Cortina d'Ampezzo

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Anpezo (Ampëz)
Comune di Cortina d'Ampezzo
The town centre of Cortina d'Ampezzo
The town centre of Cortina d'Ampezzo
Coat of arms of Cortina
Coat of arms
Cortina is located in Italy
Location of Cortina in Italy
Coordinates: 46°32′N 12°08′E / 46.533°N 12.133°E / 46.533; 12.133Coordinates: 46°32′N 12°08′E / 46.533°N 12.133°E / 46.533; 12.133
Country Italy
Region Veneto
Province Belluno (BL)
Frazioni see list
 • Mayor Andrea Franceschi
 • Total 254.51 km2 (98.27 sq mi)
Elevation 1,224 m (4,016 ft)
Population (1 January 2008)
 • Total 6,150
 • Density 24/km2 (63/sq mi)
Demonym Ampezzani or Cortinesi
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 32043
Dialing code 0436
Patron saint St. Philip and James
Saint day May 3

Cortina d'Ampezzo (pronounced [kor.ˈ dam.ˈpɛ]; Ladin: Anpezo, Ampëz, ) is a town and comune in the southern (Dolomitic) Alps in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. Located in the heart of the Dolomites in an alpine valley, it is a popular winter sport resort known for its skiing trails, scenery, accommodation, shops and après-ski scene, and for its jet set and aristocratic European crowd.

From the nineteenth century, Ampezzo became a notable regional centre for crafts. The local handmade products were appreciated by early British and German holidaymakers as tourism emerged late nineteenth century. Among the specializations of the town were crafting wood for furniture, the production of tiled stoves and iron, copper and glass items. Today, the local economy thrives on tourism, particularly during the winter season, when the population of the town typically increases from about 7,000 to 40,000. The Basilica Minore dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo was built between 1769 and 1775 on the site of two former thirteenth and sixteenth-century churches; it is home to the parish and the deanery of Cortina d'Ampezzo. The town also contains the Rinaldo Zardini paleontological museum, established in 1975, the Mario Rimoldi art gallery, and an ethnographic museum.

Although Cortina was unable to go ahead with the scheduled 1944 Winter Olympics because of the Second World War, it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956 and subsequently a number of world winter-sports events. The town is home to SG Cortina, a top league professional ice hockey team, and Cortina is also the start and end point of the annual Dolomites Gold Cup Race. Several films have been shot in the town, mostly notably The Pink Panther (1963) and For Your Eyes Only (1981). Every year, from the end of July to early August, Cortina hosts the Dino Ciani Festival and Academy, which attracts pianists from around the world.



The discovery in 1987 of a primitive tomb at Mondeval de Sora high up in the mountains to the south of Cortina testifies to the presence of Mesolithic man in the area as far back as the 6th millennium B.C.[1][2] In the 6th century B.C., Etruscan writing was introduced in the province of Cadore, in whose possession is remained until the early 15th century.[3][4] From the 3rd century B.C., the Romans assimilated the Veneti people, giving the area the name of Amplitium (from amplus meaning wide), today's Ampezzo.[5][6]

Middle Ages[edit]

No historical information exists on the Cadore region from the fall of the Roman Empire until the Lombard period. It is assumed that during the Barbarian invasions, the inhabitants fled to the Fassa, Badia, Cordevole and Ampezzo valleys.[7]

In the Middle Ages, Ampezzo fell under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, and of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1420, the village was conquered by the Republic of Venice.[8] In 1508 it was conquered by Austria, and by 1511 people of Ampezzo swore loyalty to the Emperor Maximilian, and is subsequently fell to the Pusterthal . [9] In 1797, when the Treaty of Campo Fornio was signed, Napoleon initially permitted Austria to retain it, but in 1810 he added Ampezzo to the Department of Piave, following an attack on the town in which it was burned by the French.[10] It was short-lived; Austria reclaimed it in 1813, and it remained in Austrian possession even after the battles of Custozza and Sadowa in 1866 when Venice was ceded to Italy.[9] The town gained a reputation as a health resort; it was reportedly free of diseases such as cholera.[11]

