Day 37, 38 & 39: Dolomites – Val di Funes, Val Gardena

Plan for three days

On the first day we would be driving to Val di Funes (Villnöß). There were several routes from Cortina d’Ampezza to Val di Funes, we planned to drive on the shortest route and the journey would take about two hours. The shortest route was windy and not the fastest route but we decided on this route as we thought it might bring us through the more scenic parts of the valley. 

We would be staying for three days in Val di Funes which should give us plentiful of time to explore the valleys. We had booked a place overlooking the “best” scenic spot at Val di Funes, so even without trekking we would still be enjoying an amazing view.  

Route to Villnöß

Route to Villnöß

By End of Three Days
Our route to Val di Funes was not smooth, near the last 14 km there was a blockage sign in the middle of the road. We had to detour and that added 30 km into our journey. By the time we reached our “stay” at Val di Funes we were about  one hour late. We should have ignored the blockage sign and drive on as we later  saw other similar blockage signs on other roads and these signs were pushed to the sides of the road. The signs were put there to redirect traffic for an event that had already completed.  It looked like the organisers had forgotten to remove the earlier blockage sign in the middle of the road. 

Detour due to road blockage

Detour due to road blockage

On arriving at our “stay” we found out that there was major construction work in the hotel compound just beside the existing hotel building. So for the three days we were forced to stay out as long as possible before we returned to our hotel, and once we were back we stayed holed up in our apartment. Luckily around Val di Funes there were many places to explore, the dolomites and the valleys were incredibly lovely and spectacular.  

Val di Funes (Villnöß)

At Val di Funes we stayed at Unterkantiolerhof (some sort of a farm), behind our farm was the famous Kircehe St Johann in Ranui (a church). Nearby was another famous church, Santa Maddalena Church. Both churches looked stunning, they sat in the green valleys with huge dolomites looming above them. They looked more beautiful from far on a high ground than near.

Two places in Val di Funes we went for our desert and coffee were a restaurant at San Pietro town and a restaurant Zanser Alm. Zanser Alm was one the many “mountain” restaurants where trekkers stopped for coffee break. 

Places we visited at Val di Funes

Places we visited at Val di Funes

Kircehe St Johann in Ranui
The Kircehe St. Johann in Ranui belongs to the Ranuihof farmstead, it sat in the Ranui meadows alongside the farm. The small onion dome church stood so prominently in the middle of  a vast smooth  green meadow, its backdrops of pine tree covered hills, towering greyish white dolomites and beautiful blue sky all came together to complete an unforgettable scene. 

Kircehe St Johann in Ranui as seen from a highlevel

Kircehe St Johann in Ranui as seen from a highlevel

A great place to have a top down view of the church was on the ground of our hotel. Unfortunately the ground of our hotel ground was in a shamble due to on going construction work so it was not a place to stay long. Once we took the pictures we quickly get out.  

We drove down a road S.Giovanni/St. Johann to get nearer to the church. The only parking available was at a nearby restaurant/hotel which were meant for its guests. We left our car by the roadside and walked toward the church. There was a path that was roped on both sides and a sign board advising visitors not to walk into the meadow and killed the grass/vegetation. We did not stayed long as we were uncomfortable leaving our car “illegally” parked by the side of the road.

Kircehe St Johann in Ranui as seen from ground level

Kircehe St Johann in Ranui as seen from ground level

On our second evening at Val di Funes, we left our car at our hotel and walked down to Kircehe St Johann from a shortcut starting from our hotel backyard, the shortcut went down the hill to the church. Due to the construction that was going on at our hotel the backyard shortcut was a muddy cum rocky path that was awful to trek. Anyway we were glad we trekked down. The sun was setting and the scene we saw was different from the view we saw the day before. The dolomites looked almost white, the church’s shadow was longer, the green meadow had a golden reflective shine. It was a shame that our room at Unterkantiolerhof did not face the church or we would be able to capture shots of it in the early morning and late in the evening too. 

