When you think of Italy, it is probably not its wealth of national parks that immediately spring to mind. The home of the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and innumerable other historic sites, it is not without reason that Italy is one of the most popular countries in the world to visit.
With stunning beaches, incredible cuisine and uncountable archaeological sites, visitors to the country will be hard pressed to fit everything into their trip such is the plethora of unforgettable things to see and do.
Map of National Parks in Italy
The dilapidated houses and ruins that hark back to the golden days of ancient Rome make for a lovely visit and with incredible landscapes framing the historic towns and cities; exploring all that Italy has to offer could take a lifetime. For a unique experience step off the beaten path and discover the most beautiful national parks in Italy.
See also: 12 Best Day Tours in Italy
As the largest national park in the country it comes as quite a surprise that Pollino National Park attracts so few visitors to its boundaries. With a veritable wealth of stunning panoramas to take in, the peaks and ridges, valleys and mountains make for some delightful hiking. Out in the wild, the silence stretches interminably around you as does the pristine terrain that changes constantly before your eyes. The Pollino and Orsomarso massifs dominate the park and their high plateaus and peaks slowly fade into valleys and meadows down below. The park paints a pretty picture as the green of the forests contrasts stunningly with the rocky grey cliffs and the yellow herbs on the mountainside. A picturesque and peaceful park to visit, the relatively undiscovered Pollino will charm you with all its beautiful untouched scenery on show.
The colossal Gran Sasso massif is the dominant feature in this huge park and as such it is popular with mountaineers, hikers and skiers due to its rocky nature and pristine untouched environment. Part of the massif, it is the peak of Corno Grande which is the highest in all of the Apennines at over 2,990 meters and as such it has a number of pistes running from it for skiers to enjoy. Cut off from the massif by a motorway, the Monti della Laga are less imposing although their rugged nature makes them quite difficult to penetrate and consequently adventurous hikers will have the mountains, hills and valleys almost to themselves. Indeed despite its proximity to Rome, the park attracts relatively few visitors and this is in part what makes it so attractive: alone with the stunning landscapes sweeping before you, you feel free and unencumbered. A biodiversity hotspot; there are a plethora of natural wonders to delight in.
This beautiful park is charming and peaceful to visit as its crystal clear turquoise waters certainly paint a pretty picture. Its stunning natural beauty comprises pristine and deserted beaches that line the shores of the islands that make up the archipelago as well as rugged cliffs and mountainous areas that form a perfect backdrop to the spectacular scenery down below. Sailing between the islands is a delightful affair in itself as drifting slowly through the calm waters beneath the glaring sun the sea breeze invigorates you for new discoveries on yet another secluded island. Located on the north coast of Sardinia, the national park consists mainly of marine and coastal areas. With medieval monasteries, incredible rock formations and many more impressive sights on offer, it is possibly the breathtaking beauty of the island of Caprera that is the crown jewel of La Maddalena.
If beautiful mountain scenery is your thing then head to Val Grande National Park and be dazzled by all that the Alps have to offer. Mountain after mountain stretches away into the distance and the endless series of peaks, ridges and snow-capped mountain tops is simply breathtaking. Located in the north of Italy on the Swiss border, Val Grande has a number of excellent hiking options for nature lovers to enjoy. Making your way slowly up the steep mountainside may make for tough work but the panoramic views that greet you at the top will surely make the arduous trek worthwhile. Up high amidst the heavens, you can see forever and the sun glinting off the mountains that give way into valleys and ravines makes for an almost perfect sight. On a clear day you can see the sun sparkling off Lago Maggiore in the distance, glimmering invitingly among the beautiful mountains.
Located right down south in Calabria, Aspromonte National Park has a number of lovely attractions to entice and astound any visitors to the park. With the delightful Apennines running through its territory, the wild mountain range makes for some stunning scenic views that beautifully frame the rest of the incredible sights on show. History lovers should head to the abandoned ghost town of Pentedattilo which dates all the way back to 640 BC. Nestled among the rocky mountainside, the crumbling grey buildings look amazing in their desolation. Impressive geological formations are scattered around the park and beautiful waterways also run along the bottom of the ravines. Wild and untouched, the lovely scenery makes Aspromonte a great place to visit.
With sweeping flower filled meadows giving way to lush alpine forests and the indomitable Alps that impressively rear over everything, the landscapes on show in Stelvio National Park are mesmerising for the series of spectacular sights on show. In summer the park comes to life as various colors spring out at you from every nook and cranny; the white snow-capped mountains and glaciers glisten in the sun while the yellow of the flowers bloom brightly amidst the verdant grasses and forests that cover the park. For visitors searching for an idealized version of what the Alps look like; look no further for Stelvio has it all.
The roving valleys and hills of this expansive national park make for some delightful hiking as out in the untouched and pristine environment you feel free and unencumbered as the natural wonders on show soothe your soul. The mountains and sprawling beech forests are an important protected area for rare animals and hidden away among the overgrowth are the Abruzzo chamois, Italian wolves and Marsican brown bears which roam about their daily lives. Breaking up the endless green of the countryside are the bright blue lakes that dot the area and the towering peaks of the mountains that reach over 2000 meters in height. With over 2000 types of plant species on offer, nature lovers will find solace in this untouched area of the world.
Originally formed to be a private hunting ground for the king, the park has grown since its early days and its remit of protecting the Alpine ibex has expanded to include all of the pristine lands within its boundaries. The stunning landscapes located in the northwest of Italy are bedazzling to behold and the park takes its name from the impressive Gran Paradiso Mountain that is its central feature. Its snowy slopes and lofty pinnacles peak between the clouds, reaching towards the heavens. The sweeping panoramas of the Alps are spectacular and make this lovely national park well worth a visit.
One of the most visited parts of the country, Cinque Terre’s five picturesque towns that hug the cliff faces that line the rough and rugged coast are a must-see for many visitors to Italy. A place of almost unsurpassable beauty, the charm of these idyllic towns coupled with the wild and steep mountainsides that they are perched among make Cinque Terre National Park an unforgettable place to visit. Connecting the towns to one another are a series of lovely paths and trails that hug the cliffs and weave among the wildflowers that steadfastly bloom in the tough terrain. As you pass the vineyards and farmlands that crop up from time to time, turning around a corner and seeing Vernazza or one of the other multicolored towns below you really is an incredible experience. As you descend down the steep paths that slowly turn into old cobbled streets, the juxtaposition of the pristine nature and quaint timeless town life is mesmerising and looking out over the still Mediterranean Sea, you won’t be able to imagine a more picture-perfect scene such is its awe-inspiring beauty.
Simply stunning. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park is an absolute gem and as such visitors to the park will find a wealth of natural wonders for them to revel in. Located in the Veneto region of Italy, the bewitching panoramas on display are extravagant for the perfect image of the Alps that they convey. The towering mountains dominate their surroundings and the pristine alpine environments is reinvigorating to hike through as the fresh mountain air revitalizes and reenergises you to continue on your journey of discovery in this land of indescribable beauty. Awe-inspiring to behold; you will lose track of time lost in this spectacle of nature.