Cortina d’Ampezzo, an Italian city surrounded by the Dolomite mountains, hosted the 1956 Winter Olympic Games. Because of its location, Cortina d’Ampezzo has been part of both Austria and Italy, but since the end of the first world war it has been part of Italy.
So, how did Cortina d’Ampezzo come to be called Cortina d’Ampezzo? That is difficult information to find if you don’t speak or read Italian – there’s a whole section on the origin of the name on Italian Wikipedia. I, however, don’t speak or read Italian, so I had to look elsewhere.
The name Cortina d’Ampezzo has two parts, and, at least according to Placenames of the World, the first part, Cortina, means “little court,” cortina being the diminutive of corte, the word for “court.” Someplaces seem to suggest that there may be a small fence or curtain involved, but that may simply be a result in translation errors. And for the second part of the name, Ampezzo, Cortina d’Ampezzo is in the Ampezzo valley, (hence the d’ part of the name, in English we would say “Cortina of Ampezzo”), and Ampezzo comes from the Italian in pezzo meaning “piece of land.”
While the Winter Olympics are on in Vancouver, we’ll be exploring the origins of the names of former host cities of the winter olympic games, working more or less in reverse chronological order. Today we’re looking at Turin, Italy.
Turin, (Torino in Italian), was originally founded as Taurasia byt the Taurini Gauls around 300 BC. It was destroyed by Hannibal around 218 BC but didn’t get completely wiped off of the map. Rome rebuilt Taurasia as Augusta Taurinorum in 28 BC. After the collapse of the Roman Empire Turin was occupied by various groups, then finally became part of the Duchy of Savoy at the end of the thirteenth century, when its existence became relatively peaceful.
You might be thinking that “that’s all very nice, but where did the name come from?” I was thinking that after reading a bunch of history articles. There isn’t a lot of information out there about the Taurini Gauls who founded Turin, but it appears that the is either derived from the Taurini word “thor” which means “to mount” or is named after a bull because the river Po, which Turin lies on the bank of, looked like a bull with golden horns to the first inhabitants of the area. Apparently the modern Italian name of the city, “Torino” translates roughly to “little bull,” and the symbol of the city is a bull, which lends some weight to the bull story.