Italy has virtually every type of scenery one can imagine, from bucolic countrysides with rolling hills to majestic mountains to spectacular coastlines. The country preserves much of this beauty in its 25 national parks, which receive many millions of visitors every year. The stunning national parks featured below are Italy’s Top Four in terms of numbers of yearly visitors, but it’s worth noting that they are also Italy’s largest parks. This means they don’t feel as crowded as, for example, the Cinque Terre National Park, which receives more visitors than it can realistically sustain.
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park is a collection of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Tuscany. With 3 million visitors per year, this national park comes in fourth place – which is amazing given that three-quarters of the area of the park is made up of water.
The seven islands included in the Tuscan archipelago offer a lot to visitors: hiking and biking trails crisscross many of the islands, water sports and diving opportunities abound, and the locally produced food and wine is top notch. Visitors can also delve into local history and archaeology, probably most famously on the island of Elba, which was home to Napoleon for almost a year when he was in exile.
Gargano National Park
Anyone who has looked at a map of Italy knows that the country is shaped like a boot, and the Gargano National Park sticks out from the back just above the heel, exactly where you would find the spur. Surrounded by water on three sides, the Gargano peninsula comes in third in terms of number of yearly visitors at 3.9 million.
The park is home to the large and lush Umbra Forest, has many stunning beaches, and numerous caves and grottoes to explore. Visitors are also attracted by the famous Monte Sant’Angelo Sanctuary and the typical seaside towns. And of course, it’s a wonderful place to eat fresh local fish.
Stelvio National Park
The Stelvio National Park is Italy’s largest national park by area and is its second most-visited, with four million yearly visitors. This stunning national park lies at the country’s northernmost end, very close to the Swiss border.
With majestic mountains and lush forests, the area is excellent for hiking and biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. The park is also home to many different animal species, including the brown bear. The Stelvio Pass, within the park, is the highest paved mountain pass in the eastern Alps. With 48 turns on its north side alone, the pass itself is a destination for drivers and cyclists (though beware, this means that the one-lane road is quite busy with slow-moving traffic so not the best place to test out a fun car).
Cilento National Park
Just south of the iconic Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, the Cilento National park (more accurately the National Park of the Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni) is Italy’s second largest national park in terms of area, but is the country’s most visited park, with over five million yearly visitors.
Within the park are gorgeous sandy beaches, forests crisscrossed with hiking and biking trails, and many beautiful villages. The Cilento is also famous for the ancient ruins of the Greek city of Velia and the temples at Paestum, and for its mozzarella cheese, mozzarella di bufala, made from water buffalo milk.
Madeline Jhawar is Owner of Italy Beyond the Obvious.