In October 2015 I travelled to the Dolomites with friends and found the area both delightful to visit and lovely to photograph. One particularly charming location was the Val di Funes, an alpine valley with pretty farms, charming guest houses and small hotels catering for nature lovers and walkers. Near the top of this valley lies the tiny church of St Johann in Ranui, a private chapel built in 1744, belonging to the Ranuihof farmstead. We parked in the car park by the farm, took many photos of the pretty church in its scenic location in front of the towering Geisler peaks and had lunch at the small hotel there. They seemed glad of our custom. It was all very idyllic and quiet. We saw 2 or 3 other people looking at the church in the hour or so we were around.
Two weeks ago I was excited to visit the Dolomites again but sadly the return visit to St Johann in Ranui was a shock. It is still possible to visit the church but it is now surrounded by electric ribbon fences keeping visitors to a narrow path which is creating a scar on the landscape. There were ‘no trespassing’ signs on the farm and people everywhere taking photos. The locals have thoughtfully built a carpark and photographers’ viewing platform further down the valley but this was overwhelmed with visitors and as busy as a town on Christmas market day even though October is low season in the area. There was a sweet sign asking people to keep off the meadow and I’m glad to say this was being respected, but the tranquility of the valley is no longer and the locals were clearly suffering from an invasion of photographers in far greater numbers than the landscape can stand. Being one of the invading photographers I feel bad about this and feel duty bound to make this post. I think I’ll stick to visiting more robust locations in future.