Discover Val di Funes: Your Guide to Italy’s Most Enchanting Valley

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Kate + Vin

Val di Funes (also known as Valle di Funes, Villnöss, Villnöß and Villnösstal).
tyrolean alps icon 1

Val di Funes is a storybook valley deep in the heart of Italy’s South Tyrol. Here’s your step-by-step guide to the majestic sights of this real-life fairy tale.

If J.R.R Tolkien were to magically drop you a postcard from Middle Earth there’s a good chance it would come from Val di Funes (also known as Valle di Funes, Villnöss, Villnöß and Villnösstal). This bewitching land in the Dolomites may very well be nature’s greatest masterpiece — a perfect storm of beauty and brawn.

The valley of Val di Funes unfolds gently through miles upon miles of unspoiled forests and velvety green slopes until abruptly ending beneath the jaw-dropping thundercrack of the Dolomites. When the fangs of the Odle peaks first come into view, it is jarring. Some mountains look like they wish to kiss the heavens, these look as if they intend to sink their teeth into the yonder.

In this post, we give you a step-by-step guide to visiting Val di Funes. You’ll discover how to experience the best views and hike from one attraction to the next while taking in all the Alpine enchantment this blessed valley offers.

⇒ Plan Your Visit: Grab our South Tyrol + Dolomites Travel Guide

What to See in Val di Funes

A Virgin Mary Shrine in Val di Funes, Italy
Every turn in Val di Funes is a photogenic gem.

Val di Funes teems with attractions worth exploring, but the two most celebrated are the Church of St. Magdalena (Chiese di Santa Maddalena) and the Church of St. Johann (also known as the Church of St. John and Chiesa di San Giovanni). These two storied holy sites are rather small, but leave a mountain-size impression on travelers.

Like the north-facing Odle peaks, they are symbolic of Val di Funes. The much-loved scene of their steeples among the mountains may make them the most photographed churches in South Tyrol.

The itinerary we detail below will take 2-3 hours if covering it primarily by foot. If you do not want to walk that much, you can drive near to either church.

Both can be enjoyed in as little as an hour. However, we recommend planning on at least spending a morning or afternoon exploring the area.

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The Church of St. Magdalena

goats grazing val di funes
The Church of St. Magdalena is worth visiting after soaking in the unforgettable views of it set against the Dolomites.

The Church of St. Magdalena belongs to a tiny village of the same name tucked in the southern end of Val di Funes. The church itself sits atop a grassy hill where it is said pagan rituals took place long ago.

The exact date the church was built is not known, but it was first mentioned in historical documents in 1394. According to legend, the church was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene after a mirage of her appeared in a nearby brook. As you may recall, she is one of the most beloved saints as she embodies the power of forgiveness and was the first to see Jesus resurrected.

Inside, the church design and decor are classically baroque. Ornate gold and marble accents and remarkable paintings flourish from ceiling to floor. Above the altar is a painting of Mary Magdalene followed by a statue of her at the foot of the cross.

Val di Funes is famous for its panoramic scene of the church against the mountainsides, but the views from the church itself are equally breathtaking. Photography enthusiasts will find endless ways to creatively frame the peaks from the church grounds.

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Tips for the Best Views

Seeing the Church of St. Magdalena up close is certainly a rewarding experience, but admiring it against the backdrop of the Dolomites is a sight you’ll never forget. Here’s how to capture the iconic panorama as shown above:

  • From the Via Geisler roadway into the village of St. Magdalena take a left at the blue sign directing you to the village center.  Straight ahead of you will be a public parking lot. We recommend parking here and hiking along the road to the panorama point and church. The road leading directly to the church is closed to automobiles.
  • Take a left onto Bergweg and then a right on Trebich. Note: Street names may not be visible so be sure to follow the signs for the church (Kirche / Chiesa).
  • Follow Trebich to the left and then Magdalenaweg, which veers to the right. Stay on Magdalena as it winds gradually upward.
  • You’ll eventually see the church to your right. But instead of taking the right continue straight to reach a higher elevation.
  • You will then come to a farmstead on the road where you will take a right. Follow the road up to the second bend. Here, you will find a short trail called St. Magdalena Panoramaweg cutting across the slope offering the best views.

Trail Map to St. Magdalena Church

After thoroughly drinking in the views, we suggest visiting the church. It is open daily.

The Church of St. Johann

visit st johann church val di funes

Only 40 minutes away by foot from the Church of St. Magdalena is the picturesque Church of St. Johann. This little stone church with its famous onion-bulbed steeple is actually more akin to a chapel, but the sight of it is equally stunning. It is also often referred to as St. John of Nepomuk in Ranui or San Giovanni.