In 1874 the Ampezzo forest became the property of the Carnic Woods Consortium.[12] Although remaining a Habsburg possession until 1920, aside from being home for an ethnic German-speaking minority, Ampezzo never became a German-speaking territory and conserved its original language, Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romance language.[13]

Until 1918, the town came under the Austrian monarchy (in Austrian region after the compromise of 1867), head of the district of Ampezzo, one of the 21 Bezirkshauptmannschaften in the Tyrol province.[14] The coat of arms features a tower flanked by two trees, with a two-headed eagle flying above.[15]

20th century[edit]

Skiers in Cortina in 1903

When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, most of the male inhabitants were fighting for Austria on the Russian front. Six hundred and sixty-nine (669) male inhabitants (most of them under 16 or over 50) tried to fight the Italian troops. Outnumbered by the Italians, they had to retreat. After the Austrian recovery in 1917, the town was occupied again by the Tyrolean Standschützen.[16] Following Italy's victory in World War I, Ampezzo was finally given to Italy in 1923.[17][18][19]

Cortina in 1971

After the war the city was renamed "Cortina d'Ampezzo" (Curtain of the Ampezzo Valley), adopting the name of one of the six villages that made up the territory of Ampezzo, located in the middle of the Ampezzo valley.[20]

Already an elite destination for the first British tourists in the late 18th and early 20th century, after World War I Cortina d'Ampezzo became a popular resort for upper-class Italians too. Thanks to the winter Olympics in 1956, [21] Cortina grew into a world-famous resort, with a substantial increase in tourists.[22] With a resident population of around 6,000, Cortina has a temporary population of around 50,000 during peak periods such as the Christmas holidays and mid-August.[23]

Geography and climate[edit]

View of Cortina

Cortina is situated more or less in the centre of the Ampezzo valley, at the top of the Valle del Boite in the Dolomites, which encircle the town. The mountains in the area are described as "craggy" and "soaring", "unmistakable; like a massive coral reef ripped from the sea, strung with conifers and laced with snow".[24] The town is positioned between Cadore (to the south) and the Puster Valley (to the north), Val d' Ansiei (to the east) and Agordo (to the west).[25] Originally it consisted of numerous frazioni, isolated villages and hamlets, but from the 1950s it grew rapidly as a result of tourism. Only the most remote villages have remained isolated from the main town. San Vito di Cadore is 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) to the south of Cortina d'Ampezzo.[26]

Among the surrounding mountains are Tofane to the west, Pomagagnon to the north, Cristallo to the northeast, Faloria and Sorapis to the east, and Becco di Mezzodì, Croda da Lago and Cinque Torri to the south. The town centre is located at an elevation of 1,224 metres (4,016 ft), although the highest summit is that of the Tofana di Mezzo, which towers at 3,244 metres (10,643 ft).[27] There is a significant water presence in the territory, consisting of fast flowing rivers, streams and small lakes (Ghedina, Pianozes, d'Ajal), which fill particularly during the summer snow-melt season.[28] Fauna include marmots, roe deer, chamois and hares and, on occasion, wolves, bears and lynx.[29]


The comune contains the following frazioni (parishes/wards): Acquabona (Agabòna), Alverà, Bigontina (Begontina), Cadelverzo (Cadelvèrzo), Cademai, Cadin (Ciadìn), Campo (Ciànpo), Chiamulera (Ciamulèra), Chiave (Ciàe), Cianderìes, Coiana (Cojana), Col, Cortina, Crìgnes, Doneà, Fiames (Fiàmes), Fraìna, Gilardon (Jilardòn), Gnòche o Gràa, Guargné, Lacedel (Lazedèl), Manaigo, Majon, Melères, Mortisa (Mortìja), Pecol (Pecòl), Pezié, Pian da Lago, Pocol (Pocòl), Rònco, Salieto, Socol, Staulin (Staulìn), Val, Verocai, Vera (Vèra), Zuel (Zuèl).[30]


The Ampezzano climate is typically alpine, with short summers and long winters that vacillate between frigid, snowy, unsettled, and temperate. In late December and early January, some of Italy's lowest recorded temperatures are to be found in the region, especially at the top of the Cimabanche Pass on the border between the provinces of Belluno and Bolzano.[31] The other seasons are generally rainy, cold, and very windy.[32]


