IMAGINE a place surrounded by picturesque lakeside villages, medieval castles and hundreds of vineyards.
Rovereto is nestled in the base of Italy’s Trentino region and surrounded by the Piccole Dolomiti (the little Dolomites).
Perhaps because superstars like the Kardashians are distracted by the uber-expensive Portofino area and the Amalfi coast, Trentino, in the north of the country, is somewhat overlooked.
Yet it is a paradise for living la dolce vita, and I soon come to the conclusion it is Italy’s best-kept secret.
Germany provides the biggest market for tourists, then Austrians and Scandinavians in search of the Mediterranean sun, minus the scorching temperatures of the south.
Italians also flock here to go rock climbing, camping, sailing and to breathe in the Alpine air.
I’m excited to visit the famous Lake Garda, the top of which pierces the Trentino region. And then, of course, there’s the food and wine.
Wine enthusiasts will want to throw themselves straight into the action at Casa Del Vino. It is run by a handful of local wineries and is such a trusted spot that there is no menu.
I’m soon devouring plates of what I now want as my last meal on Earth — fried local cheese and thinly sliced apple for starters, rabbit wrapped in bacon for main, washed down with a generous glass of Marzemino D’Isera red and espresso poured over ice cream for dessert.
Spotting the Michelin star above the counter, I can barely believe the set menu here starts from just £30.
And that’s before you consider its breathtaking location.
Turning up a cobbled street, I clap eyes on the glorious Vallagarina Valley and I could sit here for hours.
It’s an early start the following day when we pedal out of Rovereto into the heart of that stunning scene on our nifty e-bikes.
There are swathes of deep green and sweeping browns where the mountains and wineries line the old Roman road.
The mild climate allows for flowers to thrive, and they light our way as we whizz towards Castello di Avio, a fortress on the slopes of Monte Vignola.
Inside, it boasts vivid frescoes and panoramic views of the Vallagarina Valley from its tower, where centuries ago condemned prisoners lived out their final days. Doomed, but with a view!
A 30-minute drive south is the San Leonardo vineyard. Visited in 2014 by none other than former US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, it is owned by the noble Gonzaga family.
I walk along cherry tree-lined paths while, just beyond, frogs leap across an ancient pond.
The family’s summer house here is off limits but it is a treat just to see it standing majestically beside acres of perfect lawn with a striking pool that overlooks the Alps.
Deep in the belly of the winery is a chamber that once hid the family’s valuables from the Nazis. But today, the eerie room is where they mix San Leonardo’s Bordeaux blend.
I taste five of the estate’s wines including the new rose named in honour of Tullo Guerrieri Gonzaga’s humanitarian wife Gemma de Gresti. It is excellent; and I leave with that and a bottle of the Terre, a steal at just £10.
If you want to sample some of the region’s best wine, Ferrari’s Trentodoc hits the spot.
And there’s no better place to try this tipple than when you’re soaking up the landscape of Lake Garda.
Setting sail across the water, the wind carries us to the point where Trentino meets Lombardy, home to Lake Maggiore and Lake Como.
The wind is very important here, it’s the engine for everything.
At Madonna Delle Vittorie, an olive mill run by the Marzadro family, the wind is crucial in preventing mould that kills the trees.
Paulo, who runs the restaurant, reveals a good oil should be spicy, bitter and strong, adding: “If you feel and taste nothing, it is nothing special.”
They also make their own Trentodoc, which you can enjoy with carpaccio marinated in salt, pepper, rosemary and herbs. It’s juicy and deliciously chewy, and comes with sides of asparagus soufflé and cheese fondue.
A day of eating and drinking can only be topped off by a late afternoon snooze on the terrace at the five-star Lido Palace hotel.
It overlooks the lake, and it’s impossible not to feel like the royalty that used to stay here.
That night I sleep like a baby in my elegant room at Hotel Leon d’Oro, content I’ve found my favourite place in Italy and, more crucially, the dolce vita.
GETTING THERE: easyJet flies direct to Verona and Milan from London from £26.99 each way. See easyjet.com
STAYING THERE: Hotel Leon d’Oro in Rovereto offers double rooms from £81. See hotelleondoroverona.com.
OUT & ABOUT: Entry to the Castello Di Avio is from £7. See fondoambiente.it.
A wine-tasting tour at San Leonardo is from £80pp. See sanleonardo.it.
A wine and olive oil-tasting tour at Madonna Delle Vittorie is from £13. See madonnadellevittorie.it.
Day spa passes at Lido Palace with access to swimming pools, sun terrace and relaxation areas cost from £47. See lido-palace.it.
For more information, see visittrentino.info/en.
Source: The Sun