The quiet side of Italy with everything from biking and water sports to cheap wine and food | The Sun

WHIZZING along on my e-bike past poppy fields and country houses with wonky terracotta roofs, I finally reach the peak of Pietra Perduca.

From this impressive vantage point, you can look out across the whole valley — and in the distance I spot a tiny, ancient church sitting on top of a volcanic rock.

These views of unspoiled land are what the lush Trebbia Valley, a mountainous region in the north of Italy, is all about.

It is surrounded by cities including Milan, Piacenza and Genoa. But you will feel totally isolated as you peer out from the mountainside and see nothing but green fields for miles.

Spending even a few days in this secluded region will leave you feeling refreshed.

Don’t just take my word for it.


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Novelist Ernest Hemingway once described Trebbia, lying deep in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, as “the most beautiful valley in the world”.

We’d rented e-bikes to cycle the nearby peaks, which meant we were able to fling ourselves up thigh-burning slopes with the minimum of effort.

But e-biking is far from the only heart-pumping activity to be enjoyed here.

We were travelling with No Boundaries, an outdoor adventure sports club that offers unique trips catering for all ability levels from beginner to expert.

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Mona Lisa

It has so much fun for families, couples and solo travellers alike, including bouldering, climbing, hiking and mountaineering.

If you are more of a water-sports fan, there is also kayaking or canoeing excursions down the Trebbia River.

Don’t expect a leisurely paddle, though. These rocky waters were made for adventurers and if you love thrills, you will be darting through them, and over craggy boulders, with a huge grin. You will still be able to take in the incredible views as you weave through impressive hills.

Make sure you explore the region on foot, too.

The medieval town of Bobbio is the cultural crown of the Trebbia jewels.

Irish missionary Saint Columbanus travelled here and founded the monastery in 614.

He left his mark on the town and his remains are buried in the crypt of beautiful San Colombano church.

If you are an art fan, the area may look familiar because it is claimed by some historians to be the background of the world’s most famous painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

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 get peckish, head to Al Contesse, a hilltop restaurant serving a range of local wines — and where each window view resembles a painting of rolling hills and velvet grass.

Try the ricotta tortellini drizzled with olive oil, which melts in the mouth.

Or if you are up for more of a classic meal, the family-run Corte del Gallo has a large selection of typical Italian food and desserts.

It is a great place to try traditional dish pisarei e faso (pasta and beans) which is essentially a scrummy gnocchi made with bread and flour that is served in practically every restaurant in the Piacenza province.

The Barrio Cafe in the Travo commune is a must too.

'Wild adventure'

It is a favourite hangout for the locals and the grub is more basic but just as delicious, including locally sourced beef hamburgers, piada (flatbread) and heaps of fresh salad.

Visit on a Saturday night if you are up for a bit of a fiesta because there is music and dancing until late.

After full days of adrenaline-junkie activities and long evenings dancing, you will be grateful for the peaceful rooms at Croara Vecchia.

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These mini apartments, a few miles from Piacenza, are perched on a quaint hillside with a tranquil pool and courtyard that overlooks the river.

That’s the real beauty of this region — every wild adventure is followed by utter relaxation.

It doesn’t get better than that.

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