolomiti” (Dolomites Gold Cup), the race that brought the best drivers in the world, and the first Ferraris, to the hairpin bends of the Alps. Already the chosen home of winter sports, Cortina was the first Italian mountain resort to host the Olympic Games in 1956, which brought it so much worldwide attention that it became one of the most fashionable and popular destinations throughout the 1960s and 70s.
The swinging 60s
Leo and Ofelia Menardi passed on the baton to their son Rinaldo, who was ready to pick up and interpret the latest trends of the younger generation. He opened the Monkey in the Cristallo, which soon became one of the most popular venues and a cradle of the great loves and passions of the golden youth of the time. These were the years of protest against bourgeois respectability, unconventional fashion and nightlife and Monkey organised unforgettable parties and events. Klaus Kinski, Ira Furstenberg, Philips Niarkos, the Princes of Liechtenstein, Shirley Bassey, Brigitte Bardot and Luca Cordero of Montezemolo... were just a few of its many frequent visitors, which included the offspring of noble families, industrialists, actors and artists who electrified those endless nights.
They were carefree and richly creative years, during which Cortina and the Cristallo began to be used as the setting for numerous films: first of all “The Pink Panther”, filmed in 1963 by Blake Edwards, which brought David Niven, Peter Sellers, Capucine and Claudia Cardinale to Cortina. It was then the turn of Von Ryan's Express, with Frank Sinatra, James Bond Agent 007, “Vacanze di Natale” by the Vanzina brothers and then TV commercials and dramas. The history of entertainment is linked to the history of the Cristallo, a charming, natural and fashionable setting that is picture perfect.
Hotel Cristallo was closed for several years in the 90s, but the allure of this paradise, which preserved memories of a glittering past, remained unchanged and stirred the imagination of Bolognese entrepreneur Paolo Gualandi, who decided to pick up the thread of a magical history that had been interrupted too abruptly.
Hotel Cristallo Hotel Spa & Golf reopened after 10 years, bringing an air of novelty to Cortina, together with a free and easy, elegant and dynamic opulence that reawakened the joyful spirit of its most beautiful years.