You might say that one of the main driving factors in my wanting to start a travel blog was this little chapel tucked away in the Dolomite mountains of Northern Italy.
Is that not such an incredibly beautiful place?
You see, a few years ago I was flipping through a Conde Nast Traveler and came across the Where Are You? Contest. In case you’re unfamiliar with the contest – as I was at the time – the magazine prints a photo of an unnamed destination, giving a little description with clues as to where it is. If you know its location, you write in to the magazine.
So I came across a photo (similar to the one I took above) of this tiny, colorful chapel in the middle of a green meadow with huge mountains in the background. To me, it was one of the prettiest places I’d ever seen but I had no idea where it was since the magazine doesn’t tell you where it is until a following issue (but luckily I had been looking at an old issue and the newer one with the photo’s location had been revealed: the Dolomites).
Where on Earth…?
The problem was that even though the magazine (eventually) disclosed the name of the church and its general location, it didn’t tell you how to get there. One of the most frustrating things to me is coming across a photo of a gorgeous location only to discover that they don’t tell you where it is or how to visit yourself. It’s almost like they want to keep it a secret.
But I think that the most beautiful places on earth ought to be shared and experienced by anyone who’s interested, and now that the Internet makes that more possible, I hope to be able to help you find some of these awesome locations so you can experience it firsthand.
X Marks the Spot
After quite a long search, I finally located the exact position of this church on the map (see map below). I was really surprised how difficult it was. While there’s a gazillion photos out there of the church, few people actually tell you how to get there. So that’s one thing I hope to accomplish: to discover & re-discover new & beautiful places and to share it with you so that you can go, too.
Getting There: Now the Fun Begins
Now back to how we actually got to the church. We were based in Castelrotto, which was actually quite near to the church. One morning we drove on over and it only took about 30-45 minutes. Here are a few photos that I made on the way there. The drive alone was quite pretty.
This was taken just after leaving our hotel, Residence-Hotel Vroni.
I couldn’t get over how many castle-like buildings were built in the area, casually sitting along the roadside.
The St Johann church is in the middle of a large green meadow next to a road that dead ends. We went to the end of the road and took this photo looking back towards the way we came in. Still a pretty view, but not as impressive as the one from the front of the church.
Some fireweed that I didn’t expect to see here. It’s one of the most prevalent sights in Alaska along the roads and trails, so I guess I always (incorrectly) associated it with colder climates.
There’s a path you can walk on to access the front of the church from the road.
Isn’t the church just so cute? You don’t see buildings like this every day in the US. I don’t remember if there were signs saying when St Johann (also known as San Giovanni) was built, but from different Internet websites it seems it was built in the 18th Century.
Living in Colorado and having spent a lot of time up in Alaska, I’ve seen quite a few mountains. But quite honestly, the Dolomites might just be my favorite. I just love the wide open meadows, the craggily peaks, the rolling hills, the attractive Italian buildings… All of it just makes the experience so rich to me. And while the outdoor activities like hiking (and skiing) are endless, I think I could also just spend time sitting still enjoying the view.
This little church known as St. Johann (or San Giovanni in Italian) is what brought me to this region. And even though I thought seeing the church was worth it, whether or not you actually go see it, I’d definitely recommend a trip to the Dolomites.
Here’s a Google map of where to find this little gem. St. Johann lives in Funes Valley and is just southeast of the town Santa Maddalena. Zoom in to see the exact location.
View St Johann (San Giovanni) Church, Ranui, Val di Funes – Italy in a larger map
Wishing you safe & happy travels!