Val Grande National Park: a guide to visiting

Tuesday, 3 September 2015 9:00 AM

There is so much to see and do in Milan, it can be easy to forget just how many places there are to explore in its surrounding area. One of these is Val Grande National Park, a huge green space that takes around 1.5 hours by car from Milan city centre.

It is well worth getting a good hire car deal at Milan Airport, such as those offers found by clicking here, as that way you can go on as many daytrips as you want without having to fit your plans in around public transport timetables.

Val Grande National Park lies north-west of Milan, and you will more than likely pass by places such as Rho, Borgomanero and Verbania to reach it. There are plenty of destinations to stop at if you want to stretch your legs, although the car journey will be an enjoyable one thanks to the stunning scenery you will drive past.

The park is Italy's biggest wilderness area and is full of lots of different flora and fauna, as well as dazzling waters, deep valleys and views across to Lago Maggiore and Mount Rosa. There are several points of interest that are well worth putting on your itinerary if you have time.

Voggogna medieval village is the perfect place to explore if you're something of a history enthusiast, with everything from Roman roads dating back to 196 AD, a palace and a castle located here. The village became lower Ossola's administrative centre during the first half of the 14th century, making it an even more important destination.

There is also the Cadorna Line, a series of military roads and trenches that were built between 1916 and 1918 in case Italy came under attack during the first world war. They lead into the national park and through to Mount Proman and Cuzzago, and are fascinating to walk along.

As you explore Val Grande National Park, you should keep your eyes peeled for some of its resident animals. Roe deer, fox, squirrel, marten, hedgehog, golden eagle, salamander, black grouse and vole all call the area home, and spotting some of these will no doubt be a highlight of your trip. The flora is also fascinating, and keen botanists might find they come across chestnut, beech, maple and linden trees, along with blueberry plants, mosses and ferns.

After spending a couple of hours walking, it's a good time to tuck into some lunch. One of the benefits of hiring a car is that you can pack plenty of items into your boot, from hiking shoes and outdoor clothing to packed lunches and prams for little ones.

Before you leave Milan city centre, pick up some local bread, meat, olives and cheese and enjoy a Mediterranean lunch as you gaze out across the beautiful landscape. You might decide to head back into Milan at this point, but there is plenty more to see and do in the national park if you want to make a full day of it.

There are a number of walks you can go on if you're keen to burn off the calories from all of the mouth-watering meals you will have no doubt tucked into during your time in Milan. One of the easiest leaves from Cappella Porta and enables you to follow a route that is always visible. It should take around 1.5 hours to reach Pian Cavallone, although this is without stops. The way back will take approximately an hour.

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