Gran Paradiso (Photo from www.regione-piemonte.it
Many tourists and international visitors don't know that Italy is filled not only with extraordinary artistic treasures but an amazing richness of natural parks that include mountains, lakes, and beaches among the most beautiful in the world. Italy is a small country in comparison to places like the U.S. or Canada; however, it has much of the same natural landscapes.
So let's visit some of these parks and see what they offer.
Abruzzo National Park
We shall begin with the National Park of Abruzzo (Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo), which was established in 1923. It extends for about 195.68 sq mi. The park is especially important as it preserves two species typical of this region that are in danger of extinction: the Marsican brown bear and the Italian wolf. Today it is estimated that there are no more than 30-40 of these bears left. In the park houses red and roe deers, chamois, and the red fox, but its true strength comes from its birds, above all the golden eagle. This magnificent creature is easy to spot in the sky, or even in action hunting other creatures. Several mountains are contained within the park including the peaks of the Meta, as well as the four rivers that cross it: the Sangria, the Malfa, the Volturno, and the Giovenco. The flora is also very nice, including lady's slippers and a nice variety of mushrooms. Besides flowers, the park is replete with various types of trees, in particular the black and the mountain pine, as well as the silver birch.
Stelvio National Park
Remaining in Abruzzo, we can visit the Gran Sasso, a wonderful mountain surrounded by its national park, established in 1991 and with an area of 2,014 square kilometers. This happens to be one of the largest European protected zones and its main element is clearly the massif. This is famous for its rock, great for trekking and climbing, though technically difficult as ice and snow are always present, even during the summer months, and the wind can reach very high speeds. Of course the park is also very interesting from a biological standpoint, including some exclusive species among the over 200 hundred recorded. The fauna is similar to that found in the National Park of Abruzzo. For those who enjoy horseback riding the park offers long trails and there are place to hire horses.
Gran Paradiso National Park
Let's leave Abbruzzo now and travel to the northwest on the border with France where we find one of the most enchanted natural panoramas that Italy can offer: the Gran Paradiso National Park (Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso). The name comes from the Grand Paradiso mountain and it is the oldest protected park in Italy, originally serving as a royal hunting reserve. The park is full of glaciers and streams and is pretty high, averaging 2000 meters and peaking at over 4000, making it the highest park in Europe. It is very easy to access the park from Italy, Switzerland and France, and it is very well organized to handle tourists.