The town voted in October 2007 to secede from the region of Veneto and join the neighbouring region, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. This was motivated by improved cultural ties with the small Ladin-speaking community in South Tyrol and the attraction of lower taxes. The referendum is not executive and a final decision on the matter can only be taken by law of the Italian parliament with consent of both regional councils of Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige. [33][34][35]

In the European elections of 2014, the leading party was the Democratic Party with 30.4% of the vote, followed by Forza Italia (19.4%) and the autonomous Südtiroler Volkspartei with 14.1%.[36][37]


Cortina's population grew steadily from the time when it was annexed to the Italian State until the 1960s. Thereafter, it underwent a sharp decline (down by 2,099 inhabitants over a 30-year period), with signs of recovery only in the very last few years. Nevertheless, with 6,112 inhabitants, Cortina d'Ampezzo is the seventh most populous place in the province following Belluno (36,509), Feltre (20,688), Sedico (9,734), Ponte nelle Alpi (8,521), Santa Giustina (6,795) and Mel (6,272). In 2008, there were 44 births (7.1 ‰) and 67 deaths (10.9%), resulting in an overall reduction of 23 inhabitants (-3.8 ‰). The town's 2,808 families consisted on average of 2.2 persons.[38]

The presence of foreign residents in Cortina d'Ampezzo is a fairly recent phenomenon, accounting for only a small number of inhabitants in what in any case is a fairly small town. There are 298 resident foreigners in the town, representing 4.9% of the total population. This compares with 7.0% in the town Belluno, 6.4% in the entire province of Belluno, and 10.2% in the Veneto region.[38]

Language and dialects[edit]

In addition to Italian, the majority of the population speak fluent Ampezzano, a local variant of Ladin, now recognized as a language rather than a dialect. Ladin comes from Latin (like Italian, French and Spanish) and resembles Romansh which is spoken in Switzerland.[39] Maintaining the local language, which is not only spoken by the older people but also by many of Cortina's younger inhabitants, has become a symbol of their attachment to the local mountainous heritage, in contrast to Italian which only became prevalent in the area after the Second World War. The community is also proud of its Ladin or Tyrolean culture (quite different from Italian or German culture) which continues to survive despite the increasing pressure it has faced in recent years.[40] Its importance is even beginning to be recognized by the local authorities who in December 2007 decided to use Ladin on signs for the names of streets and villages, in compliance with regulations for the protection of linguistic minorities in force since 1999.[41]


From the nineteenth century, Ampezzo became a notable regional centre for crafts. The growing importance of this sector led the Austrian Ministry of Commerce to authorize the opening of a State Industrial School in 1874, which later became the Art Institute. It became a reputable institution in teaching wood and metal work, admitted boys from the age of 13 and up to four years of study.[42] The local handmade products were appreciated by early British and German holidaymakers as tourism emerged late nineteenth century. Some of the local items were said to have mythical qualities; the Austrian journalist and anthropologist Karl Felix Wolff, for example, stated in 1935 that according to legend a local man "once made a sword that was so flexible that you could bend it over, tie it up, and then allow it to straighten out again".[43] Among the specializations of the town were crafting wood for furniture, the production of tiled stoves and iron, copper and glass items.[44]

Today, the local economy thrives on tourism, particularly during the winter season, when the population of the town typically increases from about 7,000 to 40,000.[22] Lonely Planet refers to Cortina d'Ampezzo as "one of Italy's most famous, fashionable and expensive ski resorts", which "boasts first-class facilities (skiing, skating, sledding, climbing) and superb hiking".[45]

Shops in Cortina d'Ampezzo

Cortina is home to some of the most prestigious names in fashion, including Bulgari, Benetton, Gucci and Geox, and various artisan shops, antiquarians, and craft stores.[46] It is also home to many stores specializing in mountaineering equipment. The symbol of Cortina shopping remains La Cooperativa di Cortina, founded on June 28, 1893 as Consumverein Ampezzo.[47] In this shopping centre many trades can be found, from confectioners to newspaper vendors, toys, gift shops, skiing stores and blacksmiths. The building is divided into three levels (more a raised plan and a balcony). The cooperative in Cortina was one of the first cooperatives founded in the Italian Peninsula, and currently provides employment to approximately 200 people.

