Italy’s oldest national park has the distinction of being breathtakingly beautiful, perfect for both advanced and inexperienced hikers, as well as being located on the old hunting grounds of the ruling Savoy family from a century ago. In 1911, the Savoy family donated the first 5,000 acres of land in the park to the people of Italy and since that time the park has grown to 173,000 acres of mountains, trails and beautiful scenery.
There is a large amount of wildlife to be found in the park – this wildlife was once the focus of the hunt in the area. Today, you can hike to view the sunrise or sunset among the hills and mountains and along the way, you’ll likely meet a ibex, or white mountain goat. These are the kings of the park and about three thousand total graze throughout the hills and rocks. You might also see chamois and marmots as well as foxes and golden eagles. The best way to view the wildlife, however, is to spend the night in the park, in a rifugi, or mountain hut, and be able to see the animals come out to feed at dawn and dusk – perhaps right outside your front door!
Hiking and Sightseeing
Once a hunting reserve, the park is crisscrossed with various trails and mule paths making it easy to traverse the wilderness on foot. Many families enjoy the northern areas of the park as they are more heavily wooded and have higher mountain peaks to make for interesting scenery. The northern area of the national park also has more resorts and cities that make an easy start to your travels inside the reserve.
A nice place to start a day of sight-seeing and hiking is Cogne, a tiny hamlet which has ample parking for tourists. At the far end of the parking lot between the church and river is a walking trail gentle enough for strollers and older family members. The path is 3.3 kilometers, or just over two miles, and ends in the charming town of Lilliaz, home of a gorgeous waterfall. The walk to the waterfall is ten minutes along a wheelchair or stroller accessible path, and the view and ambiance of the falls is wonderfully relaxing. Sit and watch the falls for a bit, or even stretch out to sunbathe on the flat rocks around the falls if you’d like. Rest up before you start the rest of your adventures in the park.