Italy is best known for its iconic historical sites of interest and its unparalleled plethora of museums, galleries, palaces and artistic masterpieces. However, Italy is not just blessed with an amazing cultural and historical heritage because the natural beauty of the country is absolutely second to none too.
Some of the very best of Italy’s landscapes and scenery have been protected for posterity in the nation’s natural parks. These parks are the ultimate destination for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers but also for visitors and expats who like to hike and experience the natural world up close!
The best national parks in Italy are:
Perched in the Central Alps of Italy on the border of Switzerland, the stunning Stelvio National Park in Valtellina region covers more than 1500 square miles and is home to lush mountain forests, alpine meadows and a whole range of wildlife.
As well as the lovely walking trails that it’s famous for, which are suitable for all abilities and experience, the park is home to deer, ibex, stoats, foxes, owls and even majestic golden eagles! Full of gorgeous mountain photo opportunities, Stelvio National Park is one of Italy’s best hidden treasures.
The easiest way to see the park at your leisure is to stay in the nearby town of Bormio; where there are hotels, restaurants and even a ski center to enjoy.
The park is open from 9.30 am until 12.30pm and from 2.30pm until 6pm on weekdays and from 2.30 until 6pm on the weekend. The park is closed to the public on Mondays when regular maintenance and other activities are undertaken. The ideal time to visit the park, when the meadows are full of flowers and the weather is at its best, is during June and July.
Nestled on the border of Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, the Gran Paradiso National Park contains nearly 1000 different types of flowers, including some extremely rare varieties which grow almost nowhere else! The park is named after the Gran Paradiso mountain and is well known among locals for its stunning topography as well as being home to the impressive Alpine ibex, weasels, hares and the Eurasian eagle-owl.
The park contains a series of well maintained footpaths, an important Alpine botanical garden and a visitor center where you can find out more about the park’s history. As well as reveling in the scenery you can also go cross-country skiing in the winter or go hiking in the summer.
The best time to visit the park is between June and July for hiking or between October and January for cross-country skiing. The park’s opening times do vary throughout the year although it’s always closed on Wednesdays.
This incredible park rises up over spectacular coastal views and embraces 5 scenic villages including Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Vernazza and Monterosso. The park covers nearly 4500 acres of land and is home to Mediterranean fauna such as chestnuts, pine and cork trees. It’s also a pristine habitat where wild boar, weasels, rat snakes and marten foxes enjoy the sanctuary of the park as well as a whole host of marine life off the coast.
The nearby coastal villages provide the perfect points to begin treks on the trails that crisscross the park but you can also stay in the villages, visit local churches, monasteries and taste the local specialities in the many family run restaurants. The Cinque Terre National Park has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is open 24 hours a day to visitors.
You’re spoilt for choice when deciding where to stay during your visit to the national park with a great selection of colorful coastal villages to choose from. The best time to visit the park is between May and September although it’s worth remembering that temperatures in the mid-summer can certainly get very hot!
This coastal national park was established in the late 1970s and is a preserve of biodiversity that covers more than 120,000 hectares of beaches, caves, white cliffs and tiny historical villages. The Gargano National Park is home to Mediterranean pines, Aleppo pines and a whole range of wildlife including deer, badgers, foxes, woodpeckers and even wild cats!
The stunning coastal bioreserve is very varied and includes the Marine Reserve of the Tremiti Islands as well as the last remaining parts of the Umbra Forest, which has stood in the area since prehistoric times. The park contains educational facilities, visitor centers, coastal walking trails and three main islands; Capraia, San Nicola and San Domino.
While you’re in the area visiting the park don’t forget to taste some of the local specialities in a village restaurant which include orecchiette pasta, fava beans and even snail soup!
The park is open 24 hours a day and is free to enter. The best time of year to visit the area is between late April and early September when the weather is ideal for exploring the wealth of natural wonders that the park preserves for future generations.
The park, in Latina, is located along the stunning coastal strip from Anzio to Terracina and incorporates a wide variety of landscapes including the island of Zannone as well as coastal sand dunes and dozens of incredible rocky inlets.
