Italian National Parks Part II
Asinara National Park
One beautiful region in Italy is home to one of the most gorgeous natural parks on the coast, the National Park of Asinara. It was established in 1997 in the northern part of the island of Sardinia on the site of a former penitentiary. The area covers 51,23 km² with a coastline of around 110 km and high hills along the coast. The area is not much for flora due to the grazing of wildlife, but what makes the park unique are the small beaches situated along the otherwise rocky coast, creating breathtaking scenes.
Aspromonte National Park
We move now from a southern island to a southern region, Calabria, where the national park of Aspromonte lies. The park was established in 1989 and is named after its Aspromonte massif, which is older than the Apennines; in fact it can be dated back to one of the earliest prehistoric eras. One of the characteristics of the Aspromonte are the so-called fiumare, small creeks fed by the rain that in the winter months reach the level of waterfalls. Among the residents of the Aspromonte are the wolf, the wild cat and many other mammals. Only one rare species inhabitants the park, the Bonelli's eagle, which is almost extinct in the rest of the country. Paths run through the park and it is possible to trek or ride horses. Besides its natural beauty the park also has some residences, the small city of Gerace. It is a medieval town with a gorgeous cathedral. Furthermore, it is possible to visit the small Church of St. Leo and the sanctuary of St. Nicodemo, built circa the tenth century.
Cilento National Park
North of Salerno is the National park of Cilento, which was established in 1991. It is one of national importance and its most interesting landmark is the city of Paestum, a Greek foundation with a perfectly intact temple, very similar but in much better condition than the Parthenon in Athens. Paestum is an amazing place as it offers much information about how Greek cities were conceived and built. The park contains approximately 1,800 different types of plants, among which the two most important are the Palinuro's primula and the Sea Giglio, which is becoming very rare and can be found near the coastline. For those interested in geology, the park has two different kinds of rocks: the very colorful Cilento Flysch, and the limestone. The park also offers two nice rivers, Alento and Tanagro, as well as some interesting peaks, Alburni, Motola, and Cervati, all between 1700 and 1800 meters high. At sea level and along the coast it is possible to find and visit caves, which complete this gorgeous national park.
Cinque Terre National Park
The next stop is in Liguria and it is without a doubt one of the most visited sites in Italy, particularly appreciated by the tourists: Cinque Terre National Park. The name literally translates into "the Five Lands" and it has been a protected area since 1999; the park consists of three cities, Monterosso al Mare, Varnazza, and Riomaggiore, and it is usually divided into the marine part and the national ark. The main characteristic of this protected territory is that rather than preserving a treasury of natural resources, it was actually aimed at preserving human constructions and their relationship with the surrounding environments; a perfect example of this are the dry stone walls of the houses that perfectly match the mountains which dive into the sea right on the coast, a typical scenario in Liguria. High cliffs are indeed a common characteristic throughout the region and this creates natural caves and small beaches that are simply breathtaking. This environment is particularly friendly to sea mammals and especially dolphins, which are otherwise uncommon along the Italian coastline.