Stelvio/Stilfserjoch National Park
The Italian Stelvio/Stilfserjoch National Park forms part of one of the largest protected areas in the entire Alpine region. In its entirety the park covers an area of 134.620 hectares (332,646 acres) and is divided among the provinces of South Tyrol, Trento, Brescia and Sondrio.
It borders on to the Swiss National Park and the Italian Adamello-Brenta National Park. The area was first placed under protection in 1935 and was extended to its present expanse in 1977. The national park is named after the highest pass in the Alps open to motor traffic, the Passo Stelvio/Stilfser Joch (2,757 metres). Each year in late summer this formidable stretch of road is closed to traffic for a whole day to host the Stelvio/Stilfser Joch Bike Day. The event attracts thousands of cyclists intent on tackling the road’s 48 vertiginous hairpin bends. The park is dominated by highest peak of the Central Alps, the Ortler-Cevedale massif. Just about every Alpine feature can be found here, from the glacier-clad high peaks (the Ortles/Ortler at 3,905 m) to the Alpine pasture regions and terraced slopes down to the valley regions (Laces/Latsch at 650 m). The enormous diversity of species in the national park includes rare Alpine fauna such as the bearded vulture and the ibex, all of which can be encountered on hikes into the higher regions. There are three visitor centres in the South Tyrolean part of the park, aquaprad, culturamartell and naturatrafoi located in the village of Prato/Prad, in the Martello/Martell valley and at Trafoi. Aquaprad is dedicated mainly to the theme of water, with aquariums simulating the natural environments of mountain streams and lakes. Culturamartell focuses on the man made agricultural landscape and provides insight into the reality of farming life in the tough mountain environment. The third visitor centre, naturatrafoi is devoted to the theme “Life at the limits”, showing how plants and animals have adapted to the extreme climatic conditions and hostile world beyond the timberline.