Today, the Lombard Park of the Ticino Valley is one of the two souls of the Ticino Park. It is located between Lombardy and Piedmont along the homonymous river and is also managed by the Piedmont Nature Park of the Ticino Valley. The total protected area occupies a surface area of 91,410 hectares (22,249 in the Nature Park and 69,161 in the Regional Park) characterised by significant biodiversity. There are several environments (essentially 5 types: waterways, woods, moors, wetlands, and agricultural plain) corresponding to just as many habitats, which thanks to their particular characteristics, are home to a large number of different flora and fauna.
The Lombard Park Consortium of the Ticino Valley was established to implement Italian Regional Law no. 2 of 09/01/1974, which ratified the creation of the first Italian regional park.
The purpose was to protect the river and surrounding environments against increasing industrialisation and urbanisation, which was at risk of becoming dangerous for the fragile natural balance of these charming places. The goal was harmonious coexistence marked by development that was also sustainable for the natural area.
The same law provided that 3 provinces (Varese, Milano and Pavia) and 47 Lombard municipalities located along the stretch of the Ticino River between Lake Maggiore and the Po River (starting from Sesto Calende where the lake becomes the Ticino River) be part of the Consortium. 11 years later, the Region of Piedmont instituted the Nature Park of the Ticino Valley at the borders with the Lombard park. This instrumental regional body comprises sections of 11 municipalities located in the province of Novara.
The park can essentially be divided into four areas: the hills, dry high ground, irrigated plain and river valley.
The latter occupies 40% of the total surface area and is considered the most interesting portion of the protected area. It’s the section carved out by the river in the sediments of the plain, and conceals extraordinarily beautiful wetlands whose hydrophillic vegetation grows luxuriantly. The irrigated plain is characterised by intense agricultural activities, while the dry high ground has moors whose aspect has been partially modified by urbanisation. The Pre-Alp hills located in the province of Varese are a pleasant environment not far from Lake Maggiore.
Over 800,000 visitors visit the park each year, which may rightfully be considered a green lung surrounded by one of the most industrialised and highly-populated areas in Italy. The park can be visited on foot, or horseback, in a canoe or carriage or by bike - the important thing is that the flora and fauna are not disturbed. There are 48 mammal species that live here permanently (including the fox, badger, stone marten, skunk, weasel and marten).
Different itineraries have been created for individuals on their own or for those taking advantage of one of the park's nature guides. The bike-pedestrian paths (approximately 780 km) called the Vie Verdi del Ticino (green ways of the Ticino) always have informative boards and signs with useful and interesting information concerning the protected area. Many services and buildings called Centri Parco and Punti Parco have been organised and set up throughout the park for visitors (the Centro Parco closest to Lake Maggiore is in Oriano, a hamlet of Sesto Calende).