Italy tends to be remembered for its historical and artistic treasures, while most of its natural wonders are often underrated. Those who have gone beyond the many cities of art are well aware of how worthwhile it is to explore the countless natural landmarks in Italy. It’s enough to pick up a map of Italy to understand what we’re talking about: the country is bordered on the north by the mountain range of the Alps, where there are some of the highest peaks in the world, and on all other sides is the sea, with about 7,900 km of coastline. Inland there is another important mountain range, the Apennines, lakes of volcanic and glacial origin, and 24 national parks.
MOST AMAZING NATURAL LANDMARKS IN ITALY
The amount of scenic beauty to be discovered is so impressive that I asked travelers who love Italy to recommend some destinations where to enjoy the majesty of Italian nature.
“Lake Garda, the largest lake in the country, is a hugely popular destination in the Northern region of Italy for both locals and tourists alike. The lake itself is stunning, with steep cliffs and mountains surrounding it and the shores of Lake Garda are dotted with quaint towns and villages for you to explore. While you can visit year-round, summer is the best time to come here as the hot weather allows you to enjoy swimming and boating on the lake.
There are plenty of great things to do, starting with all of the activities you can enjoy on the water. These include sailing, windsurfing, water skiing, and more. If you would prefer to stay on dry land then you can enjoy some incredible hikes, mountain biking, shopping, enjoy some delicious food, the list goes on.
We recommend staying in the town of Riva Del Garda on the Northern shore of Lake Garda. This is a beautiful town full of historic buildings, small cobbled streets and is situated right on the edge of the lake. There are plenty of accommodation options for every budget, from hostels to luxury hotels with ocean views.
This also allows you to do one of the best hikes in the area along the Old Ponale Road. The road is cut into the side of the cliffs above Riva Del Garda and you get stunning views down to the old town and over the lake. Lake Garda is an amazing place and we couldn’t recommend it enough.”
By Luke of Wild About BC
GRAN PARADISO NATIONAL PARK
The Gran Paradiso National Park was one of the first National Parks to be created in Italy. It’s located in the Italian Alps, to the north-west of Italy and is popular for skiing, wildlife watching, and hiking.
The highest point is Gran Paradiso mountain, which stands at 4061m but there are plenty of other mountains and valleys to explore. There are many hiking trails and walks- and several guidebooks you can buy to stay on track.
Less than 20% of the park is forest- the rest is open scrubland, mountain, or grassland, so if you want to see wildlife the forests are a great place to head to. Having said that, the famous Ibex and Chamois can be found almost anywhere if you look hard enough (and with enough patience!)
The best way to visit is while exploring Italy with a camper van, so you can stay in the wilderness (although wild camping is prohibited/ restricted in many areas, so pay attention to the signs). Alternatively, there are plenty of hotels/ BnBs in the region, or stay in the nearby city of Turin, where there is plenty of nightlife and other things to do.
By Kathryn of Wondering Bird
Iconic Monte Bianco (White Mountain), located at the head of the beautiful Aosta Valley in northwestern Italy, is one of the most beautiful and famous peaks in all of Europe. Situated right on the borders between Italy, France and Switzerland, this ruggedly picture-perfect range can be enjoyed from any of these countries. Or all of them.
One of the most popular long-distance treks in Europe is the Tour du Mont Blanc, which makes an entire circuit around this photogenic natural landmark. Depending on fitness levels and available time, a self-guided Tour du Mont Blanc itinerary can take anywhere from 7 to 14 days.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this natural masterpiece without spending 8 hours per day trudging up and over steep mountain passes. The charming little Italian city of Courmayeur is perched delicately in the foothills of Mont Blanc, providing spectacular views, excellent skiing, wonderful day hikes, and surprisingly impressive shopping. On the far side of the mountain, you’ll find the French alpine town of Chamonix, where gondolas run visitors up to all the best Mont Blanc viewpoints. Plus, these two Mont Blanc base towns are conveniently connected by a modern tunnel that allows you to drive between the two in just half an hour.
By Dean and Laynni of Routinely Nomadic
One of the most notable natural landmarks in Italy is the Ciolo Channel, located in southern Puglia on the eastern coast of the heel of Italy’s boot. Carved into the soft limestone hills of the Adriatic coast, this remarkable channel is filled with cerulean blue sea and flanked by towering cliffs. Spending an afternoon floating in its clear waters is one of the top things to do when visiting Santa Maria di Leuca or Otranto but it’s also possible to take exceptional photos of this natural wonder from a vantage point on Ciolo Bridge.
