Italy's National Parks

Gran Paradiso
  |  Gorp.com
Just the Facts

Location: Far northwestern Italy, near the borders of France and Switzerland

Nearest town: Aosta

Favorite activities: Skiing, hiking, walking, bicycling, climbing, fishing

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Italy's first national park came into being, as did so many others in Europe, by royal decree: In 1821, and again in 1856, Italy's kings declared the glacier-carved Alpine district, on the French border, off limits to commoners. Members of the nobility showed up from time to time to hunt the area's abundant ibex, lynx, and other rare creatures, but few others made their way into the great north-south rift valley, and the wildlife thrived as a consequence.

Open to the public since 1922, Gran Paradiso is now free of hunters. It's crowded with other kinds of visitors, especially in winter, when the neighboring Val d'Aosta is overrun with skiers from around the world. Lodging and restaurants are abundant in the many villages that lie within the park—too abundant, in fact, for those who crave a remote getaway. For them, the park offers hundreds of miles of well-maintained trails that lead high into the mountains, far from the crowds below.


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