It is said that Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize winning writer with a passion for safaris, boxing and bullfighting, called Val Trebbia “the most beautiful valley in the world”.
The sources of this legend are uncertain, lost through years of retellings.
What is certain is that Hemingway did actually cross this valley in 1945 as a journalist following a motorcade of liberation troops and was struck by the beauty of the river furrowing its way down the green slopes and flowing off into the distance towards the sea.
This itinerary will introduce you to some of the most surprising scenery in Emilia-Romagna, nestled amongst the green Piacentine Apennines.
Start the day in Bobbio, a little village close to the Trebbia River that has preserved its Medieval appearance. Its cobbled streets hosting small shops, historic delis, wine shops and restaurants will lead you to the San Colombano Monastery and the Old Bridge.
Important archaeological findings have been discovered in the basilica of the former, which was named after its founding saint, a religious Irishman who arrived in Bobbio in the seventh century.
The latter, also called Ponte Gobbo [Hunchback Bridge] due to its asymmetrical wavy shape with 11 arches, is one of the world’s many “devil’s bridges”.
Your visit to Bobbio would be incomplete without a stop at Malaspina Castle, built during the 1300s, and the Guelfi Fortress used during battles against the Ghibellinis of Piacenza. It’s definitely worth your while to go up to the top of the imposing tower to enjoy the panoramic view of the city with the Apennines at its back and the valley spreading beyond the Trebbia. From up there it’s quite easy to understand just how Hemingway felt when he first saw the natural beauty of the Apennines.
You must also try the original Bobbiesi maccheroni, pasta with egg and butter, shaped with a knitting needle and topped with stracotto meat sauce.
Continue your journey through Val Trebbia with a stop at a small village just a few minutes’ drive from Bobbio: Brugnello, better known as “The Artists’ Village”.
This tiny cluster of stone houses is perched on the top of a 464-metre rocky spur jutting above the Trebbia River.
The origins of this hamlet date back to 560 A.D. Today it’s inhabited by artists restoring its houses and streets, hand-carving each home’s shutters and using local stone to decorate the lanes and make chairs and benches.
The best is yet to come, though. The terrace running round the church provides brilliant views of the looping Trebbia River, a most unique panorama.
Heading towards Piacenza, treat yourself to a final stop dedicated to this region’s culinary specialities.
Your observant eyes will probably have noticed the sprawling vineyards along Val Trebbia’s mountainsides, so of course we’ll dedicate your last stop to wine. In Gazzola, you’ll find Momeliano Castle, a lovely place set between Val Trebbia and Val Tidone, where work to resuscitate a small native vineyard began about 30 years ago. Today, the perfectly preserved castle dating back to the year 1000 A.D. is home to Val Luretta wines.
A wonderful place to toast the end of your day amidst the beauty of Val Trebbia. Cheers!