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.
The villages in Alpi Marittime
Aisone, in Valle Stura di Demonte, is the far-east of Maritime Alps, sharing part of its territory with the Cottian Alps. The heart of the Park is Valle Gesso with the villages of Valdieri, Entracque and Roaschia. The other side of the protected area is in Valle Vermenagna, and the upper Val Grande which is in the municipality of Vernante.