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Hiking, e-biking, rock climbing – why a multi-activity holiday in Italy can change your life

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Wow! Remember when you fearlessly rode downhill on your bike as a kid? And the sweaty slog back to the top so you could do it all over again?

E-biking in Northern Italy’s Trebbia Valley is just like that, but without the lung-crowded climb, thanks to the electric motor that kicks in.

Higher and higher we pedal through clear, sweet air perfumed with acacia and silent, save for howling swifts.

Dramatic: Josa Keyes tries e-biking up and down the hills of the Trebbia Valley in northern Italy on an active vacation with the travel agency No Boundaries. Above is Bobbio, a classic hilltop village in the region

Then suddenly disaster strikes. Distracted by the view, my handlebars collide with another bike and I slide down the road, narrowly missing a Vespa. I gather myself together and we move on.

It’s not the only heartbreaking moment of the weekend – the next day, for the first time in my life, I’m climbing 15 meters on a cliff. I’m on a multi-activity weekend with No Boundaries, an innovative company that wants everyone to explore in the open air.

Founded in the UK by Italian lawyer Francesco Carta in 2017, the company survived Covid and allows people of all ages, shapes and sizes to challenge themselves through canyoning, caving, bouldering, hiking, cycling, kayaking, ice climbing and more, in spectacular scenery. in Italy, Sardinia and the United Kingdom — with Norway soon.

It is perfect for solo travelers. My group ranges in age from people in their thirties to people in their sixties. Group size depends on the activity, but is usually no larger than eight people.

We leave the e-bikes for a picnic and then climb a 700-meter rock called Pietra Perduca, to visit what must be the world’s highest-altitude great crested newt living in a prehistoric elongated tank made of dark rocks hewn.

How the salamanders got there, no one could explain, but they seem cheerful.

Josa climbs the 700m rock called Pietra Perduca (pictured), to visit 'what must be the world's most elevated crested newt living in a prehistoric elongated tank carved from dark rock'

Josa climbs the 700m rock called Pietra Perduca (pictured), to visit ‘what must be the world’s most elevated crested newt living in a prehistoric elongated tank carved from dark rock’

The River Trebbia runs through the province of Piacenza, which, although only an hour from Milan, feels like an unspoiled secret. It’s all agriturismo here – accommodations and restaurants on farms – and the key to the experience is complete immersion in the local food and wine. To reach the farm restaurant Corte Del Gallo, we pass beehives that produce the honey the site serves with its own cheese. The fresh tortelli – delicate pasta pockets filled with exquisite ricotta and herbs or Gorgonzola – is ambrosial.

We drink petillant natural (naturally sparkling) white wine, which is almost cider-like, from white porcelain bowls.

Our base is a renovated monastery B&B – Croara Vecchia Azienda Agricola – on a family farm, belonging to the beautiful Alessandra. The frescoed chapel, which was once a tractor shed, has been beautifully restored. It sits high above the Trebbia River.

'The Trebbia River (pictured) runs through the province of Piacenza, which, although only an hour's drive from Milan, feels like an unspoilt secret,' says Josa.

‘The Trebbia River (pictured) runs through the province of Piacenza, which, although only an hour’s drive from Milan, feels like an unspoilt secret,’ says Josa.

TRAVEL FACTS

Josa traveled with No Boundaries (no-boundaries.co.uk) during his multi-activity weekend in Italy’s Trebbia Valley for £299 B&B, including transfers and equipment hire. Flights not included. My Love Life and Other Disasters: Poemsby Josa Keyes, can be ordered at all good bookstores.

I’m terrified of the next day’s rock climbing, but true to my mission to drive myself crazy, I try to take it out. The No Boundaries team of reassuringly expert, qualified climbers takes us to Falesia di Pillori, a vertical slab of gray rock pushed into the sky millions of years ago. I watch as the seasoned climber Giorgio casually squeezes up what appears to be a flat surface and threads ropes through the permanently embedded hooks.

Each climbing route has a name that is too crude for a family newspaper. Despite our diversity, our group is close-knit and we trust each other about everything from breastfeeding to relationships.

Then all that stands between me and a horrific fall is a single knot, called an eight, and one of the conductors at the end of the belay rope.

I squeeze my bare feet into tight, rubber-toed climbing shoes and, with the group cheering me on, throw myself onto the sheer cliff face, pushing my toes and fingers into nearly invisible cracks. I’m glad I got my Shellac painted nails cut.

I make the mistake of looking over my shoulder – I am shocked at how high I have climbed. I let out a thrust of power, but then I rappel down, dancing with pleasure.

A mild case of the shakes doesn’t stop me from going up two more times and loving every minute of it.

There is much to be said for embracing a second youth.

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