Wilderness is an important concept in the discourses and policies concerning contemporary European protected areas, inherently challenging in terms of sustainability. Since its designation in 1992, the Val Grande National Park, located in northwest Italy, has been portrayed and promoted as a wilderness area, thereby enhancing tourism, whilst disregarding the historical signs of human activity. In this paper we explore the wilderness concept, focusing on the narratives developed in the area, that changed from a strict conservationist approach to a more utilitarian one, influencing the National Park’s policy-making. The research is based mainly on the content analysis of several literary texts. We conclude that wilderness needs to be reconceptualized so that contemporary European protection policies might become more effective, and we may use our knowledge of nature to promote sustainable development.