Nearby attractions include a hiking trail that hugs the picturesque coastline and several charming cliffside restaurants serving the regional cuisine of Salento at the entrance to the stairs descending into the channel. While there’s no admission cost to enter the channel, there are also no changing rooms or other facilities once you arrive at the water’s edge. So bring only what you need, as well as a pair of water shoes, as the rocks can be slippery.
Michele Peterson A Taste for Travel
BEACHES ON THE ELBA ISLAND
The Island of Elba is located about 20 km off the Tuscan coast, opposite the town of Piombino and is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. “The Elba” as locals call it, is considered one of the most beautiful islands of Italy, which can deliver breathtaking experiences equal to the largest Sardinia and Sicily.
The island is a natural wonder primarily for its coastline, washed by a blue sea and dotted with small and large beaches of sand and rock, or pebbles, there are more than 100. The best time to visit the island is during the warmer months, although the influx of local and international travelers is considerable. The best mode of transport is moving with your own means. This will allow you to travel the entire perimeter of the island and stop to explore the beaches that most attract attention. Among the most beautiful beaches on the island of Elba are: Chiessi, Pomonte, the Seccione Beach, and Fetovaia.
The views of the island, which is partly rocky, are amazing, while the hinterland is green with forests. Elba offers satisfying experiences to lovers of swimming, walking, and cycling.
The southern part, where there are many sandy beaches, is full of campsites and pine forests, and is the most popular. Inland there are higher and more secluded villages, such as Marciano and Sant’Ilario. The islet of Pianosa, where until 1997 there was a maximum-security prison, is worth a boat trip from the main island. This is an intriguing flat rock with beaches, historical ruins, and diving sites.
By Lisa of Travel Connect Experience
If you love dramatic scenery, don’t miss the Alcantara Gorge in Sicily. This is a massive chasm created around 4,500 years ago when the nearby Mount Etna erupted. The sides of the chasm are lined with trees, a river runs along the base, and a giant waterfall runs down the cliff face. The gorge is popular with walkers and nature-spotters, and with adventure seekers who like to wade in the freezing cold water. As well as the views, Alcantara is remarkable for its geology and for the various legends associated with its origins.
The easiest way to visit this hidden gem of Italy is to drive or to take an organized tour. However, you can also get there by bus from Taormina. You will arrive at the Trailhead, at the top of the Gorge. From here you can descend to the river on foot or via a lift. Alternatively, follow one of the many hiking trails. The Gorge is around 20 km from Taormina, where you will find a wide choice of hotels and self-catering accommodation. There are also several places to stay on the road between Taormina and Alcantara.
By Karen of Bewitchedbyitaly
3 ACTIVE VOLCANOES ARE AMONG THE BEST NATURAL LANDMARKS IN ITALY
One of Italy’s three active volcanoes and part of the Aeolian Archipelago, Stromboli is an island volcano in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Sicily’s north-west coast. With its classic rounded shape and constantly-erupting crater, it’s one of the most impressive natural landmarks in the country.
Trekking to the summit of Stromboli – the ‘Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’ – is a must-do when visiting the Aeolian Islands. Because the volcano is in a perpetual state of eruption and can be quite dangerous, it’s only possible to do the hike as part of a guided tour. There are departures every evening – bookings are essential, and you can hire gear (boots, poles, and a headlamp) from a store in town if you don’t have your own.
If you don’t want to hike, you can simply admire puffing Stromboli from a distance, either from a boat offshore or from one of the other islands (Salina in particular has lovely views of the volcano). Incredibly, more than 500 people live on Stromboli in a collection of small villages surrounded by black-sand beaches. San Bartolo, San Vincenzo, and Ginostra each have cute churches, cafes, and souvenir shops selling products made by the island’s resident artistic community.
By Emily of Wander-Lush
Mount Etna belongs to Sicily like nothing else. Even many quotes about Sicily mention the almighty Etna. As French artist and writer Vivant Denon brilliantly put it: “All that nature has of great, all it has of pleasant, all it has of terrible, can be compared to Etna and Etna cannot be compared to anything.”
The easiest way to get to the top of Etna is to drive to a big parking lot by Rifugio Sapienza, which is a mountain hotel, at an elevation of 1,900 m. Throughout its thousands of years of history, Etna has always been active and remains one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Many of the recent craters can be freely accessed from the parking lot. The area is open and you can explore to your heart’s liking.
To get higher, one must take a cable car. For €30, it’ll take you to the elevation of 2,400 meters. At the top of the cable car, you can take either hike or take a 4×4 vehicle (for another €30) to get you closer to the top – to 2,900 meters (Torre del Filosofo). To get even higher, you must be on a guided tour. A licensed guide can lead you to the top of Mount Etna, to 3,200 – 3,300 meters.