Hotels of note include Hotel Cornelio on Via Cantore, Hotel Montana on Corso Italia, Hotel Menardi on Via Majom and Hotel Villa Gaiai on Via Guide Alpine.[48] There are several mountain hostels in the vicinity, including Rifugio Faloria, Rifugio son Forca, Rifugio Capanna Tondi and Rifugio duca D'Aosta, which contains restaurants.[49]


The Town Hall
The Ciasa de ra Regoles

Near the bridge on the Bigontina River is the Town Hall, a palace in the Tyrolean style. Piazza Venezia houses several popular landmarks. The Ciasa de ra Regoles is one of the more important legal buildings in Cortina, where the "regolieri" — a council for the local villages that stood before the town merged — trained the community and gave administrative orders.[50] It was at one time the center of Ampezzo's administration. Currently, it contains the offices of Comunanza Regole and the Modern Art Museum "Mario Rimoldi". The building also contains the office of the Scuola Sci Cortina, Cortina's skiing school.[51]


Basilica Minore dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo

The Basilica Minore dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo was built between 1769 and 1775 on the site of two former thirteenth and sixteenth-century churches; it is home to the parish and the deanery of Cortina d'Ampezzo.[52] It high wooden altar, crowned by a figure of Christ the Redeemer was carved by Andrea Brustolon. On the ceiling are three frescoes by Luigi Ghedina: "Christ Purifying the Temple", "The Martyrdom of St. Philip and "The Beheading of St. James".[53] The Chiesa della Madonna della Difesa was built in 1750 on the site of a ruined fourteenth century building. Its façade features an intricate fresco depicting the Madonna della Difesa, and the interior is decorated with a wealth of statues, paintings, polychrome marble and gold leaf.[54] The Cappella della Beata Vergine di Lourdes (Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes) was completed in 1907. Decorated by artist Corrado Pitscheider of the Val Gardena, it is a small church of particular interest given the reconstruction sculpture.[55] The Cappella di Sant'Antonio da Padova in the village of Chiave was completed in 1791 but the interior was renovated in 1809 after serious fire damage caused by the Napoleonic troops. The furnishings include two wooden busts (Christ and St Catherine) and a richly worked altar.[56]


Museo Paleontologico "Rinaldo Zardini", established in 1975, is a paleontological museum with a collection of hundreds of fossils of all colors, shapes and sizes, found, gathered and cataloged by photographer Ampezzo Rinaldo Zardini. All of the exhibits were found in the Dolomites and tell of a time when these high mountain peaks were still on the bottom of a large tropical sea, populated by marine invertebrates, fish, corals and sponges.[57]

Museo Etnografico "Regole d'Ampezzo" is an ethnographic museum situated in an old restored Venetian sawmill on the confluence of the Boite and Felizon rivers to the north of the town.[58] There are objects related to everyday life, rural and pastoral practices in the vicinity, agricultural tools, techniques, materials processing and clothing typical of this valley etc.

Museo d'Arte Moderna "Mario Rimoldi" is an art gallery, established in 1941, which preserves over 800 works by major Italian artists of the twentieth century including Campigli, Carrà, Cascella, de Chirico, de Pisis, Guttuso, Morandi, Mušič, Savinio, Severini, Sironi, Tomea and many others.[59] It also hosts temporary exhibitions on various topics.

The Great War Tour stretches over 80 km (50 mi) across the mountains between Lagazuoi, s Torr and Sasso di Stria. It includes the Great War Open Air Museum with its trenches and tunnels. In winter it is accessible to skiers but it is easier to visit on foot or by mountain bike in the summer months.[60]

Castles and forts[edit]

The Castello de Zanna is a small fortress, situated in the frazione of Majon. It consists of low white outer walls and two white corner towers, with a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The construction of the castle began in 1694, but on August 19, 1696 the works were interrupted; the building remained unfinished in 1809 when it was burned by French revolutionary troops who had invaded Ampezzo.[61] Since then the castle has undergone restoration.

