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Nature

Gran Paradiso National Park

Once a hunting reserve of the Savoy family, located between Valle d'Aosta and Piedmont, for over 100 years it has been a protected area: in addition to the ibexes, it has conserved its wonderful ecosystem

The territory defined in <strong>December 1922 </strong>as the Gran Paradiso National Park <strong>extends around the homonymous massif </strong>(whose peak exceeds 4000 meters) and in the past was a densely populated area. <strong>The architecture of the villages </strong>is based on the idea of the <strong>alpine house</strong>, on the Piedmontese side with constructions entirely made of wood, while on the Aosta Valley side wood is flanked by stone. <strong>The maximum splendor of this area was reached in the middle of the 1800s</strong>, when members of the House of Savoy came up to these parts to reach the hunting posts. The decision to <strong>prohibit hunting </strong>when the Park first opened was fundamental to saving the ibexes - which are its symbol - from extinction. Today, this <strong>mountain Eden</strong>, divided into <strong>five valleys where rocky environments, prairies, woods </strong>and their borders alternate, is truly within everyone's reach: thanks to the project “<strong>an Accessible Paradise</strong>”, the tourist offering of the entire protected area is able to satisfy the needs, interests and expectations of a wider range of users.

1. Itineraries

Two people walking on the trails through the meadows of the Gran Paradiso Park

We are in the high mountains, so there are substantial differences in the trails you can follow according to the season in which you choose to visit the Park: the network of trails twists and turns at the foot of Gran Paradiso for a total of 500 km, and it is available online divided into single valleys, so that everyone can choose the route they prefer. There are some that can be tackled in a day, others over several days, or in stages: the most popular ones include those from Giroparco Gran Paradiso, Alta Via Canavesana and Alta Via no. 2 in Valle d’Aosta. Once on site, simply follow and respect the signs, to move safely on your chosen route and respect the nature of the park. In winter, you can move around on skis or snowshoes, while in summer, thanks to the project "A piedi tra le nuvole" (Walking about the Clouds), you can choose to travel on foot, by bicycle or by shuttle, taking advantage of the soft mobility protected by a strong reduction in road traffic.

2. Sports in the area

Girl cross-country skiing in the snow in the Park

In the more than 70,000 hectares of land spanned by the Park, several sporting activities can be enjoyed. In winter, at the ski resorts such as Cogne or Valsavarenche, you can go cross-country and downhill skiing. During the summer season you can try your hand at rock or ice climbing, a very challenging activity rich in history, a key element for the Gran Paradiso National Park. Five pristine valleys where you can choose between solid rock walls and shiny ice falls in total silence, immersed in a unique scenario. Again in the Park or in the surrounding areas, visitors can pedal through nature, perhaps with the aid of an e-bike.

3. Experiences

Close-up of three beautiful, very fragile, Edelweiss

The Gran Paradiso National Park offers many unusual experiences: you can book a visit to a school which was operational until the mid-1900s, located 1600 meters along the mule track of the Vallone del Roc, one of the most interesting itineraries on the Piedmont side. This is the primary school of Borgata Maison, in Noasca, here it feels as if time has stood still since the school still has its original furniture and materials. In Valnontey, at an altitude of 1700 meters, the Alpine Botanical Garden Paradisia is located in the heart of the park, on a series of dales and natural depressions: its flowering period is mainly between June and July. Guided themed tours and nature-themed games are held here, above all during this period. The Garden can also be toured independently: at the entrance each guest receives an information leaflet on its main features. Finally, each plant is accompanied by a card that shows its name and its classification as an autochthonous, exotic or officinal species. Many of the experiences available are also dedicated to animals: watching eagles or ibexes and observing their behavior up close (in their natural habitat) is priceless.

4. Attractions

Section of the park where ancient dry stone walls are still in place to contain the land

The villages of the park preserve a timeless charm, with the typical high mountain houses of the whole Alpine arc surrounded by larch woods, among valleys and glades; in the hamlet of Boschettiera there is an old oven that is still fully functional. But in general, all around, in the five valleys you can find rock engravings and frescoes, roads and bridges of Roman origin, churches and medieval castles, such as the Malgrà castle in Rivarolo Canavese, mountain pastures, paths and mule tracks, living evidence of the long history of these lands. Finally, there are the royal hunting houses, single-storey buildings located in large plateaus above 2000 meters, which were intended to accommodate the king and his court, now real jewels of the Park and well worth a visit.

5. Fine food and wine

Wheels of Fontina cheese left on wooden shelves to age

A territory so rich in biodiversity with pastures, cultivated fields, and mountain pastures, can only bring to the table amazing fine food and wine. For this reason there are specific itineraries - such as the one through Aymavilles, Cogne and Sarre - designed to introduce visitors to the local fine food and wine treasures. In addition to the absolute star of the show, Fontina PDO which is produced throughout the Valle d’Aosta, you can also taste fresh and ripened cow's milk cheeses, goat cheeses and other dairy products. The wine of the local production, with its variety of reds, whites and dessert varieties, appreciated all over the world, is no less impressive.

6. Hospitality

Exterior of one of the Park's lodges on a snowy plateau, with the mountains in the background

The municipalities within the Park offer accommodation solutions for all types of needs and expectations: from lodges to campsites, from farm holidays to bed & breakfasts, from camper parking areas to hotels. A good idea is to choose one of the many facilities marked with the Gran Paradiso Quality Mark (indicated by the official logo), which certifies to its attention to the environment and traditions.

7. Services in the Park

There is always a guide available - seriously! Thanks to an up-to-date online search system, you can book the most qualified professional for the experience you want to try. The filters you can use to choose one of the 20 guides on duty include your desired language, the possibility to choose your favorite activity from environmental education, cycling or Nordic walking and the valley in which you would like to do it. You’ll be sure to meet professionals prepared to take individuals or groups on tours to discover the Park. There are many information points, from the central office in Turin to the many others located in the various towns and villages.