Italy’s quieter side with everything from biking and watersports to cheap wine and food
Whizzing on my e-bike past poppy fields and wobbly terracotta-roofed country houses, I finally reach the summit of Pietra Perduca.
From this impressive vantage point you can see the whole valley – and in the distance I can see a small ancient church sitting on top of volcanic rock.
These views of unspoiled land are what the lush Trebbia Valley, a mountainous region in northern Italy, is all about.
It is surrounded by cities such as Milan, Piacenza and Genoa. But you will feel totally isolated when you look down from the side of the mountain and see nothing but green fields for miles.
Spending even a few days in this remote region will leave you feeling refreshed.
Don’t take my word for it.
The novelist Ernest Hemingway once described Trebbia, located in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, as “the most beautiful valley in the world”.
We had rented e-bikes to ride the nearby peaks, which allowed us to launch on scorching slopes with minimal effort.
But e-biking is far from the only thrilling activity here.
We were traveling with No Boundaries, an outdoor adventure sports club that offers unique trips for all levels, from beginner to expert.
It has so much fun for families, couples, and solo travelers, including bouldering, rock climbing, hiking, and mountaineering.
If you are more of a water sports fan, there are also kayak or canoe trips on the Trebbia River.
Don’t expect a leisurely paddle, however. These rocky waters were made for adventurers and if you like a thrill, you’ll be hurtling through them, and over steep rocks, with a big smile. You can still admire the incredible views while weaving through impressive hills.
Also be sure to explore the area on foot.
The medieval town of Bobbio is the cultural crown of Trebbia’s jewels.
The Irish missionary Saint Columban traveled there and founded the monastery in 614.
He left his mark on the city and his remains are buried in the crypt of the beautiful church of San Colombano.
If you are an art lover, the area may look familiar as some historians claim it is the background of the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
The highlight has to be the famous bridge that crosses the great Trebbia river.
But the highlight has to be the famous bridge that crosses the great Trebbia river – a clever design with 11 irregular arches placed at different heights that gave it the colloquial names of ‘hunchback’ or ‘devil’ bridge.
When you’re peckish, head to Al Contesse, a hilltop restaurant serving a range of local wines – and where every view from the window is like a painting of rolling hills and velvet grass.
Try the ricotta tortellini drizzled with olive oil, which melts in your mouth.
Or if you prefer a more classic meal, the family-run Corte del Gallo offers a great selection of typical Italian dishes and desserts.
This is a great place to try the traditional dish pisarei e faso (pasta and beans) which is basically a delicious gnocchi made from bread and flour that is served in virtually every restaurant in the province of Piacenza.
The Barrio café in the municipality of Travo is also a must.
It’s a favorite with locals and the food is more basic but equally delicious, including locally sourced beef burgers, piada (flatbread) and loads of fresh salad.
Visit on a Saturday night if you’re up for a little fiesta as there’s music and dancing until late.
After days of adrenaline-pumping activities and long evenings of dancing, you will appreciate the peaceful rooms of Croara Vecchia.
These mini apartments, a few kilometers from Piacenza, are perched on a picturesque hill with a tranquil swimming pool and a courtyard that overlooks the river.
This is the real beauty of this region – every wild adventure is followed by total relaxation.
It doesn’t get any better than that.