Gran Paradiso NP
The Gran Paradiso was the first national park to be created in Italy. Its soaring, glacier-modelled peaks, clear mountain lakes and vast mountain meadows are home to the Alpine ibex.
The National park Gran Paradiso is also a home of the Alpine ibex, a mountain goat with huge recurving horns which was once thought to have magical powers. Partly because of this, the ibex was nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Luckily, a King was at hand to save it.
In 1919, Vittorio Emanuele III, King of Italy, gifted a vast stretch of land across Piedmont and the Aosta valley, which had once been his personal game reserve, to the Italian State, on condition that it would become a national park. The park was officially created in 1922, and, although they suffered great losses during the Second World War, ibex numbers soon recovered.
Today, the Gran Paradiso is a verdant mosaic of Alpine life. There are tiny hamlets of stone and wooden houses, royal hunting lodges, and lone chapels linked by old mule tracks. There are stream-carved valleys covered by an intricate maze of beech, downy oak, chestnut trees, Scots pine, spruce and larch forests, which hide wild boar, squirrels and deer, but also wolves, lynx and hermine. And up at the very top of the mountains, are the hardy grasses of the highlands, which shelter white hare and chamois, marmots and eagles, and of course the ibex.
The best place to savour the views and hope to spot the elusive mountain goats, as well as fox, hermine and chamois, is the Nivolet, a 2500m-high plateau carved by the Dora river, which can be reached on foot, bicycle and shuttle bus.
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