Italian land and nature: Italy in green
- WTI Magazine #108 Oct 20, 2018
With more than 1.5 million hectares of protected areas (equal to 5% of the national terrain), the 24 Italian national parks make up the country’s green heart. Inside the protected areas nature and its life cycles are preserved and passed down from generation to generation by means of environmental education, initiatives and events that take place all year long.
From the high peaks of the Gran Sasso to the green coast of Circeo, the protected areas are ideal destinations for nature lovers, offering activities and sport amidst fresh air and beautiful sceneries. Visiting these parks means jumping into an adventure rich in culture, traditions, gastronomy and artisanship, and seeing old borgoes, towers, castles and churches along the way.
The extraordinary biodiversity and the distinguishing characteristics of each protected area allow visitors to live unique and unforgettable experiences in every season.
Of the Bel Paese's parks, the National Park of Gran Paradiso stands out (Valle d'Aosta - Piedmont), established in 1922 and symbolized by its ibex.
Gran Paradiso is a certified Eden where one can enjoy a relaxing stay with family or friends, as well as athletic activity, local gastronomic traditions and educational activities for both children and adults.
The singularity and incredible scientific, environmental and aesthetic value of some parks has been recognized by UNESCO, as in the case of the National Park of the Bellunesi Dolomites (in Veneto), a must for mountain lovers and enthusiasts of winter and summer sports alike.
The oldest of all the parks in the Appennine Mountains - in central Italy - certainly merits mention: The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, thanks to zoning of the three regions together, combines the preservation and development of highly-interesting species of fauna: the Golden Eagle, the Brown Marsican, wolves, ibex, and chambois are just some of the exemplars of all the animals that visitors can see.
Those who enjoy flora and plant life will revel in the thousands of native and rare species that surprise with their magnificent colors and perfumes: orchids, primroses, lilies, beech trees, live oaks, chestnut trees, red and white firs and spruces, myrtle and junipers – with a particular eye toward the ancient Casentinesi Forests (Emilia Romagna and Toscana) and the Umbra Forest. The Umbra is a remaining portion of a much larger millenary forest that once covered the Gargano Promontory (Apulia).
Moving further south one finds the largest of Italy’s parks, the National Park of Pollino (Calabria-Basilicata). Pollino boasts an immense floral inheritance and the Grotta del Romito, one of the oldest and most important archaeological sites in Europe, due to the discovery of human remains that date back more than 10,000 years.
Every protected area is endowed with excellent lodging structures ready to welcome guests with the utmost courtesy and professionalism. Hotels, B&Bs, room rents, hostels, agritourisms, camp sites and camper lots, all which function as launching-points for exploring national treasures: from the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Castel del Monte (National Park of the High Murge Plateau), to places of faith, such as San Giovanni Rotondo (Gargano National Park); and from the ancient city of Paestum (in the National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni) to the splendid beaches of La Maddalena (in Sardinia).
For those who get a thrill from sport and activity amidst intense nature, Italy’s national parks are gymnasiums in the great outdoors, flourishing natural beauties under the sky that welcome trekkers, rock-climbers, hang-gliders, horseback riders, cyclists, scuba-divers, windsurfers, canoeists, and those passionate for winter sports.