The Stelvio National Park is a national park in the north-east of Lombardy and north-west of Trento-Alto Adige, in the north of Italy and close to the border with Switzerland.
In the center of the Alps, Stelvio is the largest national park in Italy - and one of the largest in Europe - and has stunning mountain and valley scenery, and many glaciers - the Ortles-cevedale mountains form part of the park.
Not all the park is at high altitude however - the altitude rises to almost 4000 metres but in places is 'only' a little above 600 metres above sea level. Hence there is a wide range of diverse environments to discover, with an astonishing range of flora and fauna, and scenery including forests, alpine meadows and high mountains.
Most visits to the park are based around Bormio (on the western border) and Saint Caterina, to the south-east of Bormio and where you will find a visitor center and lots of useful information about trails and guided visits. Among the other popular centres are Castelbello, Sluderno, Valdisotto (south of Bormio) and Vermiglio (south of the park).
Numerous other visitor centres and information centres are found in the park, so whichever direction you approcah fom you will find one close by.
Among the most common wildlife in Stelvio are the deer, ibex and chamois, and the golden eagles that survey the landscape from above - and numerous smaller mammals such as stoats and foxes that also live here.
As always patience and silence is needed for the best chance to see the wildlife, and many visitors will have to content themselves with a sighting of the occasional squirrel!
A recommended way to enjoy the flora of the park is to start with a visit to the Botanical Garden near Bormio, wheer a large number of the indigenous species of plant are grown.
Of course, as with all Natural Parks, Stelvio National Park is assentially a region for outdoor exploration and activities, a true hikers country, and numerous walks are possible through the region.
Although large areas are quite inaccessible to visitors there are numerous low-lying valley walks and more adventurous mountain hikes, enabling all to benefit from a visit. Guided walks are available which provide the best way to discover the unique environment.
Because of the glaciers skiing is available all year round.
If you are exploring by car be sure to follow the road north of Bormio (the SS38) to Stelvio Pass, near the border with Switzerland and one of the highest mountain passes in the Alps. Although care is needed on the uncountable series of hairpin bends along the route, this is more than compensated by the scenery.
Typically open from June to September, the pass is also a mecca for cyclists who want the challenge of crossing the pass and also to follow in the path of the many famous cyclists who have crossed as part of the Giro d'Italia cycle race.
Note: main photo shows road from Bormio towards the Stelvio Pass in the north-eastern Stelvio Natural Park.