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7 Breathtaking National Parks in Italy to Visit

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The Giau Pass in the Dolomites in the province of Belluno in Italy

The Giau Pass in the Belluno Dolomites, Italy

Nature enthusiasts, hikers, skiers, birders, and others who relish fresh air and open spaces can enjoy the breathtaking landscapes and diversity of the seven best national parks to visit in Italy.

From the Dolomite's alpine slopes in winter to Cinque Terre’s sun-washed shores in summer, Italy’s national parks offer memorable experiences for travelers of all interests throughout the year. Each park provides a perfect space to step away from the crowds of Rome or the throngs of Florence, and you can enjoy stress-free days of spotting rare wildlife or exploring photographic landscapes.

The following list shares our recommendations for the best Italian national parks, with ideas of what wildlife to look out for and how to get to the parks from popular places nearby.

  1. 1. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park
  2. 2. Gran Paradiso National Park
  3. 3. Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park
  4. 4. Etna National Park
  5. 5. Aspromonte National Park
  6. 6. Cinque Terre National Park
  7. 7. Abruzzo National Park
  8. Explore the Best National Parks in Italy

1. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park

Trail through meadow of Piani Eterni with rocky mountain landscape and fir trees in Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, Italy

Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, the home of the famous Dolomite Mountains, is Italy’s most popular protected region. Less than two hours from Venice's bustling canals and piazzas, the Italian national park is a welcome wildlife retreat for adventurous travelers in the Veneto region.

The national park is celebrated for its rugged landscape, captivating wildlife, and gorgeous flora. The stunning gorges and rock walls hang over the valley floors in gray, green, and white hues, while rare wetlands add to the elegant biospheres at work, where wildlife thrives in natural, pristine habitats. From chamois to red deer, marmots to golden eagles, you can spot an array of animals and avifauna in and around the park.

The Dolomites are also Italy’s best destination for skiing in the winter and you can embrace the alpine slopes on Italy vacations in December.

How to Get There: Located in the greater Veneto region, less than two hours from Venice, you can easily visit the national park on a day tour or for multiple nights during Venice vacations.

Highlights: Wildlife spotting • Birding • Bike riding • Hiking • Horseback riding • Cross-country skiing

2. Gran Paradiso National Park

Stunning scenery of Gran Paradiso park lakes, from Col Nivolet in Italy

Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy

The first park established in Italy, Gran Paradiso National Park, covers a large part of the Graian Alps on the border of Italy and France. The park boasts woodlands, grasslands, rocky peaks, and impressive glaciers that give sanctuary to rich wildlife, and travelers may freely explore the diversity of these distinct environments.

Forests provide emerald shelter to many animals and rocky peaks share lofty views of metamorphic granite stratified around calcareous schist deriving from marine sediment that dates back to the Mesozoic era.

Wildlife viewing and birding tours will reveal the mountain hare, alpine ibex, ermines, and sparrowhawks, while skiing in the winter provides thrills on family trips to Italy.

How to Get There: Nestled on the French-Italian border between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont regions, travelers can visit the national park on northern Italy itineraries and tours or France and Italy multi-country tours.

Highlights: Wildlife viewing • Birding • Cross-country skiing • Trekking • Rock climbing • Horseback riding

3. Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park

Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, Italy

Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, Italy

Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park provides one of Europe’s grandest monuments to biodiversity, protecting three central Italian mountain ranges that are home to rare wildlife and unique flora.

In the national park, you can discover the iconic Corno Grande glacial summit, dense woodlands covering the region’s flatland, and over 2,360 species of lush plantlife framing the trails and painting the hills reaching across the wilderness reserve. You can keep your eyes peeled for roe deer, Apennine wolves, European badgers, and goshawk as you explore the park.

Old villages also pepper the area and are quiet and cozy, with century-old architecture and castles crafted from stone and brick lining the narrow streets.

How to Get There: Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park is less than two hours from Rome, meaning travelers can add a day or several nights in the park to their Rome tours and vacations.

Highlights: Ski mountaineering • Mountain biking • Bird spotting • Animal viewing • Canoeing • Horseback riding

4. Etna National Park

Etna National Park

Etna National Park in Sicily, Italy

Few national parks in Italy cause visitors to tremble with anticipation quite as much as Etna National Park, a volcanic reserve of remarkable natural beauty and fascinating geothermal history.