Parco Nazionale del Circeo is not only a haven for wildlife and fauna but it also puts on events, hosts sporting activities and occasional archeological digs.
Of course the primary purpose of the park is to protect the natural biodiversity of the region but it also promotes the history of the park in its efforts. The park’s educational activities involve promoting better understanding among visitors for the ways in which human activities can negatively impact the environment and showcases ways that this damage can be reversed to restore ecological balance to the park and wider world.
The park is free to enter and is open 24 hours a day. The ideal time to visit the park is between May and early November and there’s plenty of places to stay nearby, including the charming town of Borgo Sabotino.
If you’ve been looking for the perfect way to forget about the hectic modern world and immerse yourself amongst some of Italy’s best scenery then the National Park of Abruzzo is the ideal place for a vacation. The park is home to some of Europe’s rarest wildlife including bears and wolves! The park is one of Italy’s oldest and was primarily founded in the early 1920s to protect the region’s endangered bears from extinction.
The park covers more than 50,000 hectares of wilderness but it also contains more than 20 medieval towns which you can visit while hiking in the area. With mountain views, the Sangro River and the Vivo, Barrea and Scanno lakes, this spectacular park is a joy to explore.
The best time to visit the park is between April and June or December to February. The park is open 24 hours a day.
With beautiful silver firs and beech forests, the Pollino National Park is home to the lake of Lago di Monte Cotugno, valleys with steep, rugged ravines and is one of the largest nature reserves in Italy.
The park protects endangered wolves, golden eagles and a wonderful selection of fauna. It’s not just the serenity of the natural world that you can experience in the park because it also offers visitors the chance to go mountain biking, white water rafting, canoeing in the fast water gorges, horse riding and even skiing in the winter months.
It’s free to visit the park which is open 24 hours a day and the best months to visit are between May and December. There’s also many nearby towns and villages where you can stay during your visit including the historic Morano Calabro where there are some superb hotels and restaurants to enjoy during your time in the area.
Rules For Visiting A National Park In Italy.
National parks primarily exist to preserve the natural beauty of the environment but they also strive to enable visitors to experience and appreciate the timeless wonder of the flora, fauna and scenery for themselves.
Visitors are allowed to explore the national park in their own time and without any official supervision but this means that there are certain responsibilities that it’s important to be aware of.
Being a responsible and considerate visitor when you’re exploring a national park will protect the natural beauty for future generations and help to preserve the wildlife that it is protecting.
- Never drop litter while you’re in a national park. If you have rubbish and there’s no bin in sight then you can just put it in a plastic bag and keep it with you until you find a bin to dispose of it.
- Don’t pick the wildflowers or any of the flora within the park. The ecosystems in national parks can be very fragile so you should always be as careful as you can.
- Always stay on the footpaths and don’t stray off into the wild. This helps to protect the delicate balance of the ecosystem but it also means you won’t get lost or find yourself in a tricky spot!
- Never feed the animals in the park. Not only can this be extremely dangerous, in the case of a bear or wolf, but you’re unlikely to feed the animals the right kind of food. For example, feeding wild birds bread or biscuits can harm their health.
- Don’t shout or make a lot of noise because this can scare the wildlife and in some cases even disrupt their breeding and cause birds to flee their nests.
- If you’re driving through a national park, either on a safari or on the roads that pass through it, then you should try to keep your speed down and well within the limits.
- There’s an old adage when it comes to experiencing nature’s beauty which says that you should leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but photos!
Italy Has Great National Parks.
National parks play a crucial role in protecting the delicate ecosystems of the natural world from encroaching industrial developments and damage by corporations who prioritize profits over the environment.
However, they also provide a wonderful place for tourists and locals to appreciate the incredible diversity of nature! National parks offer the chance to partake in outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and even skiing! As well as recreational activities national parks deliver important educational programs to children and scientific research opportunities for universities and schools.
Most national parks are free to visit but if you want to support their conservation work you can purchase souvenirs from their gift stores or even donate money directly to them for future projects.
So when you’re planning your trip to Italy don’t forget to include a visit to at least one of the country’s incredible national parks! And whether you’re a solo traveler, a family with children or a couple looking for a scenic adventure, the Italian national parks will not disappoint!