If you’d like to stay near Etna, you can opt for the lovely town of Zafferana Etnea.
By Veronika Primm of Travel Geekery
A beautiful natural landmark in Italy is Mount Vesuvius. Mount Vesuvius is a very old and well-known volcano located to the east of the city of Naples. It is an active volcano that has regular eruptions, with the last one happening in 1944. The most famous eruption is the one of 79 AD. During this eruption, the Roman city of Pompeii was buried in its ash. This made a snapshot of an ancient Roman city as the people and shops remained as how they were at that moment. Besides Pompeii, you can also visit the volcano itself. You can get to the top of the volcano and walk around its crater. You can see how large the volcano is and there is a huge amount of volcanic stone. Furthermore, you have the most wonderful views from there over the sea and the city of Naples. To go to the volcano from Naples, you can take either a direct bus or go by the Circumvesuviana train to the station Ercolano-Scavi and take a bus or taxi from there. If you want to visit Mount Vesuvius, the best place to stay nearby is the city of Naples. This is a lovely city in Italy with all kinds of other things to do. Another place nearby is the town of Sorrento. If you go there you can also combine a visit to the volcano with a visit to the beautiful Positano, where you can find many stunning photo spots.
By Dymphe of Dymabroad
SCALA DEI TURCHI
Like a giant meringue rising out of the Mediterranean Sea, Scala dei Turchi, or Stair of the Turks, is a true natural wonder on the coast of Realmonte, just a few hours from Sicily’s capital city of Palermo.
With immense historical and geological value, the Scala is formed by marl, a sedimentary rock with a characteristic white colour. The cliff sits between two sandy beaches and is accessed via a stepped limestone rock formation which gives it the first part of its name. The latter comes from the Scala’s history of frequent raids carried out by Moors, who used the rocks as a convenient place to come ashore.
Sadly, this candidate for UNESCO World Heritage Site status was closed by the Sicilian authorities in 2020, due to the lack of protection and care for the site. Every year, thousands of visitors clambered over the famous white rocks, causing erosion, stealing pieces of marl, and leaving rubbish behind. It is possible to see Scala Dei Turchi from the sandy beach to the east, from the road above as you approach from the west, or from a boat. But for now, this incredible feat of nature will be free of visitors on its stairs and allowed to return to nature.
By Izzy of 24 Hours City Guide
The Italian part of the Alps, the Dolomites is breathtakingly beautiful and a highlight of visiting northern Italy. With towering mountain range, mirror-like glacial lakes, and tiny churches dotted on in the valleys, exploring the Dolomites is a photographer’s dream. In the summer, hiking is probably the most popular activity, with a range of trails of varying difficulty and a number of multi-day hikes. Walking through the Dolomites, you can be assured of stunning views of the snow-tipped mountains and lush, green valleys. There are also a number of lakes where you could stop for a picnic. Lake Braies is a popular option with spectacular views and rowboats available for hire in the warmer months.
During the winter, there’s world-class skiing or snowboarding, with a number of ski resorts tucked into the mountains. Bolzano, a charming town in South Tyrol, is a popular base for exploring the area. There you’ll find cobblestone streets, delicious cafes and restaurants, and some interesting museums to explore if the weather is bad. In this part of Italy, there is a strong German and Austrian influence, so don’t be surprised if people speak German or you see an abundance of strudels and pretzels in cafes.
By Roxanne of Farawayworlds
Lake Como is a natural pearl of Italy and is the third-largest lake in Italy after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. At the same time, it is the deepest alpine lake.
Lake Como has a unique shape like an inverted Y and consists of three arms: Ramo di Lecco, Ramo di Como, and Ramo di Colico. Each of the arms is similar in length, approximately 25 kilometers. Lake Como is surrounded by mountain ranges. Beautiful landscapes make it the top natural attraction of Northern Italy.
The lake is located in the north-west of Lombardy, about 50 km north of Milan. The closest airports are Milan and Bergamo. The cheapest and fastest way is to reach Lake Como is to fly to Bergamo with low-cost airlines Ryanair and Wizzair.
The best things to do in Lake Como is, of course, to visit the lake itself. It’s worth taking a boat trip and visiting small towns and beautiful villas with gardens on the lake shores. You can enjoy picturesque views of the lake and the surrounding alpine peaks, long promenades, and atmospheric streets. Must-see villas on lake Como are Villa del Balbianello, Villa Monastero, Villa Cipressi, and Villa Carlotta.
