The "Sestieri" of Ampezzo

What "Sestieri" of Cortina are, how they were born, what they represent today and all the activities they organize, from country festivals to sports competitions, as well as collateral activities.


The term Sestieri in Cortina indicates three different realities. The town is divided into six districts, called Sestieri. The origin of the six geographic districts is lost in memory, but probably dates back to the period in which the Serenissima, the republic of Venice, governed these lands, in fact there are also six the Sestieri of Venice.

Summer Palio of Cortina d'ampezzo, cutting of the log
A concert in the Cortina shell during the Ampezzo festival
The award ceremony of the Cortina women's running palio
(1) Summer Palio of Cortina, cutting the log. (2) Concert in "the shell" during the city festival. (3) The award ceremony of the women's running palio.

Sestieri are also the six sports associations that organize Cortina's country festivals every year and that coordinate sport activities of the resident children. The boundaries each association deals with correspond to the geographical ones and will be explained later in the article.

Finally with Sestieri d'Ampezzo it is also possible to define the association of volunteers which includes all six districts and which takes care of organizing events, such as the "run of the Sestieri", the football tournament or the folkloristic wagons. They coordinate all the volunteers of the different districts for the participation in the activities of the town. Let's see them now in detail.

Historical notes

As already mentioned above, the subdivision of the town into six districts, also known as Sestieri, happened around the 15th century. Before this date, the country was divided into decenas, family groups of about ten families.

At that time Cortina was under the control of the Venetian Republic that was divided into six districts. It's commonly assumed that Cortina divided itself into six districts to emulate or praise its capital city Venice.

In this article we want to write about the modern reason to be of the Sestieri. If you want to read about the history of the Sestieri in ancient times, we invite you to read the page we wrote about the history of Cortina, which can be found below:

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Geographical "Sestieri"

The boundary between the different Sestieri is usually demarcated by waterways. Over the years some of them have been moved underground for urban reasons, below you can see a beautiful map of the original boundaries of the different Sestieri.

map of the sestieri

On the map above you can clearly see the different areas in which the town was divided, let's see what the various colors represent:

The association "Sestieri d'Ampezzo"

Following the passage under the reign of Italy, in 1918, the "Sestieri" lost most of their administrative value. In order to keep the tradition alive, the well-known orthopedic Sanzio Vacchelli, president of the Tourist Board and Majesty of Cortina from 1933 to 1937, decided to give a new identity to the Sestieri.

On 23 February 1936 he organized the first edition of "Ra Corsa dei Sestiere", a cross-country skiing race where athletes from the different districts challenge each other. At the end of the race there was a parade of folkloristic floats.

Over time this winter palio was supplemented by many other activities, such as the summer running palio, the soccer tournament, which is one of the oldest in Italy, the tennis tournament and the forest cleanup.

The coats of arms of the Sestieri displayed in shells during the summer running palio
Zuel sign, one of the sestieri into which Cortina is divided
Panorama of Cortina, in the background Alverà
(1) The coats of arms of the Sestieri displayed in the main square. (2) Sign of Zuel, one of the districts of Cortina. (3) Panorama of Cortina, in the background Alverà.

There were a lot of activities that had to be organized, in addition to the requirement of volunteers to realize them. In order to coordinate the different "Sestieri" between them, it has been created the Association of the "Sestieri d'Ampezzo".

It is an assembly that includes the six presidents of each "Sestiere", plus a seventh president of the "Sestieri", whose main function is the organization of all the common activities, as well as acting as an institutional figure and spokesperson for the other associations and the municipal administration. By statute, the purpose of the "Sestieri d'Ampezzo" is:

The association, over the years, has helped create most of Cortina's most characteristic folkloric activities. The association has delivered the 1936 cross-country ski palio, which was won by the "Sestiere" of "Azon", in 1981 it has been added the women's representation and in 1986 has been added the minipalio, a shortened version of the race, for younger children. The palio is still run today and, in eighty years, has known only two breaks: one due to the Second World War World War and one due to the covid emergency. We also want to cite the summer poles, the soccer tournament and much more.

Summer palio parade, 1998
Historic soccer team in Cortina
Construction of the Sestiere float, 1997
(1) Summer palio parade, 1998. (2) Historic soccer team of Cortina. (3) Construction of the Sestiere float, 1997.

In addition to all this, the Association of the "Sestieri d'Ampezzo" creates an important link between the people of Cortina and their own town, as well as being an essential for the integration of non-Ampezzans into community life, thanks to the many volunteer activities they help organize.

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Sports associations

As mentioned earlier, the sports activities were more and more through the years. In order to be played, these competitions needed athletes, who had to actually be residents in the "Sestiere" they represent. Disputes and discussions on this subject are well rooted in the memory of the village, with countless residency verifications, controversies and complaints. Emblematic is the story of a house that is located over a small underground stream. After years of discussion, it's still half in one "Sestiere" and half in another.

Sign for the 40th anniversary of the Zuel country festival
Boys training, 1997
Zuel's country festival today
(1) Sign for the 40th anniversary of the Zuel country festival. (2) Training of the boys, 1997. (3) The Zuel country festival in modern days.

Over the years this competitiveness led to the formation of tight-knit groups, which took on more and more identity. In order to recruit as many athletes and volunteers as possible each "Sestiere" invented increasingly ingenious systems. The most successful was the country festivals, a marquee where the volunteers cooked and sold beers and some typical food. This increased, even more, the bonding of those groups of people who were working, drinking and having fun together.

In this way, each "Sestiere" was able to make a small cash fund, with which they could pay for sports training for the kids who could be professionally trained without expense from their families. Younglings would be new participants for sports, bonding with their peers and, growing up, would help to work for the country festivals as volunteers. Over the years, these activities became more and more structured, until the country festivals of today, which we have extensively described on the page which you can read below:

Thanks to

The writing of this page was also possible thanks to the books "Storia di Cortina d'Ampezzo" by Mario Ferruccio Belli and the book "Sestieri d'Ampezzo rievocano..." of Alfredo Spampani and Dino Colli d'Antogna as well as the help of the "Sestieri d'Ampezzo", in particular the "Sestiere of Zuel", which provide most of the photographs on this page.

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We hope you liked this page on what the "Sestieri d'Ampezzo" are. Before saying goodbye, we would suggest you read all the articles we wrote about Cortina d'Ampezzo by clicking here.

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