Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime
A park fit for a king
Parco naturale delle Alpi Marittime was founded on the ancient hunting grounds of the House of Savoy, from the union in 1995 of Parco dell'Argentera and Riserva dei boschi e laghi di Palanfrè. It is the largest protected area in Piedmont, with over 28,000 hectares of Alpine territory. There are three valleys in the Park - the Gesso, Stura and Vermenagna valleys - and five municipalities involved: Aisone, Entracque, Roaschia, Valdieri, Vernante. The Park has been twinned with the Parc National du Mercantour, since 1987, which stretches along the French side of the common border for over 35 kilometres. In 2016, the Park joined with the Parco Naturale del Marguareis to become Ente di Gestione delle Aree protette delle Alpi Marittime.
The Park has its heart and its symbol in the crystalline Massif of Argentera-Mercantour where the Maritime Alps culminate at 3297 metres of the Cima Sud dell'Argentera. The Maritime Alps are harsh, severe mountains, the rock walls of volcanic origin rise abruptly, cut by narrow, deep valleys. Less than 50 kilometres from the Cote d'Azur, there are 24 peaks over 3000 metres high: their slopes hide spectacular glacial cirques, over 80 high alpine lakes of a surreal blue and the remnants of the southernmost glaciers in the Alps.
The Park hosts an exceptional variety of floral species: within its borders there are about 2000 species, equivalent to about a quarter of the entire Italian flora. Here you find growing some endemic plants that are impossible to find in the rest of the world like the Argentera Saxifrage, the Viola valderia and Allioni's Primrose. The fauna is also varied and rich: chamois, ibex and marmots are frequent encounters along the paths of the Park. Between the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the third millennium, the wolf, a sort of "quality seal" of an intact and healthy alpine environment, made its natural return to these valleys.
An extraordinary hiking network - with over 400 kilometres of marked itineraries - allows you to immerse yourself in the nature of the Park along paths, mule tracks and military roads that are authentic masterpieces of environmental engineering. 10 cozy mountain refuges and 7 Spartan bivouac huts mean that mountaineers and hikers can enjoy the high altitude mountain experience. Inhabited and used a passing place for centuries, the Maritimes bear the marks of their recent history: the ancient abandoned villages witness the sunset of Alpine civilization; hunting lodges and chalets built by the kings of the House of Savoy; the military roads that have now become paths of peace.
Environment and landscape
- 7 glaciers, the southernmost in the Alps
- 80 lakes of glacial origin and 3 artificial, ranging from an area of a few square meters to several hectares
- Crystalline massif of volcanic origin
- 24 peaks over 3000 metres
- 10 alpine mountain refuges and 1 hiking shelter
- 9 unmanaged bivouac huts
- more than 400 kilometres of marked trails
Flora and vegetation
- 1800 higher plants present, which correspond to over 30% of the Italian flora. 10 endemic endemic species (only found in the Maritime Alps)
- 40 orchid species of about 90 present on the national territory
- 780 species of mushrooms
- 140 species of lichens, which correspond to 12% of the species known for Piedmont
- 1 botanical garden, "Valderia" at Terme di Valdieri
- 80% of the forests that cover the slopes of the mountains are beech
- 5% of the forest area is occupied by conifers: spruce and fir, larch, Swiss pine and mountain pine
- 1 Wildlife Centre in Entracque "Uomini e Lupi"
- 4000 chamois (average figure 2015)
- 760 ibex (average figure 2015)
- 6 species of ungulates present: chamois and ibex, roe deer, wild boar, deer and mouflon
- 3 wolf packs that frequent the Park territory
- 20 species of bats surveyed, representing three quarters of the species known for Piedmont
- 201 species of birds observed; among these, one hundred nesting
- 63 species of birds considered a priority for Europe, including 8 nesting species of birds of prey
- 3 species of alpine galliformes: ptarmigan, black grouse and rock partridge
- 9 pairs of golden eagles
- 41 bearded vultures released between 1993 and 2012 from the Alpi Marittime-Mercantour release sites
- 5 fish species that live in some of the lakes and waterways: brown trout, marble trout, rainbow trout, bullheads and minnows.
- 9,000 species of invertebrates, 30 of which newly discovered
- 300 species of spiders, 2 recently discovered
History and culture
- 3 prehistoric sites: caves at Aisone, Bandito caves (Municipality of Roaschia), bronze age burial ground in Valdieri
- 1 educational archeopark
- 1 Ecomuseum: Rye ecomuseum in Sant'Anna di Valdieri
- 3 former hunting lodges of the House of Savoy
- 100 military features (bunkers, barracks, ...)
- 1 hydroelectric plant, one of the most powerful in Europe