Last Updated on June 4, 2022
Multi-Sport trip in the “the most valley beautiful in the world”
As much as I love beach holidays, I also like to explore and keep active as I tend to get restless lying on a sunbed and need to punctuate the periods of relaxation with activity. However, I have never been on an organised adventure holiday before, so it was with great enthusiasm I jumped at the opportunity to go on a Multi-Sport Activity trip to Val Trebbia in Northern Italy with UK based company No Boundaries. They run a host of different adventure trips in the UK, Sardinia and in several locations across Italy working with local tour groups in order to provide the best possible experience – one where you can mix adventure with exploring a new destination.
The company offers tailor-made breaks for all levels in a wide range of activities including skiing, snowboarding, hiking, e-biking, kayaking, bouldering, rock climbing and canyoning all led and coached by professional mountain leaders who encourage you to stretch your abilities, overcome any fears and support you through difficulties. You can go as a lone traveller, with friends, partners or as a family, with no more than six people per guide. Trips can be taken for a week, five days or just a weekend as I did.
I flew out early on Friday morning with other members of our group from London Gatwick to Milan in just one hour and twenty minutes where we were picked up by our local guide Alex from Trebbia Explore.
Table of Contents
We were driven through the beautiful Italian countryside to our accommodation Croara Vecchia Azienda Agricola, a lovely converted farmhouse which has its own riding centre, in the Rivalta district of Gazzola, approximately a 90-minute drive from Milan.
The property boasts an idyllic natural setting alongside the Trebbia River surrounded by woodland, verdant meadows and floodplains. Guests are provided with mini apartments with a bathroom, a small kitchenette and a living area with a sofa bed. WiFi, air conditioning, bath towels, pool towels, a selection of bath products and a hairdryer are included.
I stayed in the Rosa Room on the first floor which was prettily furnished in rustic Italian style. The bed was deliciously comfortable and I had everything I needed with chilled bottles of water and fresh milk in the fridge for coffee and tea.
Downstairs you can relax in the communal living room, sink into sumptuous sofas or sit out on the terrace and enjoy the picturesque view. There are some great local walks or you can go for a swim in the stunning circular swimming pool. As the sun shone down, we eased into our new surroundings out on the lawn which stretches lazily alongside the clear blue waters of the Trebbia River.
We drank Aperol Spritz and grazed on a delicious platter of prosciutto cotto, salami, a selection of locally made cheeses and focaccia. Afterwards, we took a walk to explore the local surroundings, a lovely opportunity to begin to get to know my fellow adventurers.
Val Trebbia lies at the crossing of the Liguria and Emilia Romagna regions in northern Italy. It is one of Italy’s lesser-known destinations, still remarkably unspoiled by tourism, a remote and enchanting valley with breathtaking landscapes dotted with brightly painted villages and historical towns.
The Trebbia River winds its way around the canyons like a turquoise snake, flowing at the feet of the sun-dappled mountains and rolling green hills. Its clear blue waters are known to be among the cleanest in Italy, and every summer young metropolitans flock here from the nearby provinces of Milan, Genoa, Pavia and Piacenza in search of wild untouched nature. Understandably, Val Trebbia was described by Ernest Hemmingway as “the most beautiful in the world”.
Wine and dinner – Al Contesse Ristorante
On our first evening, Alex drove us into the mountains to Al Contesse Ristorante which sits on top of the hillside with a magnificent vista of the valley below.
Here we were, a group of fellow travellers soaking in the evening sun on the terrace and marvelling at the beautiful landscape whilst enjoying a wine tasting of locally produced organic Piacenza wines and grazing on antipasti.
We started with Principessa, a sparkling Blanc de Blanc, smooth and refreshing with aromas of green apples and citrus, followed by Bocca di Rosa a full-flavoured wine with peach and floral notes, a touch sweet with a dry finish and finally savouring rich blackberry overtones of Gutturnio Superiore 2018. What a fabulous start to the weekend.
After watching the sun set over the valley, we made our way up to the restaurant’s first floor where we were able to admire the scenery through the arched windows. We dined on a selection of traditional local dishes including pisarei e fasò – a rustic bean and pasta dish and plump parcels of tortelli ricotta e spinaci.
E-biking in the mountains
Saturday morning, we met for breakfast before setting off for our first adventure, e-biking in the mountains (padded cycling shorts are recommended!). The bikes were allocated and adjusted according to height and we were provided with helmets and a basic lesson in how to, before setting off with the Trebbia Explore team into the countryside. I am by no means a highly proficient cyclist, but I quickly got to grips with the e-biking which definitely eased the strain of the steep mountain roads, and despite being one of the older members of the group I felt remarkably exuberant.
