Some of the best things about Italy are found completely within the Western Alps, if you’re a hiker. Of course there’s the country’s highest peak, which no hiker can resist. Then there is Italy’s oldest national park, also found in the Western Alps. Count the amazing variety of flora and fauna, the alpine meadows, and accessible yet remote wilderness areas, and you have the perfect setting for a hiker’s dream vacation in beautiful Italy. Discover Colonna mine or encounter wildlife throughout Vallone del Grand Nomenon. Reach your personal goals and try for the six-day trek along the Alta Via 2, known as a particularly challenging route. From Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso (Gran Paradiso National Park) to Valle d’Aosta, to Monte Bianco (the highest peak in Europe), there is a series of wonderful pathways for hikers and walkers who will find that traversing the Western Alps to be the experience of a lifetime.
Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso will stun you with its beauty: deep lateral peaks and plunging valleys below will amaze even the most seasoned hiker. The valleys were cut by glaciers, which left behind the jagged silhouettes and sharp peaks for which the Alps in general have become famous. There are numerous glaciers still within Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso, including Italy’s highest mountain, Gran Paradiso.
Gran Paradiso is just about 13,324 feet high and full of magnificent larch. Larch is a deciduous conifer, the only type found in all of Europe. Some trees get to be over one hundred feet tall and great stands of larch form sweeping green canopies in the sky which will protect you from the sun as you walk or hike the mountain. Besides larch, hikers will welcome Norway spruce, Arolla pine, and silver fir. The Arolla pine should be especially revered because it’s in decline here in Italy. Furniture makers and others crave the beautiful wood for their products, and the pine has been exploited for many years.
Gran Paradiso also hosts several species of birds that are rarely, if ever, found anywhere else in Europe. Take the Bearded Vulture, which was hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s because it was thought to feed on domestic animals. Since the 1970’s, however, it’s been reintroduced and is now making a comeback. Also, while scaling the mountain, keep an eye out for white partridges, owl, jackdaw, alpine chaffinch, and spotted woodpecker. You might even see a lynx if you get to the higher, rocky areas during summertime. When it’s cooler, they come down into the valleys.
Getting to Alle d’Aosta is easy: take a SAVDA bus from Torino (Turin) or Milan. It’s also near France’s Annecy, Chamonix, and Vald’Isere, and Switzerland’s Martigny, if you’re in either of those neighboring areas. There are also regional trains to Aosta, via Chivasso if you’re leaving from Milan. You can also drive: take the A5 from either Turin or Milan.
Accommodations in Valle d’Aosta include moderately-priced small hotels around Aosta and in the suburb of Sarre. Use any one of these as you base, and enjoy the wonderful experience of hiking Italy’s Western Alps, and Valle d’Aosta.