Forte Tre Sassi is a fortress erected by Austro-Hungarians in 1897 at the Valparola pass. It is situated between the Sass de Stria and the Piccolo Lagazuoi. It was part of the large complex of Austrian fortifications to the Italian border, built by order of the Austro-Hungarian Stato Maggiore in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rendered unusable due to an Italian bombing Italian in 5 July 1915, the ruins remained in a state of disrepair until the beginning of the 21st century, when it was restored by the Regole d'Ampezzo. The structure contains a Museum of the Great War, in which are preserved relics from the years of the World War I.

Castello di Botestagno is a ruined medieval fort, its remains having almost completely disappeared. It is situated on a rock located in the valley of the Boite river, north of Cortina, near the town of Castel Pra. It is believed that the first to build a stronghold here were the Lombards between the 7th and 8th centuries, with the aim of dominating the three valleys that converge beneath it: the Boite Valley, Val di Fanes, and Val Felizon. The corner stone, however, probably dates to the 11th century. Over the following centuries, the castle was held by the Germans (until 1077), by the patriarchs of Aquileia (12th century) and Camino (13th century), until Botestagno became the seat of a captaincy. It then passed into Venetian hands and finally Habsburg. During the 18th century, the castle gradually lost importance, until it was auctioned in 1782 by order of Emperor Joseph II. In the present day, only the remains of what must have been the wine cellars are still viewable, as well as the foundations of the castle, now weathered and largely covered up by vegetation.

Castello de Zanna is a small fortress, situated in the area of Minel. Its construction is linked to the late 17th century. The buildings onsists of low white outer walls and two white corner towers flanking the main front. A small chapel is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Created for Zamaria Zanna, construction began in 1694, but the work was interrupted in 19 August 1696 and the building was left unfinished until, in 1809, it was burned by French revolutionary troops who had invaded Ampezzo, after which, it remained partially damaged. Since then, the castle has undergone other restoration and has the appearance of a small ruined fortress.


c. 1920 travel poster for Cortina d'Ampezzo

Music is important to the locals of Cortina, with a guitar found in most houses, and young musicians are often found walking the streets.[62] Every year, from the end of July to early August, Cortina hosts the Dino Ciani Festival and Academy. It is held in honour of the celebrated Italian pianist Dino Ciani (1941–1974) who died when he was only 32. The festival attracts young pianists from around the world who are able to benefit from classes with some of the world's leading performers. The Festival of the Bands is another annual musical event featuring brass bands from Italy and beyond during the last week of August. Cortina's own band, parading in traditional costumes, is a central attraction dating back to 1861.[44] Cortina d'Ampezzo hosted the 1953 Miss Italia contest, won by Marcella Mariani.[63] Traditionally, on the eves of the festivals of Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity and St Philip and St James, the youth of the town would climb the hills at sunset and light fires.[62]

After Ernest Hemingway's wife Hadley lost a suitcase filled with Hemingway's manuscripts at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, he took a time off. He began writing that same year in Cortina d'Ampezzo, writing Out of Season.[64]

The dominant religion in the comune of Cortina d'Ampezzo is Roman Catholicism. Among the religious minorities, mainly a result of recent immigration, there is a small community of Orthodox Christians and Muslims. There is also a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, which has its headquarters in Pian da Lago.[65]

The surroundings of Cortina have been the location for a number of movies, including mountain climbing scenes for Cliffhanger, Krull and The Pink Panther. The resort was a major location for the 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only, including action sequences set against a backdrop of various winter sports and one of the most famous ski chase sequences in film, where Roger Moore as Bond has to escape a crew of assassins on spike-wheeled motorcycles, his route taking them all onto the bobsleigh run.[66] The actual town centre was the scene of the first attack on Bond and his partner Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) by two motorcyclists who attempted to run them over, only for Bond to eliminate them both.


