If you are thinking of planning a trip to one of Italy’s national parks, you may feel overwhelmed as there are so many from which to choose! In fact, there are a total of 24 covering about 5% of the Italian peninsula and surrounding seas. One of the largest and most beautiful is Stelvio National Park located in northern Italy’s Lombardy and Trentino-South Tyrol regions. We’ve compiled some of the highlights of this enormous park into one abridged article.
Planning Your Visit
First of all, it’s important to accept the fact that you won’t be able to see all of Stelvio in one trip. It covers over 130,000 hectares (that’s 500 square miles) and spans the central Alps that straddle the Lombardy and Trentino-South Tyrol regions.
There are numerous factors to consider when deciding which sections of the park you plan to visit but the primary ones are: in which season do you plan to travel and what will your means of transportation be once you arrive. If you plan to travel by car, you’ll have more freedom and be able to see more in a shorter amount of time. You can also experience the world-famous Stelvio Pass if you’re brave enough. With over 70 hairpin turns, it is the second-highest paved mountain pass in the Alps. But it is typically only open between the months of May and October due to weather conditions.
Stelvio National Park in the Lombardy Region
Bormio is probably the most popular destination within the park on the Lombardy side. This is a world-renowned ski destination that hosts the Alpine Ski World Cup on an annual basis. Famous, above all, for its treacherous Stelvio Run which has seen the best skiers in the world swoosh down its 3,000 plus meter run at a 60% gradient. It is also gearing up to host the 2026 Winter Olympics. Aside from Bormio being a winter sports haven, it is also a lovely little town with everything a traveler could possibly need from thermal baths to art and history. There is a visitor center here and one of the highlights of the entire Stelvio Park, the Alpine Botanical Garden (Giardino Botanico Alpino Rezia), is here too.
About 40 minutes north of Bormio are the artificial lakes of Cancano. There is a bike rental here as well if you feel inspired to take any of the numerous trails around the gorgeous lakes or more challenging trails by mountain bike or e-bike. This area is perfect for families traveling with young children.
Stelvio National Park in the South-Tyrol Region
In the South-Tyrol portion (Alto Adige in Italian) of the park, there are a total of 8 municipalities but the two primary centers are Stelvio and Val Martello, both located in Val Venosta. Stelvio is a charming, ancient village that dates to the 15th century when it became a settlement for the miners extracting iron ore from Ortles mountain (3,900 meters). Just a few kilometers away, you can also visit Trafoi where the visitors’ center (Naturatrafoi) is located as well as an interesting display of local geology and plant and animal life.
There is also a visitors’ center in Val Martello, Culturamartell, which is a must for anyone interested in delving into the history of this region and the distinctive mountain culture of its people. Val Martello is known for its strawberries and with altitudes reaching 1,800 meters, it makes it the highest cultivation area for the fruit in all of Europe.
Stelvio National Park in the Trentino Region
Finally, in the Trentino area, you’ll find the two valleys of Peio and Rabbi. In Val di Rabbi highlights include a 100-meter long Tibetan bridge with views of the Ragaiolo waterfall. Another waterfall that is said to be one of the most beautiful in all of Trentino is the Saent (Cascata del Saent). There are numerous trails that encourage or even require barefoot hiking to truly become one with nature. There are also natural hot springs in Rabbi that you can enjoy after a long day of hiking.
The Val di Peio (also spelled Pejo) is also a great place to visit, especially in the summertime. Take the Pejo 3000 cableway up to 3,000 meters where the peaks are snowcapped year-round. This area was the site of many battles during World War I and is also why it is known as the Guerra Bianca in reference to the harsh conditions endured on alpine glaciers. You can enjoy high adrenaline rafting on the Noce river or hike to Lake Covel.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to this incredible national park! We haven’t even covered the food, wine, events, castles, monasteries, and museums located within Stelvio’s boundaries. Hopefully, we’ve at least piqued your interest enough to research the area further and to start planning your trip.
Visit the official website in English for more information.