The Church of St. Johann came to adorn the meadow at the foot of the Odle massif in 1744. A Baroque gem inside and out, the front facade showcases decorative pillars painted on the ends with a depiction of St. John of Nepomuk near the peak of the chapel.

st johann church ranui val di funes
Since 1744, The Church of St. Johann has charmed travelers…and cows. It’s not uncommon to find the gentle souls grazing all over Val di Funes.

The life of St. John of Nepomuk is not as well known as St. Mary Magdalene’s. Considered a martyr, St. John was sentenced to death by drowning in 1393 by King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia. He was gagged and thrown into the Vltava River from the Charles Bridge in Prague.

Within the chapel, a series of paintings on the sides of the altar tells the story of St. John. The altar itself is grandly ornate with bedazzling marble and gold in the classic Baroque style like the Church of St. Magdalena. Curiously, a painting shows St. John holding out his tongue. It is apparently meant to symbolize his defiance of the king, which ultimately led to his torture and murder.

st johann chapel val di funes italy

Tips for the Best Views

Since the Church of St. Johann sits in the middle of a wide-open field, numerous points will wow you as you meander to its doorstep. Here’s how we recommend visiting the chapel to soak it all in:

  • From the Church of St. Magdalena walk the path located outside the cemetery downhill towards the village center. Along this path, you will come to one of the most epic wayside shrine scenes in South Tyrol.
  • The path eventually becomes Kircheweg. Sweeping views of various farmsteads along this route make it a walk to remember.
  • Follow Kircheweg all the way into the village and then take a left onto Bergweg. Before you cross onto Bergweg pause to enjoy the ripples of a small waterfall on your left.
val di funes st johann church
  • Stay on Bergweg and keep to the right when you come to a fork. This will lead you to the Via Geisler roadway where you will walk along the side for roughly 10 minutes until reaching a trail crossing a pasture to The Church of St. Johann.
  • Before venturing to the church, you’ll come across a stand where you can purchase fresh jams, syrups and more from the nearby farm. We always recommend supporting these family-owned farms when you get the chance. There’s nothing better than the regional specialties direct from the farm.
  • The largest stony spire of the Odle massif rises up beyond the church. It is known as Sass Rigais. This peak taught mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner how to master the climb.

Trail Map to St. Johann Church

The Church of St. Johann is available to visitors, but it is not always open. You can request access by contacting the Ranuihof Manor located on the edge of the church’s meadow.

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When to Visit Val di Funes

val di funes farmhouse

Like Alpe di Siusi, Val Fiscalina and Prato Piazza, Val di Funes is a destination that can be enjoyed on foot year-round. Seeing its top sights does not require scheduling around lift schedules or avoiding the unpredictability of mountain weather.

As we have noted in many of our articles, our favorite time to visit the Dolomites is in autumn. Fewer crowds, cooler temps, hearty harvest festivals and the brilliant colors of fall make it the ideal season.

If you are planning to visit Val di Funes in the fall, consider timing your trip around Speckfest. This culinary celebration occurs the first weekend of October each year and is held right below the St. Magdalena Church. Discover more about this annual event by checking out our fun-filled afternoon at Speckfest. Note: In 2023, Speckfest is taking place at Plan de Corones (Kronplatz) instead of Val id Funes.

Where to Stay in Val di Funes

Naturally, the best way to experience Val di Funes is to stay in the valley itself. The relatively central location of Val di Funes in South Tyrol makes the area an ideal base for exploring the Dolomites.

Ranuimüllerhof

Hotel Ranuimüllerhof – This affordable, family-owned wellness hotel is perfectly located for launching on hikes. It has the Church of St. Johann directly in its backyard and offers breathtaking views in every direction.

After a day’s adventure, you can unwind in the hotel’s aromatic pinewood sauna, relax with an alpine herb steam bath, or give your legs and back some love by laying on therapeutic hay beds. A cosy restaurant, tavern and cafe are all on-site allowing you to simply arrive and relax.

⇒ BOOK A STAY AT HOTEL RANUIMÜLLERHOF HERE

How to Reach Val di Funes

Thanks to its relatively central location in South Tyrol, adding a trip to Val di Funes as a part of your itinerary is easy no matter where you base yourself.

Tucked between Val Gardena to the southwest and Val Pusteria to the north, Val di Funes is only 45 minutes from Bolzano and 30 minutes from Brixen.

val di funes dolomites map

If you are arriving by car, the valley can be directly accessed from the A22 Autostrade. The exit is just north of Chiusa (Klausen). Reaching St. Magdalena village on the far end of Val di Funes is a pleasant drive. It takes less than 20 minutes once you exit the main highway.

