Italy is a country known for its infinite number of spots for outdoor activities, which even an immortal Roman could never count. However, among them, there are large enough to be counted and not difficult to find on a map. Yes, you guessed it: national parks.
There are 25 protected areas of this type in Italy, located all over the country from the Alps to the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, covering about 5% of its territory, which it’s not small — its total border length is 1,836.4 km (1,141.1 mi). The national parks are suitable above all for hiking, but also many other sports: biking, sailing, diving, paragliding, skiing, and others.
If you are not already a fan of Italy and have never been there before, it can be difficult to navigate through such a variety of parks. But I am a fan and live here for the past 10 years. So I’ve chosen the top five Italian national parks out of 25 — the main one in each of the country’s large regions — Northeast and Northwest, Center, South, and an island — and I’ll tell about their main features and hiking trails in this article.
Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park
— Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park is the main national park in northeastern Italy.
The park is located in the province of Belluno in the Veneto region, whose capital of the same name could be found right at the foot of the park’s mountains on its southern borders. You can go hiking right from the center of this beautiful old town on the Piave, the largest river in all of northeastern Italy. The nearest large and famous city is the tourist capital of the country, Venice, just over 100 km to the south.
The main feature of the park is two vast mountain ranges — Cimonega and Schiara — also known by the common name of Dolomiti Bellunesi after the capital of the province. As the name implies, they are part of the wider Dolomites range, which in turn is part of the Eastern Alps, and are known far beyond Italy as possibly the most beautiful mountains in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only national park in the Dolomites and this part of the country.
The main hiking trail in the park is called Alta Via delle Dolomiti Bellunesi, which translates to “High Way,” meaning it runs at an average altitude of about 2,000 meters and covers its entire area. The total length of the trail is 107.6 km (66.3 mi), which can be completed in 8 days-stages.
- Getting to the park. The easiest and fastest way to get to the park from Venice is by train Trenitalia train with a change in Feltre or Ponte nelle Alpi. All in all, it is only about two hours.
- Visit center. The park’s visitor center, called Piero Rossi Cultural Center, is located in Belluno in the town’s main square, Piazza Piloni, so it’s not hard to find.
- Accommodation. There are at least six mountain huts available for overnight stays in the park (space in a common room, shower, breakfast, and dinner) and nine free alpine bivouacs.
Read next about other top four national parks in Italy on the Windy.app blog of the leading pro weather forecast app for wind sports and outdoors.
Text: Ivan Kuznetsov
Cover photo: Snowboarding in Abruzzo region, Italy. Lorenzo Lamonica / Unsplash