Discovering the nature, culture and gastronomy in Italy can be found within the 24 national parks scattered throughout the country. The Italian national parks cover about 5% of the total territory of Italy. From north to south, you will find national parks in the northern Italian Alps, Apennines mountains, Po River basin, Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts, Mediterranean islands, Dolomite mountains and even close to urban centers. Italy has significantly improved environmentally friendly technology and increased conservation of biodiversity - the national parks are an example of this gallant effort. These parks provide tourists with the opportunity to learn about the importance of preserving plants and animals as well as the opportunity to go hiking, skiing, and viewing wildlife.
Abruzzo is known to be "the greenest region in Europe" since nearly half of the region consists of national parks and protected nature reserves. Of the 24 national parks, there are 3 parks located in Abruzzo: Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise, Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Parco Nazionale della Majella.
Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise
Founded in 1922, the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park is the oldest park in the Appenine mountain range and the second oldest national park in Italy. Its headquarters are located in Pescasseroli, in the province of L’Aquila. This park covers 25 municipalities across 3 regions. The Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park plays an important role in the preservation of the Italian wolf, the Abruzzo chamois (goat-antelope) and Marsican brown bear. The scenery is characterized by mountains, rivers - including the Sangro River - and streams. It’s the ideal place to spend time in close contact with nature and to admire uncontaminated landscapes, with rich flora and varied fauna. You will also find incredible cultural sites and villages within the park. A tour should include a visit to the 12th-century Abbey of Santi Pietro e Paolo, which has been restored several times and is home to wooden statue of a Black Madonna. You can also enjoy a beautiful day at Lago di Barrea, This lake is a true oasis, located in the Meta Mountains overlooking the quaint medieval village of Barrea.
Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga
Founded in 1991, The Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park is located across most of the Abruzzo region, in the provinces of L’Aquila, Pescara and Teramo. A small part of the park is also located in the region of Le Marche to the north. The headquarters are located in Assergi, L’Aquila. This park is one of the largest protected parks in all of Europe and is centered around the giant massif of the Gran Sasso. The Corno Grande (great horn) is the highest point in the Appenine mountain range and part of the Gran Sasso massif. Just beneath the peak of the Corno Grande is home to the Calderone, considered the southernmost glacier in Europe. You can also explore the immense alpine meadow known as the Campo Imperatore, also called “Little Tibet”. Inside the Campo Imperatore you’ll find Albergo di Campo Imperatore. Known today as a main ski resort, the hotel is infamously remembered for being the prison of Benito Mussolini for a short period in 1943. On the southern side of the Campo Imperatore, you will be able to explore the picturesque medieval towns of Santo Stefano in Sessanio, Castel del Monte as well as the fortress of Rocca Calascio.
Parco Nazionale della Majella
Located completely in Abruzzo, the Maiella National Park is spread across the Chieti, Pescara and L’Aquila provinces. The name Maiella derives from the goddess “Maia” (the mother of Mercury) and local inhabitants often call this massif “the mother of mountains”. This park is centered around the Maiella massif with the highest peak being Monte Amaro. Due to its altitude, inaccessibility and prominence most of this park's territories are uninhabited so the human-made structures, like skiing resorts and roads, are fewer than those in other national parks of Italy. Because of this, wildlife has flourished. The most representative animal is the Italian wolf and it is believed the Italian wolf population density in the Maiella National Park is one of the highest in Italy and arguably the world. Along with wildlife, you’ll often find cyclists as riding through sections of the park since many routes have been used as part of the famous Giro d’Italia cycling race. Unique sites to visit within the park are the cave paintings at Grotta Sant’Angelo and Grotta del Cavallone. If you find yourself in the park during lunch time stop at Ristorante Fonte Romana for homemade pasta. Surely not least, if time permits, don’t forget to pass through Pacentro, Caramanico Terme and the Giardino Botanico in Sant’Eufemia.
The unprecedented natural beauty in Abruzzo is truly one of Italy’s national treasures!