As for the place to stay, you can choose a hotel or an apartment directly on lakeshores. Another option is to stay in Como’s town that is more lively and has tons of shops, bars, and restaurants.
By Sasha of The Alternative Travel Guide
South Tyrol in the Italian Dolomites is definitely a very special region and absolutely worth seeing. The landscape with its imposing mountain ranges and mountain lakes is just breathtakingly beautiful.
Bolzano is ideal as a destination for one or more overnight stays. From here you can comfortably drive to one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in the region: Lake Karer. It is absolutely one of the things to do in Bolzano for one perfect day.
Lake Karer lies at an altitude of 1,520 meters, is around 300 meters long, 140 meters wide, and around 25 meters deep. These values vary depending on the season and the weather. The lake is famous for its deep green color and the absolute dream view with the dense fir forests and massive mountain ranges such as the rose garden and the Latemar group in the background.
The best way to reach Lake Karer is via the SS 241 state road, also known as the Dolomites Road. The road up to the Karer Pass leads directly past the lake. It is a popular excursion destination from South Tyrolean holiday resorts such as Bolzano or Meran.
The lake with its magical deep green water is now a protected natural monument. Therefore, the banks are secured with a fence that may not be climbed.
By Phil from Journication Travel Blog
Cinque Terre is not only a stunning natural landmark in Italy, but it’s also one of the top dream destinations in the world. Located on the Liguria coast in northwest Italy, the Cinque Terre National Park consists of five seaside villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. Each of them is filled with colorful houses, vineyards, and scenic viewpoints. All of them, along with the coastline and the surrounded hills, are also UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is to take a train to La Spezia, which can be easily reached from big cities like Rome and Milan. All five of the beautiful Cinque Terre villages are also connected by trains, although the best way to see them is to hike the trail that connects them together. The view along the hike is absolutely spectacular, and it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to get from one village to the next.
Take your time exploring each village; walk the cobblestone streets, admire the colorful houses, and relax at the beaches. Enjoy the postcard-worthy landscapes of Manarola and Vernazza especially. Spend 2-3 days to be able to relax as you sightsee. You can find plenty of hotels and Airbnbs in Riomaggiore, Manarola, and La Spezia.
By Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad
CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO
The village of Civita di Bagnoregio stands on a tuff cliff whose colors stand out clearly against the background of a valley of limestone rocks that stretch as far as the eye can see. The rock has alternating stripes of color that make it look like the surface of a candy. To reach the village of only 16 inhabitants that stands on the cliff, you must cross a scenic bridge of 600 meters, from which you can enjoy one of the most dreamy views in Italy. The ticket to cross the bridge costs €5.
Civita di Bagnoregio is also called the dying city, because the spur of rock that holds it up is slowly and inexorably sinking, and is therefore constantly monitored by geologists.
The city appears as if suspended in mid-air, if you are lucky you will be able to see it wrapped in the morning fog, when it reminds us of the design of the Enchanted City of the Japanese cartoonist Hayao Miyazaki.
“Civita” is located in the geological-archaeological area of central Italy called Tuscia, which includes territories in the regions of Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany. In Tuscia, there are many villages and towns that stand out on top of tuff cliffs, such as Calcata, Pitigliano, Vitorchiano and Trevinano, to name a few of the most picturesque.
BLUE GROTTO, CAPRI
The idyllic island of Capri is one of Italy’s most beautiful destinations. While its luxurious reputation may precede it, celebrities and jet setters aren’t the only ones who fall for its many charms. While many visitors come for just for a day trip, there are more than enough amazing things to do in Capri for outdoor lovers as well.
Located off the coast of Naples, Capri is only accessible by boat. Its rocky landscape overlooks the surrounding blue water of the Mediterranean. Hiking along trails and paved pathways is a great way to discover the island’s caves, natural arches, and grottoes, but seeing them from the water is even better.
There are three famous grottoes, including a white and green grotto. But the most famous of all is undoubtedly the Blue Grotto, or Grotta Azzura, which can only be seen by entering the cave itself.
A guided boat tour will take you to the Blue Grotto and transfer you to a smaller rowboat that will guide a handful of passengers through the smallest of openings inside the cave — so small in fact that you’ll have to lie flat in the boat to avoid bumping your head. The sea can be tumultuous which makes entering any grotto on Capri a tenuous but exciting adventure.
Once inside the Blue Grotto, the glow of light beneath the sea illuminates the Grotto to an unbelievable shade of blue. It’s truly one of the most stunning natural landmarks in Italy !
By Lory of Travlinmad