Italy’s national parks offer landscapes of rare natural beauty and woodlands that are home to deer, wild boar and hundreds of varieties of birds. In mountain regions, these parks help to conserve all major species of alpine flora and fauna. Hundreds of rivers and waterfalls provide tireless natural spectacles. The majestic Po flows 670 kilometres from the Alps to the Adriatic; Umbria’s Marmore Falls comprise three grand cascades constructed by the engineers of ancient Rome.
Sicily’s two active volcanoes are Stromboli and Etna, both in constant states of mild discontent. Around Naples, you’ll see Vesuvius and, at Herculaneum and Pompeii, the dramatic results of its early eruptions.
Below the surface, picturesque caves reveal secrets. Grotta Gigante, near Trieste, is the largest cave in the world open to tourists. At Frasassi in Marche, stalagmites and stalactites form graceful natural sculptures, while Sardinia’s Grotta di Nettuno is a fantastic cavern explored by boat.
The ancient Romans knew the value of baths for physical and spiritual well-being. Italy’s modern spas, many located in mountain hideaways and natural grottoes, offer healing therapies as well as beauty treatments.
Are the highest and most fascinating mountains in Europe, separating Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. Almost all of the sunny southern slopes are in Italian territory. The highest peaks include Monte Bianco, Monte Rosa, the Cervino, and the Grand Paradiso. They are all located in the Aosta Valley which is unique for its mountain climbing facilities and winter sports centres. Among the most famous localities are Cervinia and Courmayeur. The Aosta Valley has magnificent natural scenery, poetic traditions, monuments and castles.
To the east between the valleys of the Adige and the Piave rivers lie the Dolomites – the most fantastic and spectacular of the entire Alpine range. The main groups include the Pale di San Martino, the Latemar, the Catinaccio, the Sassolungo, the Sella, and the Marmolada. This area is an immense park of great natural beauty. Famous resorts include Merano, Madonna di Campiglio, La Mendola, Canazei, Ortisei, San Martino di Castrozza and Cortina d’Ampezzo which can be found in the valleys, on the gentle uplands and beside Alpine lakes. Thanks to modern transport facilities, cable cars and chair lifts, visitors can reach the highest and most celebrated lookout points with ease.
Run from the hills of Cadibona (near Savona) down into Calabria. They reach their highest point in the Gran Sasso, forming a magnificent winter sports area. This mountain chain counts a range of high tops, like Monte Amiata in Tuscany, Terminillo in Lazio, Gran Sasso and Maiella in Abruzzo, Monte Faito between Naples and Salerno, Monte Serino and Monte Pollino in Basilicata.
The mountains of Sicily and Sardinia repeat the natural beauties of the Alps and the Apennines. Etna, an active volcano on Sicily’s eastern coast epitomises Italy’s extraordinary contrast of nature.
Seas and Lakes
Along Italy’s rugged coastline, villages huddle together like tiny jewels between the blue expanse of the sea and the greenery of the mountains rising above them.
The five ancient fishing ports of the Cinque Terre are between Genoa and La Spezia along the Ligurian coast. Then there are Abruzzo’s beach resorts, the renowned Sorrento peninsula, romantic Amalfi, the splendidly wild cliffs of Calabria and the island of Sicily, the queen of the Mediterranean.
The crystalline lakes of Italy have attracted artists and aristocrats, writers and wealthy retirees for hundreds of years. On their banks, castles and grand residences are surrounded by formal gardens; solitary abbeys add their promise of serenity.
Lombardy’s spectacular lakes - Maggiore, Garda, Como and Lugano - are known and loved by many world travellers. Other smaller lakes, spared from fame and mass tourism, rest in pristine natural settings and are worth seeking out.
From the great Alpine valleys to the sunny plains of Sicily, Italy is dotted with lovely lakes. Orta and Iseo, Bolsena and Bracciano, Lesina and Varano are all awaiting the keen traveller.
Spa & Wellness
The restorative powers of mineral waters and mud baths that bubble up from Italian springs have been around since Roman times. Many spas have become fashionable resort centres, with excellent hotels, casinos, golf courses and theatres. The best-known spas are:
- St Vincent
- San Pellegrino
- Salice Terme
- Bagni di Bormio