Protected Areas & Uncontaminated Nature
On the gentle morainic slopes of Lake Maggiore is the Lagoni Nature Park, a precious casket of natural and archaeological treasures. Walk or cycle round the reed thickets of Lake Maggiore and observe wild animals! Val Grande is fully wild, in the figurative meaning of the word... a heaven for lovers of adventure and unspoiled nature. While walking through the yet wild Antrona Valley one might end under a waterfall or “meet” some alpine rock goats… The Veglia – Devero Park is simply amazing and definitely offers a great number of accommodation facilities. The Rosa glacier, where the ibex, earlier considered extinct in the Alps, has finally returned! Finally walk through high meadows dotted with emerald lakes or climb down the natural canyons... the experience is always unique, in the Bognanco upper valley.
Nature Park of Lagoni in Mercurago
A natural park with three big lakes (“lagoni”) of glacial origin and various wood types where you can walk, run and ride bike. Located in Mercurago, a few kilometres away from Arona town centre, it is mostly a forested place, which includes also the local moss. Moreover it has maintained an area always grazing for the horse breeding. Since 1980 this area has been protected. Much wildlife living there is protected too. Some species of migratory birds are attracted by the presence of ponds and bogs. Finally, a particular species of mushroom was found in the park: the “crepidotus roseoornatus”, the only one in the world. The site is an important prehistoric settlement, dating from the Bronze Age, and archaeological, having been found inside of it some Roman “domus”, the findings of which are now preciously kept in Arona and Novara museums. The park has numerous hiking thematic trails allowing visitors to admire many aspects of nature (such as forests and wetlands) or the work done by men throughout the centuries.
Special Nature Reserve of the Thicket Groves of Dormelletto
A 4 Km long lake environment (157 hectares) located in the municipality of Dormelletto, between Arona and Castelletto Ticino, which has perfectly kept its typical lake and nature characteristics for decades.
Special Nature Reserve of the Thicket Groves of Fondotoce
Thick reed groves are an essential environmental condition for reproduction of lake fish and for bird nesting and wintering. A 360-hectare reserve along the Toce plain, the most important river in the Ossola region, which offers also some beautiful beaches and plenty of opportunity for walking and biking.
The Val Grande National Park
Val Grande was established as National Park in 1992. It covers approximately 15,000 hectares of land enclosed between Lake Maggiore and the Cannobina Valley on the East side, with the Vigezzo Valley on the North and Ossola on the South and West. The World Wilderness Association defined this Park as “the sole European natural area that integrally maintains its original environmental conditions”. It was once inhabited by shepherds who practiced deforestation. It is now deserted and during the last forty years of total abandonment by man nature has savagely taken over. The rich variety of vegetation is one of the most interesting characteristics of this park, where chamois, roebucks, foxes, deer and many other animal species live totally free. The park is a secluded territory, protected by steep mountains, and can be accessed only through walk-through trails. The most suitable seasons of the year to visit it are spring, summer and early autumn due to favorable climate conditions. The network of tracks and trails should be accessed carefully and with the assistance of experienced guides. The Nature Park headquarters are in Vogogna (Ossola) while the center dedicated to night animals is in Intragna (Verbano).
Nature Park of the Antrona Upper Valley
In the Antrona Valley near the town of Villadossola is a peaceful park where pure air is mixed with the joyful sounds of mountain feasts and the sweet smells of typical cooking. Remote, alone, wild... This is the Antrona Upper Valley: quite intact nature environment and sustainable presence of the man. Once a good place for gold extraction, the park is surrounded by numerous alpine lakes. The most important is the Antrona Lake. Created in 1642 after a landslide, it is now a hydroelectric basin and an attractive tourist destination. It is then followed by the Lakes Cavalli, Camposecco, Cingino and Campiccioli (the last with a dam). The picturesque village of Cheggio (1,497 M) lies in front of a beautiful scenery created by incredible 3000-4000 m high tops.
