The Top 11 National Parks in Italy

Italy, Sardinia, La Maddalena, Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park, Spiaggia Budelli
Westend61 / Getty Images

Italy is a lot more than ancient ruins, Renaissance palazzos, grand piazzas, and great pizza. It also has open, natural spaces, consisting of untainted or reclaimed forests, seashores, and mountain ranges. The country's 24 national parks make up about five percent of its total landmass, and offer a huge variety of activities, from hiking and diving shipwrecks to paddling and horseback riding.

Unlike many national parks elsewhere in the world—which contain only a park headquarters and a few restaurants or picnic areas—Italy's are often part of long-inhabited areas. That means visitors can get a range of experiences within the parks, including connecting with nature, exploring historic towns, and dining on authentic local cuisine.

Though there's something special about each of Italy's national parks, we picked 11 of our favorites that highlight the amazing diversity of the country's national park system.

01 of 11

Tuscan Archipelago National Park

Capo Enfola on Elba (Tuscan Archipelago, Italy)
Flavio Vallenari / Getty Images

The seven islands that make up the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, or Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano, are some of the most splendid spots in Italy to while away a few days by the sea. Elba, Giglio, and (to a lesser extent) Capraia are the most developed for hosting tourists, while Pianosa, Gorgona, and Giannutri are open only to a limited number of day visitors (though there are a few vacation rentals on Giannutri). Montecristo, once the island prison of Dumas' famous count, is still mostly off-limits—only 1,000 people per year can visit, and only on guided tours. Other than a small airport at Elba, all the islands are reachable only by ferry or private boat.

Surrounding the islands is the 56,766-hectare Tyrrhenian Sea, which forms a marine reserve rich with fish, sea birds and cetaceans, corals, rock formations, and shipwrecks. All of the islands have prime diving and snorkeling sites.

57037 Portoferraio, Province of Livorno, Italy
Phone +39 0565 919411
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02 of 11

Archipelago of La Maddalena National Park

La Maddalena, Sardinia
Nicola Mastrandrea / EyeEm / Getty Images

The archipelago of La Maddalena is located on the northeastern tip of Sardinia, the second-largest Italian island (after Sicily). While parts of La Maddalena are well-developed and have long been a playground for international jet setters, the Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park, or Parco Nazionale dell'Arcipelago di La Maddalena, is itself a protected marine area. Comprised of Isola Maddelena (Maddelena Island), Caprera, Budelli, Sparghi, and other small islets, the park is known for its pristine beaches, native species of flora and fauna, and abundant marine life. Access to the park is via car, boat, bike, or on foot, depending on the location. Unless you happen to own a sailboat or megayacht, you can do as many visitors do, and visit with a guided boat tour, which will stop at several different beaches. If you are planning to visit the area in the high season (July and August), be sure to reserve well in advance. Permits are required.

Via Giulio Cesare, 7, 07024 La Maddalena SS, Italy
Phone +39 0789 790224
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03 of 11

Cinque Terre National Park

Woman hiking on the path in vineyard near Manarola village. Cinque Terre. Liguria, Italy.
ellobo1 / Getty Images

The Cinque Terre ("Five Lands") is a perfect example of how many of Italy's national parks formed organically around existing, age-old settlements. Comprising Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, and Vernazza, the five towns of the Cinque Terre are all located within the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, a 3,868-hectare site abutting a protected marine area. The colorful towns seem to tumble down to the sparkling sea below, and the terraced vineyards, dry stone walls, and local produce and gastronomic specialties make visiting the Cinque Terre an experience that captures the best of Italy. The park protects not just the natural aspects of the Cinque Terre but its historic farming traditions and culture as well. Hiking between the towns is a favorite activity for visitors, who either trek the entire trail in one go or break up the journey with an overnight in one of the towns. Daily access is limited to a certain number of walkers/hikers and requires a Cinque Terre Card.

Province of La Spezia, Italy
Phone +39 0187 762600
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04 of 11

Vesuvius National Park

Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii
DHuss / Getty Images

The looming giant that dominates the skylines of Naples, Sorrento, and the islands of the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius is a protected area of nearly 8,500 hectares that forms Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio (Vesuvius National Park). Not only is the volcano itself—still active and considered one of the most dangerous in the world—part of the park, the archaeological site of Herculaneum, the ruins of villas, and other sites at the base of Vesuvius are within its borders, too. The geology, mineralogy, flora, and wildlife in the park peak the interest of researchers from a variety of disciplines. Visitors can hike to the crater of the volcano, traverse nature trails along its slopes, or visit historical and archaeological museums and sites.

Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy
Phone +39 081 865 3911
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05 of 11

Pollino National Park

Scenic view from Serra Di Crispo, Pollino National Park, southern Italy.
Antonel / Getty Images

At more than 1,900 square kilometers, Pollino National Park, or Parco Nazionale del Pollino, is the largest protected area in Italy. This UNESCO Global Geopark sits in the arch of the foot of Italy's boot, wedged between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas and stretching across the regions of Basilicata and Calabria. The park's most famous resident is a rare, scraggly Heldreich's pine that's thought to be at least 1,200 years old, making it the oldest tree in Europe. To explore the forested, high-altitude terrain of the park, visitors can hike its many trails; watch for wildlife like deer, wildcats, raptors, and wolves; and explore the numerous historic towns that lie within the park confines.

