A valley of history and magic

A trip from Piacenza to Genoa through Val Trebbia, in discovery of an ancient little world.

Certain Italian provinces look like something out of a fairy tale, set in an undefined time and space. Age-old rivers flow through their valleys, passing ancient woods and immortal mountains. In their villages, the stones used to build the houses, castles and churches tell of the past deeds of commoners, princes and saints. The allure of this mysterious and magical past is all around, immersed in enchanting and unspoiled nature.

This is exactly what the Val Trebbia provinces look like. Spanning Liguria, Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy, this valley is dominated by luxurious nature, which finds its lifeblood in the river of the same name, its waters gushing from mount Prelà and crossing 120 kilometres of pastures, woods, hills and mountains. Along the way, you will come across sheltered villages and imposing castles, which have watched over this small world, static and suspended, for centuries. 

A peaceful corner for anyone, but a paradise for motorcyclists. Because, alongside the river, there is a long strip of asphalt, state highway 45 to be exact, one of few elements that tells of the present, the here and now, and that, nestled among the greenery of the surrounding vegetation, offers a dizzy collection of perfect turns. These are to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so that you can taste every centimetre, bow before them with reverence and brush them with our knees. A combination of short and long turns, many of which are accompanied by an impeccable road surface for a truly enjoyable riding experience that, in these places, means a real immersion in nature and history. Here is a two-wheel itinerary for enjoying all that Val Trebbia has to offer.

Starting point: Piacenza

The adventure begins in Piacenza. Once aboard, take state highway 45, which runs through Val Trebbia almost as far as Genoa. Ahead lies a straight and easy road that allows us to take in the green of the surrounding hills. After Rivergaro come the first turns, which cradle you as far as Bobbio.

   

First stop: Bobbio

Bobbio, a village with 3500 inhabitants located in the Penice foothills, on the left bank of the Trebbia, is a small and precious gem. To reach it, cross Ponte del Diavolo (Devils Bridge), ideal for motorcyclists, in that it is as unsettling in name as it is in appearance. The eleven arches that comprise it are all irregular in height, so the structure appears rough and crooked, almost threatening. You can hear creepy legends about its origins, lost in time, recounted in whispering tones by the town’s elderly people. Once you reach the town, leave your bike and get lost in the maze of lanes and narrow streets, immersing yourself in the mediaeval feel of the place. A Middle Ages full of secrets and intrigue that is visible in the austerity of the royal palaces in the centre, the unassailable Malaspina castle and the architectonic rigour of the San Colombano abbey, which takes its name from the Irish priest who founded it. Today, Saint Colombano is the patron saint of all motorcyclists.

Before getting back in the saddle, you can take advantage of the break and enjoy some local cuisine: a sandwich made with Piacenza DOP cold cuts like salame and coppa, or, for a heartier dish, you might try maccheroni alla bobbiese

Second stop: Marsaglia

Shortly after leaving Bobbio, you will come across another small village, Marsaglia, immersed in nature and also worth a visit. The San Salvatore and Ponte Barberino gorges are breathtakingly beautiful. Just a short distance from Marsaglia is Brugnello, a tiny hamlet with only a few stone houses, inhabited by just eleven people. Clinging on to the spur of a rock, it offers a 464-metre high view over the Trebbia, at a point in which the river contorts into a spectacular shape.

Genoa bound

Back on state highway 45, and headed for Ottone, you will find the best turns of the entire route, roughly 18 kilometres of graceful, tight corners to be ridden carefully, with the wind on your back and the splendour of nature all around. A few more kilometres and you leave the Piacenza province behind to enter Liguria, and the town of Gorreto. From here, a 30-kilometre mixed section leads to the towns of Montebruno, Torriglia and Sottocolle. Then from Sottocolle, it’s just another twenty kilometres to the outskirts of Genoa.

If you want to add to your journey with an extra stop, you can choose to carry on to Genoa’s historic centre and wander the city’s backstreets and small piazzas. And taste, once again, the irresistible charm of the past.