Info: www.valleantrona.com - www.areeprotetteossola.it
In the surroundings… The mountain goats of Cingino lake
Herds of Alpine Ibex goats use to wander fearlessly across the side of the near-vertical Cingino dam (2230 M) in the Antrona Valley! The gravity-defying goats typically live on very steep and rocky terrain at altitudes of up to 4600 M and have no fear of falling whether climbing up or down the 160 ft dam wall. They apparently are licking the salt off the stones. The Alpine Ibex is a species of wild goats that live on the mountains of the European Alps and seek refuge at high altitudes to protect themselves from predators. The “show” of the Cingino goats can be admired only after a 4-hour walk along the «Strada Antronesca» trail.
Info: www.valleantrona.com - www.areeprotetteossola.it
Nature Park of the Veglia - Devero Alpine Pastures
Hard and yet sweet at the same time seems living between the Divedro and Antigorio Valleys: green plains and grey mountain tops, strong wind and quiet lake water. A long, respectful and loving human colonization based on stock-breeding didn’t influence the two Alps negatively in the past nor in the present. The rich variety from both ecological and climatic point of view allows to identify a great number of plants (up to 500!) and shrubs (from small to perpetual snow-thriving) types in the park. Numerous chamois, roe deer, ibex goats and marmots have found their ideal habitat here and can be observed during the summer. Over 60 trails connect San Domenico (Varzo), Piana del Veglia
and Devero. And why not savor the mouth-watering menus offered at local “agriturismi”!
Info: www.parks.it - www.areeprotetteossola.it - www.valdivedro.it - www.valformazza.it
In the surroundings… The Antigorio Valley: Uriezzo Gorges
The Uriezzo Gorges are deep ravines hollowed out by the erosive action of the rushing water, which flowed under the ice that once covered the entire Formazza Valley. Today they probably represent the most perfect image of the ancestral molding of a territory, which is extraordinarily rich of fascinating and unique evidence of geological history. Gorges (Baceno, Arvera, Santa Lucia, Balmasurda, Silogno), geysers (Croveo), particular rocks (Verampio) and ravines (Balmafredda) welcome visitors in the heart of the earth. The distinctive feature of the Uriezzo Gorges is that, since
water no longer flows through these narrow and deep incisions in the rock, it is possible to walk inside three of them. The existing complex ecosystem is another notable feature: various plant species can easily be observed, particularly mosses and ferns, which are able to adapt themselves to
these difficult environmental conditions.
Fauna oasis of Macugnaga
The protected area extends along the slopes that stretch out towards the peaks of the Mount Rosa Eastern face, which is over 2500 m. above sea level. The oasis was instituted in 1969 to reintroduce the ibex considered in danger of extinction in the Alpine territory. The birds were brought up from the Gran Paradiso National Park and they have successfully adapted to the environment of the Anzasca and Antrona Upper Valleys. The Ibex can be admired in late spring and autumn when it flies at a lower altitude. In winter they tend to prefer steeper sunnier slopes, where the snow melts faster. Chamois and rock goats eat grass most of the year and juniper or shrubs in winter. A day-long excursion can be taken following a quite complete itinerary from the oasis to the edge of the glacier. An interesting geological phenomenon can be observed on Locce Lake: since it was formed inside the channel left by the Belvedere glacier when it was retreating, parts of its shores are still frozen.
The Bognanco Upper Valley
The Bognanco Valley is internationally renowned for its waters. Bognanco offers a tranquility second to none. The walks from the town are numerous and relaxing. In the woods you can hear the “hundred waterfalls” running. The valley offers a wide choice of excursions: the Fornalino, the Verosso and the Gattascosa summits as well as three Paione Lakes. Several groups of tourists from Switzerland cross an ancient smuggling route, the Monscera pass, towards Bognanco before walking to Antrona. Not so tiring, but just as inspiring, are the walks to Gomba and the St. Bernard mountain pastures.It would also be worth the while to go visit the ancient boroughs of San Marco, Messasca, Possetto, Pizzanco, Camisanca, San Lorenzo and Graniga where one can still admire typical stone roofs, religious and civil buildings and natural terraces from where to gain a breathtaking bird eye view over the entire valley.