The Stelvio National Park has been established in 1935 in order to “protect and improve flora, increase fauna and in order to preserve the special geological formations and the beauties of the landscape” of the Ortler-Cevedale mountain range, moreover, in order to “promote development of tourism” in some of the most beautiful valleys of the Alps.
Thus the Stelvio National Park, which according to its extension is by itself the most extensive of the Alps, represents only the heart of an ever wider protected area which stretches over nearly 400,000 hectares.
Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio is the largest not only among the historical Italian parks, but also in the whole Alpine chain.
It stretches in the heart of the Central Alps and includes typical valleys shaped by the action of ice and water flowing down from the imposing massif of the Ortles-Cevedale group.
Majestic ridges, luxuriant forests, high mountain green grasslands crossed by foaming streams springing from perennial glaciers form the landscape of the Park.
Many rare animal and plant species live in wide ecosystems present in territory thanks to its remarkable differences in height and to its morphological variety.
The landscape is scattered with villages and “masi” at the bottom of the valleys and on the mountain slopes: they are charming evidences of rural and religious architecture which complete the setting in harmony with the surrounding environment.
Features of the Protected Area
Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio covers an area of 134,620 hectares in the heart of the Central Alps, and it includes the Ortles-Cevedale massif and its lateral valleys. The protected area borders in the North with the Swiss National Park of Engadina, in the South with Parco Regionale dell’Adamello in Lombardy, and it is directly linked to the near Parco Naturale Adamello-Brenta in Trentino. Towards the East, a few kilometers away, there is Parco Naturale di Tessa, while in the West Parco di Livigno e della Valdidentro will soon be established.
This area lies in the center of the Alpine chain and in one of the largest and most interesting protected territories in Europe. The idea to preserve this great Alpine landscape dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, and became reality on 24th April 1935. At the beginning, the Park extended itself for 96,000 hectares. In 1977, it was enlarged until it reached the present area.
In the national park there are all the possible Alpine formations: from the high altitude glaciers (Ortles 3,905 m), to the mountain summer pastures and terraces, to the bottoms of valleys (Laces 650 m). Within the borders of the Park, it is possible to admire glaciers, mountain summer pastures, wide woodlands, cultivated lands, mountain chalets where people dwell all year long, villages, and towns.
As you can easily imagine, for decades various interests have collided in the area: on the one hand, people committed themselves to protect and maintain the natural area, on the other hand, projects keeping the pace of progress and of technology were presented, such as the extension of the road net, the use of hydraulic energy, and the tourist exploitation of mountain areas.
The Park landscape is marked by the typical harmonious presence of untouched Alpine territories and cultivated areas. Hydro geologic conditions mark the landscape of the national park, where glacial lakes and foaming mountain streams are present. Wide ecosystems rich in flora and fauna exist thanks to the differences in height and to the variety of the territory morphology.
The Park Valleys
Numberless valleys descend from the huge mountain massifs of Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio: they have been more or less mastered by man, and shaped by the erosion carried out by the glaciers of by the flows of the watercourses.
Each valley has unique features: for instance, Val Venosta alluvial cones are among the most extended of the Alpine ridge; the long Val Martello, whose initial part is dominated by the Cevedale peak; the valley of Trafoi, dominated by the Ortles and by many peaks covered with ice.
The Val dell’Ultimo is a green valley, rich in waters and lakes, like Val del Rabbi that, along with Valle del Peio, is renown for its mineral and curative waters. However, also in Valtellina, in Bormio and in Valfurva, thermal waters have given birth to a very ancient tradition.
Through the most important valleys of the Park, ancient roads wind along the itineraries followed by prehistoric hunters or by people looking for minerals or transporting goods to exchange. For instance, along the road from Bormio to Torri di Fraele, in the direction of Engandina and the Tyrol, the important market-town of Glorenza was built: nowadays it is still surrounded by walls, and it lies at the gates of the Park.
Along the ancient routes, villages and town districts have risen. The colonization of the areas at higher altitudes and used as summer mountain pastures started from these settlements in the 13th century. The summer mountain grazing was an essential activity to survive at lower altitudes. Many of the “malghe”, still used today, offer hospitality to excursionists.
Many specimens of the Alpine fauna live in all the sections of Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio, except the great predators which became extinct because of man. We find herds of deer which prefer the thick woods and the roe deer, which live at their borders.
At higher altitudes, we can see the chamois and in some valleys the wild goats have come back.
The fox, the ermine, and the marmot cannot miss; there are also many squirrels, hares, and less frequently we can find badgers and weasels. If we look up among the branches of the trees, or up to the sky, we will find a number of bird species, such as the chough, the raven, and the crow.
There are woodpeckers, capercailzies, and hazel grouses.
There are also some birds of prey: the buzzard, the sparrow hawk, and the owl. Various couples of golden eagles are nesting on breathtaking walls and now it is also possible to see also the lammergeyer.
It is necessary not to forget the inhabitants of ponds and streams, and of course the insects contributing to complete the food chain in the territory of the Park.
Nature-loving people can find in the park territory a number of arboreal and floral species beyond any possible expectation.
The difference in height from the lowest point to the Ortles peak, together with a large variety of pedological situations and particular microclimates, allows the growth of different and rare botanical species, such as a species of the Ranunculaceae family, growing at more than 3,500 meters of height, or the Soldanella pusilla, the Linnea borealis, and the Drosera rotundifolia.
From wetlands to detrital areas, from calcareous to siliceous soils, each clod of the earth is covered by a various and colored flora which catches the eye.
More info are available on the Official site of the Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio