Paradiso National Park
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Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso was the first national park established in Italy. It includes a large territory of high mountains, from the 800 meters of the bottom of the valleys to the 4,061 meters of the Gran Paradiso peak. Larch and fir woods, wide alpine grasslands, rocks, and glaciers make up an ideal scenery for the life of a rich and various fauna and for a visit leading to the discovery of the wonderful world of the high mountains.
Touring the Park
HistoryThe events of the Park are strictly linked to the protection of the wild goat. Already in 1856, King Vittorio Emanuele II declared the Royal Hunting Reserve a part of the current territory of the Park, avoiding in this way the extinction of the wild goat whose number had been enormously reduced. The King also created a group of specialized foresters and built paths and mule tracks which are still today the best communication net for the protection of the fauna by the foresters, and which are also the nucleus of the excursion itineraries.
In 1920, King Vittorio Emanuele III gave to the Italian government the 2,100 hectares of the hunting reserve in order to create a national park. Two years later, on Dec. 3, the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso was established: the first Italian national park. The protected area was managed until 1934 by a committee with an autonomous administration, and then directly by the Ministero dell'Agricoltura e Foreste until the end of World War II, during which it was seriously damaged.
From 1947 the Park was managed by an autonomous authority. In 1991, a law about the parks was promulgated in order to rule the establishment and the administration of the protected areas in Italy, including the Parco del Gran Paradiso.
The territory of the Park, between the Piemonte and Valle d'Aosta regions, extends itself for about 70,000 hectares in a mainly Alpine environment. The mountains of the Gran Paradiso group have been in the past carved and shaped by great glaciers and by streams, which led to the formation of the current valleys.
Stay in the park at the Refugi
In the bottom of the valley's woods the most frequent trees are: the larches, mixed with spruce firs, Swiss stone pines, and rarely silver firs. Going up along the slopes the trees are replaced by wide alpine pastures, which are rich in flowers in the late spring. Going higher again the landscape is characterized by rocks and glaciers, up to the highest peaks of the massif reaching the 4000 meters with the Gran Paradiso peak.
The Gran Paradiso group is made up of rocks
of different ages and origins. In
particular, there is a group of stratified
gneiss (metamorphic rocks derived by
granites or by diorites, which are still
preserved here and there). In some cases the
gneiss have a thick covering of calcareous
schists variously metamorphosed, derived
from marine sediments of the Mesozoic era.
It is possible to notice the presence of
rich veins of iron minerals in the Val di
Cogne, which have greatly influenced the
life of the population of the valley.
and the alpine summer grazing lands tell the
long history of the shepherds. They have
lived in a self-sufficient way in these
mountains for centuries, frequently
communicating with people living beyond the
Alps rather than with the lowlanders.
On the slope of the Piemonte region, the houses are entirely built in stone, while on the slope of the Valle d'Aosta region they are built both in stone and wood. The most common model (with variations according to the valleys) is a wood and stone building with the stable situated on the ground floor, the home on the first floor, and the hay loft on the second floor, in order to keep the house as warm as possible. One of the aims of the Park is to highlight the importance of the cultural heritage of the mountain and to promote its sustainable economic development.
Fauna and Flora
The symbol of the Park, the wild goat (Capra ibex) is fairly confiding, therefore it is not hard to observe it on the Alpine pasturelands. The males, which can be recognized from their long and curved horns, live in small groups, while the females, characterized by shorter horns, live with the young individuals in separate groups.
The marmot (Marmota marmota) usually announces itself with a whistle: with its strong nails it digs long underground galleries used as a shelter in case of danger and for the hibernation.
The Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) disappeared in 1912 and it has now been reintroduced in the Alps thanks to an international project. Another big bird of prey nests in the area, the golden eagle, which is not difficult to observe.
The crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) is characterized by its beak with crossed tips: this peculiarity allows it to lever on the pine cones to extract the seeds. It is a typical bird living in the conifer woods.
The larch (Larix decidua) is the only conifer which loses its needles during the autumn. It is a pioneer plant, able to grow in a short time even on the spoil ground of the high mountain.
The edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), symbol of the high mountain, is spread from 1500 to 3200 metres, and it is characterized by the dawny upper side of its leaves.
The mountain lily (Paradisea Liliastrum) has been chosen as symbol of the botanical garden of Paradisia di Valnontey (Cogne), an outdoor exhibition of alpine flora.
Valle d'Aosta side
Valle d'Aosta side
Valle d'Aosta side