The rural landscape was glorious, with lush green undulating hills and fields strewn with crops of wheat and bright red poppies. Once we reached a peak we disembarked and took time to admire the spectacular views and enjoy the blazing afternoon sun, before picnicking in the shade of the tree on a delicious locally made packed lunch courtesy of Barrio Ristorante, scrumptious buckwheat salad and fresh chunky prosciutto and cheese-filled rolls.
Going down the mountain track was more of a challenge than I expected, the steep gravel track needed careful negotiation as we bounced over potholes and tree roots, so I was very grateful for the support of one of our guides. However, I and the rest of the team made it back to camp in one piece. there was great camaraderie amongst the group and everyone was totally exhilarated by this wonderful experience.
After the thrill of mountain biking, we headed to the historic town of Bobbio to soak up the local culture. This charming town is situated in the province of Piacenza in the region of Emilia-Romagna, built on the banks of the Trebbia River surrounded by the Apennines.
Bobbio proudly wears the prestigious title of the most beautiful village in Italy, awarded by an important Italian television show in 2019. The village also holds an Orange Flag for its environmental tourist qualities. Rich in history, Bobbio is a coveted tourist destination known for its culture and history of art which is perfect for nature lovers.
Pretty stoned paved streets lead to the main square, the Piazza del Duomo where you’ll find the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, an impressive Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
One of the main attractions is the splendid Abbazia di San Colombano, founded in 614 by an Irish missionary called St Columbanus. This remarkably elegant Monastery is now home to the City Museum and the Abbey Museum.
After enjoying a cool beer in the piazza, we walked to the Ponte del Gobbo (Hunchback Bridge), an ancient stone bridge of Roman origin, which crosses the river Trebbia in eleven irregular arches. It’s also known as the Devils Bridge – legend has it that it was built by the Devil after a meeting with San Colombano.
Standing on the bridge we were able to admire the glorious view of the Apennines and the famous beaches of the Trebbia River. Below you could see bathers swimming in the transparent rippling waters. In the warmer months, the area is perfect for hikers, it offers lots of trails crossing the valley.
There is also a film festival every year, organised by director Marco Bellocchio who was born in Bobbio, but perhaps its biggest claim to fame is that it has been speculated by an Italian art historian that Bobbio is featured in the background of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Our next stop was the small village of Brugnello, a twenty-minute drive from Bobbio, marked by a handwritten sign. This fairy tale village, which seems to transport you to another world, is perched on a rocky spur, 464 meters above sea level. The panoramic views of the hills and the winding Trebbia River below were quite breathtaking.
The village is part of the Municipality of Corte Brugnatella, which took its name from the Brugnatelli a native noble family. It’s made up of clusters of medieval-style old stone houses partly dug into the rock, with just 11 inhabitants (excluding the owners of second homes). There’s a small church, and a compact hotel with a restaurant. It was with great delight that we discovered that our driver got married at the church in this magical village.
Dinner on our second evening was in Travo at Bario café, seated in the bustling piazza enjoying the warmth of May evening with live music playing and a happy local crowd. With a choice of beer, wine, and negronis along with juicy burgers and freshly made Mediterranean salads which made for the perfect Italian night out.
The following morning, we were up bright and early ready for our next adventure. When we reached the rock face I was slightly astounded by its stature, although I was assured that it was suitable for all levels. The last time I went rock climbing was on Dartmoor when I was 15 years old…a very long time ago! Our friendly and skilled No Boundaries team set up the ropes before the first, super-fit member of our group climbed up the sheer rock like Spiderwoman in what seemed like an effortless manner. That inspired us all to follow suit and take on the new challenge. By this time, we had really bonded as a group and everyone was very supportive of each other which made the whole experience truly fantastic.
I went next, determined to stretch my abilities and give it a go. First time I made up three-quarters of the way and abseiled down, but dissatisfied with my achievement I tried again and this time I made it to the top (helped enormously by knowing that the Trebbia Explore team had me safely attached to the rope).
The feeling afterwards was indescribable, adrenalin pumped through my body, I felt elated to have pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone, taking part in an activity I wasn’t even sure I could do.
Lunch at Corte del Gallo
Before our flight home, we had lunch at Corte del Gallo on their large veranda. This gorgeous farmhouse restaurant which also offers accommodation, available for No Boundaries trips to Val Trebbia, was buzzing with a Sunday lunch crowd.
We dined on a selection of tasty fresh and unpretentious authentic local dishes, rich and textural with heaps of flavour. The local wine was served in small china bowls, The white wine had a slight fizz and was brimming with apple aromas.
It was such a lovely fitting end with an amazing group of fellow travellers to our incredible trip. No Boundaries offers something for everyone with motivational new challenges (for all levels and ages) supported by a highly professional team. On this occasion, there was also the chance to make new friends, enjoy wonderful Italian food and wine and explore one of the most enchanting valleys in Italy. This wonderful authentic Italian adventure was the perfect start to my summer.
For more information check out their website
Looking for life at a different pace? Try the Franciacorta region, Italy’s answer to Champagne