Kircehe St Johann in Ranui near sunset hour

Kircehe St Johann in Ranui near sunset hour

Santa Maddalena Church
On our third day in Val di Funes we went in search of another famous church. Santa Maddalena Church. One of the best view of this church was on a high ground. We parked our car at this place (co-ordinates: 46.647485, 11.714837) near the junction of three roads and trekked up a dirt path up to a highview point (co-ordinates: 46.648849, 11.714348).

Map near Santa Maddalena Church

Map near Santa Maddalena Church

The trek up the slope of the hill to the highview point was pretty easy. Along the way was a couple of wooden benches facing the valley where Santa Maddalena Church stood. We walked as far and high as we could and was rewarded by the beautiful panoramic view of the valley and the church. 

Santa Maddalena Church

Santa Maddalena Church

Of the  two famous churches (Santa Maddalena Church and Kircehe St. Johann in Ranui) we felt that Kircehe St. Johann was more beautiful. Beautiful not in term of the structure of the church but the scene of the church and its surrounding.  

Zanser Alm
Zanser Alm was one of the many restaurants/cafes that was located along a walking trail in Val di Funes with fantastic scenery. We had selected Zanser Alm because it required very little walking to get to it. We drove to a huge carpark, Area di parcheggio Zanser Alm near the restaurant and paid €2 parking fee. The usually parking fee was €5 per entry but we were given a €3 discount because we showed the parking attendant our DolomitiMobil Card. The DolomitiMobil Card was given by Val di Funes county to guests staying in Val di Funes, we got the card from the host of our hotel.

Kanser Alm

Kanser Alm

At Kanser Alm we found a bench on the outside of the restaurant and ordered two cups of capaccino and one cake to share between two of us. We sat there for close to 2 and a half hours enjoying the incredibly beautiful scene infront of us, feeling the soft sunlight and cool breeze on our faces, listening to the ding/dong chimes of the cow bells nearby and surfing the internet on our mobiles catching up with news and family. Before we left we ordered another lovely cake with lots of cream and berries. Our two cups of drink and two cakes costed €11.

San Pietro town
San Pietro town was the nearest town, 5 km from our “stay” where we went to buy our grocery. Beside a small supermarket there were also a couple of cafes and restaurants. The supermarket was opposite a cafe Viel Nols so after we picked up some grocery we went into the cafe for a coffee break. 

San Pietro town

San Pietro town

The cost for two cups of hot drink and two cakes was €12.70.

Coffee break at San Pietro town

Coffee break at San Pietro town

Alp di Seceda

It was not in our original plan to visit Alp di Seceda as we thought we would be spending most of our time in Val di Funes in our hotel enjoying the “best sight” of Val di Funes. But the on going construction work at our hotel forced us to stay out so while searching for places to explore we found Alp di Seceda. From Val di Funes to Funivie Seceda (cable car station of Seceda) was 37km and we took about 50 minutes to drive there.

Route to Seceda Funivie

Route to Seceda Funivie

With the DolomitiMobil card we were given a free ride up to Alp di Seceda if we purchased a single ride down. The single ride down was €11 per person. We bought two one-way tickets down from the bottom station. The DolomitiMobil card also gave us parking fee discount for our car.

Seceda Funivie

Seceda Funivie

It was a good weather day, the sky was clear, blue and beautiful. The ride up to Alp di Seceda was very scenic and we were glued to the window all the way up. 

Cable car ride at Seceda Funivie

Cable car ride at Seceda Funivie

Wow, the view from Alp di Seceda was gorgeous. It was all green with summer flowers blooming. here and there. From the upper station we trekked to a peak where a huge cross was erected.  It was 360º of fantastic view. The green meadow was irresistable and we just could help ourselves but sat/lie down to enjoy the scenery. 

Seceda peak

Seceda peak

From Seceda Peak we saw walking and bicycle treks going down all the way into the valley into a town. Two cyclists and their bicycles came up to Seceda peak on the same cable car as us and they were riding into the town in the valley. Too bad we had to return to our car at the bottom station or we would be tempted to walk all the way down to the valley. 