Phone +39 0973 669311
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06 of 11

Stelvio National Park

Snowcapped mountains in Stelvio national park with chalets and barns
agustavop / Getty Images

Stelvio National Park, or Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio, is a huge, mountainous park that sits at the Swiss border and straddles the regions of Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige. One of the highest-altitude national parks in Italy, Stelvio is located in the Central Alps, and features jagged mountain peaks, glaciers, high-altitude lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and dense forests. Major fauna including ibex, marmots, lynx, brown bears, and wolves call the park home. Small, historic towns serve as bases for year-round holidays of hiking and mountain biking, and in the winter, skiing and snowboarding. The Stelvio Pass, a crucial crossroads throughout human history in the Alps, is today crossed via a dramatic switchback road.

Via Roma, 65, 38024 Cogolo TN, Italy
Phone +39 0463 909770
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07 of 11

Gargano National Park

Gargano National Park

Ente Parco Nazionale del Gargano

Set on Puglia's mitten-shaped Gargano Promontory, Gargano National Park, or Parco Nazionale del Gargano, encompasses a combination of coastal scrub and pine forests, wildlife-rich wetlands, dramatic coastlines, and the tiny Tremiti Islands nearby. Like so many of Italy's national parks, the Gargano is dotted with seaside and inland towns, many of which serve as destinations for summer beach holidays. Interestingly, the park, besides being a haven for migratory birds and other animal life, has the highest concentrations of orchids in Europe—more than 55 species are found here.

Province of Foggia, Italy
Phone +39 0884 568911
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08 of 11

Monti Sibillini National Park

Sibillini National Park, Blooming on Piano Grande di Castelluccio di Norcia
Lorenzo Mattei / Getty Images

Characterized by rolling plains, gentle hills, and rugged mountain peaks, Monti Sibillini National Park, or Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini, spans the regions of Umbria and Marche. Your experience will be different depending on which side you approach the park. From the historic and gastronomic town of Norcia, within the park boundaries, the terrain starts to rise. If you visit from late May to early July, don't miss the blooming of the Pian Grande (Great Plain) of Castelluccio di Norcia, an incredible, multicolor extravaganza. From the Marche side, the landscape rises more abruptly into mountain terrain. Throughout the park, charming small towns, historic abbeys, and Roman ruins dot the landscape.

Phone +39 0737 961563
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09 of 11

Cilento, Vallo di Diano, and Alburni National Park

Waterfall in Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni National Park

Ente Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni

The Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni almost seems to have an unfair advantage over other national parks in Italy. Commonly just called the Cilento, the mountainous promontory is in the southern Campania region, south of Naples and Salerno and bordering Basilicata. Its rugged interior is prime for hiking and wildlife watching, while the park's unspoiled beaches are worth the effort they take to reach. The archaeological site of Paestum, which contains some of the best-preserved Greek ruins in the world, sheds brilliant light on the pre-Roman history of Italy.

Province of Salerno, Italy
Phone +39 0974 719 9200
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10 of 11

Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park

Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park
Carlo Passaseo / EyeEm / Getty Images

Located almost entirely in the region of Abruzzo, the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga is home to the highest peak in southern Italy: the nearly 3,000-meter Corno Grande. It's part of the Apennines, the mountain chain that runs the length of the Italian peninsula. The park is also the site of the Calderone Glacier, considered the southernmost glacier in Europe but unlikely to survive the next few years. The park is on the main highway that connects Rome to the east coast of Italy, so its wild, dramatic terrain is actually easily accessible. Hiking, climbing, biking, and horseback riding are popular summer activities, while the park has several ski stations open in the winter. Local shepherding traditions, including the twice-annual transhumance (transfer of herds), hold strong here. The mountains are a refuge for bears, wolves, chamois, and other wildlife.

Phone +39 0862 60521
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11 of 11

Aspromonte National Park

Aspromonte National Park in Calabria
FotoGablitz / Getty Images

The southernmost park in mainland Italy, Aspromonte National Park, or Parco Nazionale dell'Aspromonte, sits at the very end of the Apennine Mountain chain, in Calabria. The park's mountainous interior is characterized by arid landscapes and scraggly vegetation interrupted by tall, rushing waterfalls cascading into clear pools. Ancient hilltowns seem to cling to the edge of the mountains, while on the coast, sleepy fishing villages and low-key beach resorts abut soft, sandy beaches.

89057 Santo Stefano in Aspromonte, Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria, Italy
Phone +39 0965 743060
Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Wine and Travel Italy. "Discover Italy's Incredible National Parks." Retrieved on February 9, 2022.

  2. CBC. "What If Mount Vesuvius Erupted Today?" Retrieved on February 9, 2022.

  3. Ente Parco Nazionale del Pollino. "Parco Nazionale del Pollino." Retrieved on February 9, 2022.

  4. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. "Pollino UNESCO Global Geopark (Italy)." Retrieved on February 9, 2022.

  5. Ente Parco Nazionale del Gargano. "Protected Area." Retrieved on February 9, 2022.

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The Top 11 National Parks in Italy