Those using public transportation while in South Tyrol can still easily embark on an adventure in the valley. A bus departs from Chiusa and Brixen multiple times each day. To explore public transportation options, visit the official Val di Funes website. 

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⇒ Plan Your Visit: Grab our South Tyrol + Dolomites Travel Guide

Additional Tips for Visiting Val di Funes

The Dolomites in Val di Funes
  • Consider taking a break between hikes by having lunch in St. Magdalena.
  • Visit the Puez-Odle Nature Park Visitor Center in the heart of St. Magdalena to discover other attractions and the history of the area.
  • Make a trip to Val di Funes a full-day outing by trekking the Adolf Munkel Trail. This 3+ hour hike will bring you up close to the Odle mountain group. See our guide on how to hike to Geisler Alm for details.
  • If you want to see Val di Funes alive with Alpine wildflowers the best time to visit is the summer season.
  • To enjoy the valley with the least number of tourists, we suggest visiting Val di Funes in May or October. Another option is to explore Val di Funes in the winter when it becomes a wonderland for snow lovers.
  • Like many mountain vistas, sunrise and sunset will give you the most spectacular photo opportunities.
  • Before arriving in St. Magdalena you’ll pass through the village of San Pietro in the heart of Val di Funes. Consider visiting another remarkable church known as the “Duomo della Valle” (Cathedral in the Valley). Its onion-bulbed steeple soars an impressive 200+ feet.
  • If you would like to see more fairytale landscapes in the Dolomites, consider visiting Lago di Carezza. It ripples with myth and legend.

Have you been to Val di Funes? Let us know in the comments below if there are any additional tips or sights you would recommend.

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Kate & Vin South Tyrol & Dolomites Travel Consultants

About KATE & vin

Kate and Vin are South Tyrol + Dolomites travel specialists and the founders of Throne & Vine. They're dedicated to helping travelers discover and visit the most beautiful region in the Italian Alps.

31 thoughts on “Discover Val di Funes: Your Guide to Italy’s Most Enchanting Valley”

  1. Hello! We are going to visit this beautiful area in early May. Are there any hotels open yet? The one mentioned in this article does not open until May 18th but we will be there before that. Thank you

  2. I agree with Katie. Great post! Also following you on Instagram now!!

    We are taking your advice and visiting in May 2022. We plan to be there from 27 May through June 1st. Can we expect everything to be green by then? Do you have any photos on your IG from late May? Really curious if that is a pretty time to visit or not.

    Thank you.

    Steve and Diane

    • Thank you, Steve! Yes, you can expect everything in the valley to be green by then. Spring is a beautiful time to visit Val di Funes! Have a wonderful trip.

  3. Great post and very detailed, thank you! Looking at the map it seems that Val di Funes is very close to Val Gardena, which is where we’ll be spending the majority of our time in the DOlomites. Do you think it’s possible to hike from Seceda on the Val Gardena side (cable car from ORtisei) to the Adolf Munkel trail and exit in Val Di Funes somehow? We don’t have a car so catching the bus from Val Gardena to Val Di Funes to hike around there is a lot more time consuming.
    Thank yoU!

    • Hi Katie – Thank you for the compliment! While we have not embarked on a hike from Seceda to Val di Funes, it is definitely possible. Looking at our trail map, it looks like trail no. 6 from Seceda will bring you down into Val di Funes. From trail no 6, keep an eye out for trail no. 28 towards the Gschnagenhardt hut. If you hike all of the Adolf Munkel trail this will make for a really long day so consider taking the public bus back to Ortisei. Have an amazing trip!

    • Wonderful to hear Ron! Hope you have a perfect day in Val di Funes and the mountains are on full display! 🙂

  4. Dear friends
    Thank you very much for the post: Awesome information, tips and pictures!!
    I was wondering if you would be so kind to tell me where the first picture, the one with the image of the virgin, was taken?
    Thank you very much!!!!

    • Hi Yolanda – Glad you found our post helpful! The shrine you speak of is located on a path that leads to the Speckfest grounds and St. Magdalena Church. I don’t recall the exact spot but you should pass right by it when walking this way to the church. Hope this helps: https://goo.gl/maps/dufBmz9dqCFT8FyZ9 Enjoy your visit!

  5. I’ve wanted to hike the Dolomites ever since I first heard about them. Now I have a central place to begin and to immerse in the local culture as well as natural world. Thanks for the details and incredible pictures.