Town and valley beyond

Town and valley beyond

We explored as much as we could around the upper station. The further we walked away from the station would mean the further we had to walk back. We were happy to find a restaurant, Sofie, a short distance away to have our daily coffee break. Though the weather was cold we chose to sit in the outdoor area. With a nice blanket provided by the restaurant around my knees it felt heavenly sipping hot capuccino in this beautiful place.

coffee break at Sofie 

The cost of two drinks and a slice if cake came up to €11.80. Even after our coffee and cake we were still very reluctant to get off the mountain, we moved on to the sun decks provided by the restaurant to continue “drinking” in the great scenery. 

Relaxing on the sun decks outside the restaurant

Relaxing on the sun decks outside the restaurant

Our meals for these three days

Our “apartment” came with a good kitchen so during the three days at Val di Funes we cooked three breakfasts and three dinners. Before arriving at Val di Funes we had already done our grocery shopping enroute, we bought enough food for three days. At Val di Funes we found the nearest grocery just 5 km away located in San Pietro town, this made it so convenient for us to just pop in and grab additional stuffs.   

Homecooked meals

Homecooked meals

Our Accomodation for three nights

We selected to stay at “Unterkantiolerhof” at Valley De Funes because it had many great reviews on booking.com and its pictures on booking.com showed wonderful surrounding. Unfortunately at the time when we wanted to make our reservation at booking.com, it only had two rooms apartments which was too large for just two of us. We found that single room apartments were still available at the hotel website so we booked our single room apartment directly from the hotel. All the pictures on the hotel website were even more beautiful than those listed on booking.com, it was a place we definitely wanted to stay. We paid a deposit of €100 (50% of the total cost) to secure the apartment for three nights thinking that nothing would go wrong.

Unfortunately  when we arrived we found the entire compound around the hotel building in a terrible shamble. They were in the midst of a major construction, erecting a three storey building beside the existing hotel, the ground around tossed and turned, rocky and muddy!

We were also assigned to a room which did not face the “famous view of Kircehe St Johann in Ranui”. Our room had a tall  window and it faced a huge farm shed.

Our double room with a ensuite shower stall

Our double room with a ensuite shower stall

On the website it said “every room had a view” but our host showed us to a bench placed by the side of a narrow common balcony and told us that that was our room view. Huh? Our room view was not from our room but along a common balcony which was also a walkway to other rooms!

A bench on a common corridor-balcony was our designated room view!

A bench on a common corridor-balcony was our designated room view!

The view from our “designated bench” faced the green hills which would have been okay if it was not blocked by the monstrous crane directly outside! The website said that every room had a “view” was an outright lie!

We were very upset, our plan of doing nothing for the next three days but just to rest and relax in our room or in the hotel garden and admire the gorgeous view of Valley de Funes was blown to bits! We felt so cheated! We had to pay more for a room at Unterkantiolerhof because it was the ONE with best view! But in reality with the construction going on there was no way to enjoy the view WITHIN the hotel compound! 

The garden was NO GARDEN!

The garden was NO GARDEN!

Our “single room apartment” was a mockery. Our sleeping room, kitchen and toilet were not part of a single unit but separate rooms on opposite sides of a narrow corridor shared by other guests to get to their apartments. Our private kitchen and toilet were across the corridor outside our room and the toilet door could not even be secured!

Our designated private kitchen

Our designated private kitchen

Our expectation (which was not unreasonable) and the reality was just too disparate. Though we were unhappy we had no choice but to accept the situation as our host could hardly speak English and we could not convey our disatisfaction. If we left we would lose our deposit of €100. Since we did not book the single room apartment from booking.com we could not warn (reviews/feebacks) other potential guests of the “inaccurate” depiction of this place by the hotel owner. Back in our mind we could have been given a “lousy” apartment because the host knew that there would be nowhere we could address our dissatisfaction of her place.

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