Nature enthusiasts, hikers, skiers, birders, and other travelers who enjoy taking in the fresh air and open spaces should take notice of Italy’s 25 separate national parks. They are all protected by state and regional laws, ensuring that nature’s beauty is available to everyone. The parks provide a perfect space to step away from the crowds of Rome or the throngs of Florence to enjoy stress-free days of spotting rare animals or uncovering exotic plants. The following list shares seven of Italy’s celebrated national parks for visitors hoping to connect with Italy’s natural sceneries.
Belluno Dolomites National Park is less than two hours away from the bustling canals and piazzas of Venice. As Italy’s most visited protected region, the park is celebrated for its rugged landscape, captivating wildlife, and gorgeous flora located on the southernmost fringes of the Dolomite mountains. The stunning gorges and rock walls hang over the valley floors in hues of grey, green, and white, while rare wetlands add to the elegant biospheres at work where the wildlife thrives in their natural, pristine habitats.
Things to Do: Wildlife spotting | Birdwatching | Bike riding | Hiking | Horseback riding | Cross-country skiing
Wildlife to See: Chamois | Red deer | Marmots | Fox | Golden eagles | Black woodpeckers | Hoopoes | Kestrels
The first park established in Italy, Gran Paradiso National Park, boasts woodlands, grasslands, rocky peaks, and impressive glaciers that give sanctuary to rich wildlife, and travelers may freely explore the diversity of many of these distinct environments. Forests provide emerald shelter to a large number of animals, and rocky peaks of different ages and origins share lofty views of metamorphic granite stratified around calcareous schist deriving from marine sediment that dates back to the Mesozoic era.
Things to Do: Wildlife viewing | Birding | Cross-country skiing | Trekking | Rock climbing | Horseback riding
Wildlife to See: Mountain hare | Alpine ibex | Marmots | Ermines | Golden eagles | Sparrowhawks | Rock partridges | Tawny owls
Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park provides one of Europe’s grandest monuments to biodiversity. Home to the soaring Corno Grande glacial summit, dense woodlands covering the region’s flatland, and over 2,360 different species of lush plantlife framing the trails and painting the hills reaching across the wilderness reserve. 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.
Things to Do: Ski mountaineering | Mountain biking | Bird spotting | Animal viewing | Canoeing | Horseback riding
Wildlife to See: Apennine chamois | Roe deer | Apennine wolf | European badger | White-backed woodpecker | Goshawk | Common buzzard | Peregrine falcon
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. Geothermal activity has continued unabated beneath the mountain for nearly half a million years, and geologists have written untold stories of 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 tree groves, apple, and chestnut orchards.
Things to Do: Trekking | Driving tours | Mountain biking | Birdwatching | Cable-car rides | Skiing
Wildlife to See: Foxes | Martens | Wild cats | Rabbits | Barn owl | Magpie | Grey crow | Buzzard
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.
Things to Do: Game viewing | Hiking | Downhill skiing | Mountain climbing | Birding | Village tours
Wildlife to See: Wolves | Arboreal martens | Wild boar | Deer | Short-toed eagles | Honey buzzard | Black woodpecker | Golden eagles
Cinque Terre National Park is one of the smallest national parks in Italy, encompassing nearly 17.5 square miles along the coastline of the western region of Liguria. While being one of the smallest national parks in Italy, Cinque Terre is also the most densely populated national park in Italy, 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.
Things to Do: Cultural tours | Walking trails | Swimming | Hiking | Wine tasting | Yachting
Wildlife to See: Dormouse | Weasels | Moles | Wild boar | Ravens | Greenfinch | Robins | Starlings
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 Abruzzi, Lazio, and Molise area. Twenty-five towns are located inside the national park's borders characterized by the mountain chains, karsts, winding rivers, and abundant streams, providing visitors with a close connection to nature. 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.
Things to Do: Hiking | Bird viewing | Animal watching | Heritage tours | Snowboarding | Culinary tours
Wildlife to See: Apennine wolf | Roe deer | Eurasian otter | European polecat | Red-billed chough | White-throated dipper | White-winged snowfinch | Eurasian buzzard
Italy’s pristine wilderness is a stage for travel enthusiasts, hikers, birders, skiers, and those who enjoy the outdoors to see the country's sensational landscapes, flourishing flora, and fascinating fauna set within these seven iconic national parks. You can explore these wilderness wonders yourself during one of our tailor-made tours on an Italy Vacation or learn more about planning the perfect trip with our Italy Travel Guide. Ready to plan your customized trip? Consult an Italy travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request or by calling 1-888-265-9707.