The latter has continued unabated beneath Mount Etna for nearly half a million years and geologists have written untold stories about the region. Today, exotic flowers rarely bloom along the contours of the lunar topography and forests. Instead, vegetation along the mountain slopes consists of hazelnut groves, apples, and chestnut orchards.

While wildlife is harder to come by across the volcanic landscape than in other national parks in Italy, you can expect to stumble upon foxes, martens, wild cats, magpies, and several other habituated animals and birds.

How to Get There: Mount Etna’s proximity to Catania on the island of Sicily makes day trips from the city or multi-night adventures possible during Sicily tours and vacations.

Highlights: Trekking • Driving tours • Mountain biking • Birdwatching • Cable-car rides • Skiing

5. Aspromonte National Park

Panorama of the mountains and rocky outcroppings of the Aspromonte National Park in Italy

Aspromonte National Park, Italy

The granite strip of the Apennines Mountains sloping down into the region of Calabria resembles a giant pyramid and the stunning region of Aspromonte National Park overtakes the southern edges of the mountain range.

The national park’s natural focal point consists of a large mountain situated between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. On a clear day, from the top of the summit, visitors can see the top of Mount Etna in Sicily and the silhouettes of the Aeolian Islands.

Besides the dramatic scenery and arresting views from towering overlooks, you can expect to find wolves, arboreal martens, short-toed eagles, and honey buzzards the more you explore Italy’s photographic national park.

How to Get There: Aspromonte National Park covers the southernmost tip of the Italian mainland, making it a dream wildlife destination to combine with southern Italy itineraries and tours.

Highlights: Game viewing • Hiking • Downhill skiing • Mountain climbing • Birding • Village tours

6. Cinque Terre National Park

Villages and coastline of Cinque Terre National Park, Italy

Cinque Terre National Park, Italy

Cinque Terre National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Italy, covering about 17.5 square miles along the coastline of the western region of Liguria. Circling one of the country’s most impressive coastlines and encompassing several of Italy’s best beaches, Cinque Terre is a stunning spot for beach vacations in Italy.

While one of the smallest national parks in Italy, Cinque Terre is also the country's most densely populated national park, with locals adapting to the harsh surroundings for over a millennium along the sloping hills, lemon groves, and craggy bays.

The waters of the Ligurian coastline brush up against bays, coves, and protected marinas, and trails wind around rocky coastal cliffs to isolated lookouts decorated with vineyards and olive groves. You can watch for dormouse and weasels or see ravens and greenfinch as you wander from the wilderness trails down to the coastline.

How to Get There: Cinque Terre is one of Italy's most popular coastal destinations. It is less than three hours from Florence and you can visit the cinematic shores on immersive Cinque Terre tours and vacations.

Highlights: Cultural tours • Walking trails • Swimming • Hiking • Wine tasting • Yachting

7. Abruzzo National Park

Lago di Barrea in Abruzzo National Park

Lago di Barrea in Abruzzo National Park, Italy

Abruzzo National Park was established in 1923 to protect nature and save the endangered wild animals along the more than 123,552 acres spanning the regions of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise area.

Twenty-five towns are located inside its borders, characterized by mountain chains, karsts, winding rivers, and abundant streams that provide visitors with a close connection to nature. Heritage tours can reveal the timeless traditions of the modest Italian communities residing alongside the wildlife in Abruzzo.

The park is world-famous for its nature conservation efforts and environmental safeguards, developing a harmonious agreement with the municipalities to preserve the natural ecosystems. As such, you can spot Appennine wolves, Eurasian otters, European polecats, white-winged snow finches, Eurasian buzzards, and more fascinating endemic species.

How to Get There: Less than two hours from both popular destinations, the easiest way to visit Abruzzo National Park is on Italy tours starting from Rome or on day trips from Naples.

Highlights: Hiking • Bird viewing • Animal watching • Heritage tours • Snowboarding • Culinary tours

Explore the Best National Parks in Italy

Alpine ibex in Gran Paradiso National Park

Alpine ibex in Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy

Italy’s pristine wilderness is a stage for travel enthusiasts, hikers, birders, skiers, and those who enjoy the sensational landscapes, flourishing flora, and fascinating fauna set within these seven Italian national parks.

You can explore these wilderness wonders during one of our tailor-made Italy vacations and tours or learn more about planning the perfect national park adventure with our Italy travel guide.

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