Cortina d'Ampezzo
Location Italy
Nearest city Belluno
Top elevation 2,930 meters (9,610 ft)
Base elevation 1,224 meters (4,016 ft)
Runs 101 (140 km (87 mi))
Longest run 11 kilometers (6.8 mi)
Lift system 30 chairlifts, 6 gondolas, 15 surface lifts
Website Cortina Dolomiti

Cortina d'Ampezzo was the host town of the 1956 Winter Olympics. The 1944 Winter Olympics were also scheduled to be held in Cortina, but were cancelled because of World War II. The 1927 Nordic, 1941 Nordic and 1941 Alpine World Skiing Championships were held in Cortina as well, although the 1941 Nordic championships were withdrawn by the FIS in 1946.[67] The region lost the bid for the 1988 Winter Olympics to Calgary, Canada and the 1992 Winter Olympics to Albertville, France.[68]

The town is home to SG Cortina, a professional ice hockey team currently playing in the country's top division, Serie A1. Cortina is also the start and end point of the annual Dolomites Gold Cup Race, a historic reevocation event for production cars on public roads.[69] The town hosted the Red Bull Road Rage in 2009.[70]

The Olympic ski jump

Cortina also offers excellent skiing facilities for amateurs, thanks to its central position among the 12 resorts of the Dolomiti Superski area. Cortina itself has 115 km (71 mi) of ski pistes with 34 ski lifts and guaranteed snow coverage of over 95% from December to April. There are six ski schools (two for cross-country) and some 300 instructors. The Faloria-Cristallo-Mietres ski-area with spectacular views over the Ampezzo Valley is suitable for skiers of all levels including children. The Tofane area offers more challenging opportunities from an altitude of 2,500 m (8,200 ft) with the Canalone and Schuss ski runs. The longest and most spectacular ski run, the Armentarola piste in the Lagazuoi-5 Torri area, starts next to the Lagazuoi refuge at a height of 2,752 m (9,029 ft) and can be reached by cable car.[44]

Facilities also exist for cross-country skiing, including a long stretch of the old railway line. In and around Cortina, there are opportunities to participate in many other winter sports such as curling, ski mountaineering, snowboarding, sledding and extreme skiing. In the summer months, sports include trekking, biking, rock climbing, tennis, golf, swimming and ice skiing.[44]


Cortina Airport was built for the Games, but is currently closed. The town has its own bus service, connecting the centre to surrounding villages and cable car lifts.[71] The nearest airports are those serving Venice: the distance to Treviso is 138 km (86 mi) while that to Venice Marco Polo Airport is 148 km (92 mi). Both can be reached in about two and a quarter hours by road.[72] The railway station for Cortina is Calalzo di Cadore, 37 km (23 mi) to the south east, with rail connections to Venice and a bus service to Cortina. The total journey time to Venice is about three and a half hours. There are also direct bus links from Venice Mestre and Bologna railway stations, coordinated with the arrivals and departures of Eurostar trains.[73]

Notable people[edit]

Cortina has attracted many distinguished guests, often inspiring them in their creative work. They include the Italian novelists Dino Buzzati (1906–1972), author of The Tartar Steppe, Goffredo Parise (1929–1986) and Fernanda Pivano (1917–2009).[44] Ernest Hemingway, author of A Farewell to Arms, also arrived in the area in 1918 as a young ambulance driver.[74] Other notable visitors include John Ball (1818–1889), the Irish mountaineer and naturalist who climbed Monte Pelmo in 1857, the Italian mountaineers Emilio Comici (1901–1940), Angelo Dibona (1879–1956) and Lino Lacedelli (1925–2009), the Italian skier Kristian Ghedina (born 1969), the Italian bobsledder Eugenio Monti (1928–2003), the Austrian mountaineer Paul Grohmann (1838–1908) and the Austrian skier Toni Sailer (1935–2009). Frequent visitors include the Italian businessman and former racing driver Paolo Barilla (born 1961) and the journalist and writer Indro Montanelli (1909–2001).

Among the distinguished sportsmen from Cortina itself are the skiers Enrico Colli, his younger brother Vincenzo, and Giuseppe Ghedina who competed in the 1924 Winter Olympics, and Severino Menardi who participated in the 1932 and 1936 Winter Olympics. Other local citizens include the climbers Angelo Dibona (1879–1956) and Lino Lacedelli (1925–2009), and the painter Luigi Gillarduzzi (1822–1856).

International relations[edit]

Twin towns / sister cities[edit]

Cortina is twinned with:


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