  6. I’m not a big hiker, but I think 2-3 hours would be a piece of cake with so much surrounding beauty to distract me. And old churches are fascinating. The Church of St. Johann is so charming, love the faux painting/mural-esque designs on the outside. Was that on the building originally or added later? Gorgeous photos btw!

  7. I’m not a big hiker, but I think 2-3 hours would be a piece of cake with so much surrounding beauty to distract me. And old churches are fascinating. The Church of St. Johann is so charming, love the faux painting/mural-esque designs on the outside. Was that on the building originally or added later?

  8. What a beautiful place you have shared. I have never heard of Val di Funes. It’s just breathtaking. I’m sure even more so in person. The ceiling in Church of St. Magdalena is very interesting. I bet that took a long time to paint. The Church of St. Johann seems more intimate to me. I really love the outside of it, especially against such a beautiful backdrop.

  9. All the pictures are fabulous. There is a merit in exploring a destination with dramatic clouds like that! The beauty of Val di Funes has been enhanced against the backdrop of those skies.

  10. I keep hearing about this place. Your photos are breathtaking! I would love to see all of this in person. Not sure if I would want to do a 4 plus hour hike though. A break with some good food is persuading to do so though.

  11. I’m not a big trekking kind of person but could easily be convinced to stop being lazy for these views! The Church of St. Johann is picture perfect; Val di Funes also looks adorable.

  12. Such stunning views and what a gorgeous place to hike. I have never made it to the Dolomites and it continues to rank high as a destination to visit. Your incredible photos with the dark skies are quite striking. I’m quite intrigued by the Church of St. Johann, I’d love to check it out. I hope to make it to the region soon and will certainly be referring to your post!

    • Thanks Rosemary for the comment! Hope you can see Val di Funes when you return to South Tyrol. Nothing quite like it!

  13. I always regretted not making it to the Dolomites when I travelled to Italy a few years ago but I had very little time on that trip and managed to cover only the usual places – Rome, Venice, Florence & Capri. That is why I have now planned another trip that will include all the places I couldn’t make it to and Val di Funes undoubtedly is on the top of that list. The over picture you’ve used sells the place incredibly and the churches you’ve mentioned are gorgeous. Thanks for the detailed tips of how to make it to Val di Funes, I am bookmarking this post for future reference.

    • Glad you found this piece helpful. Hope you can finally make it to his side of Italy one day. If you have any questions when you begin planning, just let us know!

  14. ROFL, loved the Tolkien reference.Your pictures are gorgeous. You have a great eye for detail and know how to frame your images. Such a thorough guide, the Dolomites are on our list, hope to make it there one day and your guide will come in handy.

  15. Love your writing style….was waiting for you to describe Frodo Baggins in detail as he strolled across the green valley floor anticipating his next meal or adventure.

    The use of your photos in the article also captivated me as I read the story and then the tips. And wow, those tips are awesome – actionable tips and practical advice to get the very best out of the hike.

    Can you please advise if there are any potable streams along the way to fill up water bottles? How hot does it get at the height of summer?

    • Thanks Paul. Appreciate the compliment! It can reach above 80°F (28°C) in the summer. As far as water goes, we do not recommend drinking the water out of the streams due to the Alpine farms throughout the area. Several mountains huts allow you to stop and fill up your bottle or sit down to have a meal and drink to take a break from hiking. Please let us know if you have any other questions.

  16. What a beautiful spot to visit. The Dolomites have been on our list. But Val di Funes is another stunning reason to visit. Your description of your visit brought it all into clear detail. The blue sky pics are beautiful. But there is something eerie about visiting the Church of St Magdalena with the moody skies all around. Good tip to find a viewpoint to see if from far away after seeing the inside. I do love the colourful Church of St Johann too. Thanks for the amazing tease.

    • You’re welcome Linda! St. Magdalena may have an eerie aura about it since it was the site of pagan sacrifices thousands of years ago. But can assure you its beauty far outweighs the moodiness of the scene!

  17. We love incorporating hiking into our treks and trekking in the Dolomites is on the top of our bucket list. Your post with its in-depth details of top sights in Val di Funes and how to get the best views is definitely going to help us plan our adventure in this region. The stunning Church of St. Magdalena and the sublime views of the region are sure to leave one spellbound. I did not know about Speckfest – thanks for introducing me to this interesting festival – would be quite an experience to be able to attend this culinary celebration. Looks like autumn (with the Speckfest) and summer (with its blooming meadows) are both amazing times to visit the region. Will definitely be referring to this post in future.

    • Glad you found the post so helpful. If you can time your visit during Speckfest, it will make your trip to Val di Funes even more endearing.

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