5 National Parks in Northern Italy
Discover the 5 National Parks in Northern Italy between sport and relaxation. Explore the nature of the national parks
16 September 2022
1. Gran Paradiso National Park
Glaciers, mountains and larch, spruce and stone pine forests, face-to-face with so many ibex that they have become the symbol of the area: a largely Alpine environment that characterizes Italy's oldest national park (established in 1922) and an invitation for ad hoc experiences such as excursions with snowshoes, Nordic walking, rock and ice climbing, trekking, e-bike and mountain bike pedalling along rough or asphalt roads - all with the possibility of being enjoyed independently or with specialist guides, along routes accessible to everyone or others that are more challenging. The "Paradisia" Botanical Garden in Valnontey is well worth a visit. This village outside Cogne is in the beating heart of the Park, home to an enormous variety of mountain and alpine species against the spectacular backdrop of the Gran Paradiso. There is also the delightful town of Aosta itself with its slow rhythms, vestiges of its Roman origins and the irresistible flavour of typical local fontina cheese.
2. Stelvio National Park
Trekking at high altitude with walking boots or snowshoes through woods, glaciers and alpine pastures, often above two thousand metres and up to four thousand in Mount Ortles, the highest peak. Visitors can also stay overnight in traditional farms and shelters not to miss spectacular excursions even at dawn and at night beneath the flight of golden eagles. An in-depth nature adventure taking in hiking trails for all abilities, even accompanied by alpine guides, suitable for experienced explorers and families alike. People looking for alpine herbs or the trails of wild fauna such as deer, marmots and roe deer will particularly enjoy the educational workshops focusing on local flora, sensory experiences and visits to the "Rezia" alpine botanical garden in Bormio. Lovers of bicycles, e-bikes, mountain and cross country bikes choosing among the numerous panoramic slopes should not miss the ancient and winding road of the Stelvio Pass, the queen stage of the Giro d'Italia. It is closed to traffic every year at the end of August and reserved exclusively for cyclists for the traditional "Cycling Day". All against a setting of historic rural villages, castles, abbeys and energy-boosting places in nature to restore your vigour.
3. National Park of the Belluno Dolomites
On foot, bicycle or horseback up and down the Dolomites along hundreds of trails and mule tracks, equipped difficult climbing routes and forest roads to discover a park rich in history and traditions brought to life again in the thematic visitor centres. Tourists can return into a past that is still vividly alive with its old customs and crafts such as those of miners and chair makers. For this reason, the Ethnographic Museum is also well worth a visit, not to mention the botanical garden complete with all the typical local plants. The Belluno Visitor Centre, on the other hand, explains the entire area of the Park in every aspect, as well as suggesting a visit to the Civic Natural History Museum expressly dedicated to the rich local flora, continued by exploring the city itself - the only Italian provincial capital partially set within a national park.
4. Cinque Terre National Park
Enclosed in an enchanting embrace between land and sea, enjoy becoming lost while walking or biking along a network of 120 km of paths including clearly marked panoramic itineraries often also linked with specific themes such as those among the vineyards of the local raisin wine Sciacchetrà or among ancient settlements. These trails lead into the authentic beauty of the five pastel-coloured, jewel-like villages set between the sea and hills, declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Riomaggiore and Manarola are linked by the panoramic pedestrian Via dell'Amore overlooking the sea, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso are all characterized by their own Marian Sanctuary and the Monterosso Literary Park dedicated to Eugenio Montale. The Protected Marine Area has special itineraries for swimming and kayaking, some suitable even for the disabled, and spectacular sea beds for snorkeling and diving among starfish, lobsters and barracudas. In summer, sea outings take visitors to the Cetacean Sanctuary to spot fin whales, dolphins and sperm whales.
5. National Park of the Casentinesi, Monte Falterona and Campigna Forests
Six hundred kilometres of hiking trails to be travelled on foot or two wheels (bicycle hire available on site) among forests, ridges and mule tracks, against the evocative nature of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines dominated by the ancient beech woods in the Park and Integrated Reserve of Sasso Fratino, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. They also often coincide with trails and pilgrimage routes such as those leading to the Sanctuary of La Verna, where St. Francis lived and received the stigmata, or to the Hermitage of Camaldoli. Nor should walkers miss the Path of the Sacred Forests, the Alta Via dei Parchi and the numerous easy-to-follow Nature Trails, while for bikers the scenic “Lama Forest Trail” is a must. In the year of Dante700, when 2021 celebrates the Father of the Italian language 700 years from his death, a special mention can certainly be made of Le Vie di Dante, the network of trails and paths unwinding between Florence and Ravenna in the footsteps of the Great Poet. This project received the prestigious Best in Travel 2021 Award by Lonely Planet in the sustainable and slow cultural tourism category. Guided excursions are also possible, even in the saddle on horses and donkeys and, in summer, by electric-powered boat on Lago di Ridracoli. Lastly, the chance to live a volunteer experience by taking part in projects to promote and protect nature, such as maintenance of paths and management of local fauna.