Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from JA of Millom on 21/09/2017
Airport transfer from Palermo Airport to the farmstead, Tenuta Luogo Marchese, passing through Cefalu along the way. If you choose to arrive early there is the possibility of a guided tour through the historic centre of Cefalu, seeing the Arab-Norman cathedral, the medieval washhouse and/or free time for shopping.
You will meet your horses and saddle up before departing at 9am to ride in the countryside around Castelbuono, a destination full of history and tradition that you wouldn't want to miss. You will then make your way through the largest cork forest of Sicily to Geraci which is a thousand meters high and which is well known for its castle and mineral water. After a short stop, you will then start riding an ancient abandoned path; this forgotten trail will lead you to "Casalvecchio Geraci" in the afternoon. This is a beautiful farmhouse which is surrounded by stunning countryside and planted wheat where you will be staying for the evening. Dinner will utilise local products, meat and overnight stay.
You will have a chance to explore an old "trezza" which is an ancient route dating back to the Bourbon kings where you will be able to see an scenic view of the wheat fields and forage up to an altitude of about a thousand feet and then getting to Malpassetto, the border of the provinces of Palermo, Enna and Messina. You will then enter the reserved woods of "Sambughetti-Campanito" where you will have a picnic
lunch before entering the territory of Nicosia and Cerami. Here we descend an old, steep path set in a forest of cork which brings us to the "La Sugherita" where we stay for our third night and from where you can take a short walk to a prehistoric cave.
The destination for today will be Park of Nebrodi. You will also be passing through a dirt road which is called "The Ridge" located between forests and high mountains pastures. From here you will be able to witness a magnificent view of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Aeolian Islands and in the other side of the Sicilian hinterland provinces of Enna, Caltanissetta, Agrigento, Siracusa, Catania and Etna. You can also see sanfratellani horses, a large-headed, native breed, located in the territory of San Fratello. We ride through the beech woods until we reach a small clearing in the shade of trees near a source of water (Nocita); here we will enjoy our picnic lunch. We will arrive in the afternoon at the hotel "Rifugio del Parco" where we will eat a sumptuous dinner made from local Nebrodi products.
This is the longest and the most beautiful stage of the trail, as you will be riding for 40 kilometres along the "Dorsale del Nebrodi" where you will have an amazing view of the mountains, forests and lakes. We come to the lake Maulazzo, dominated by Mount Soro, the highest peak in Nebrodi (1847 meters). Next you will come to the famous lake "Biviere di Cesaro" stopping place for migratory birds. Continue along the "Dorsale" where lush forests give way to panoramic clearings, from here you can see to the north the Aeolian Islands and to the south the majestic peak of Mount Etna. You will then head to the farmhouse where you will be staying in Monte Colla, dating back to the 18th century.
Today will start by making your way into the town of Randazzo and you will have a magnificent view of Mt. Etna along the way. Randazzo is a very well-known and well preserved town dating back to the reign of ancient Greece. We will have a picnic lunch near the town. We then continue along the valley of the Alcantara river and arrive into the territory of Castiglione di Sicilia (Catania province) where we'll find our farmhouse "Al Vecchio Torchio", just below the slopes of Etna.
Today you will pass through an amazing agricultural area where you can view different crops such as peaches, almonds, olive groves, and vineyards, surrounded by dry walls of lava stone. You will then enter the Etna Natural Park, riding through beautiful forests of pine and oak, with views across the mountains of Sicily and Calabria. Next you will ride into the "Ragabo" pine forest, about 1500 meters above sea level where you will stop for lunch. After lunch you will continue to climb through the pine forests all the way to Piano Provenzano, which is about 1800 meters above sea level. Depending on weather and volcanic conditions it may be possible to climb up to the craters of the last great eruption in 2002. At the end of the day we descend to spend the second and final evening at "Al Vecchio Torchio Del Casale".
Breakfast and transfer to the airport of Catania.
NB - Please note that the itinerary is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather or volcanic conditions.
At the start and end of the trail, transfers are included from Cefalu or Castelbuono which you can reach either by bus/train.
You can also be collected from Palermo Airport (€100 per vehicle) or Catania airport (€150 per vehicle).
At the end of the trail, transfers are included to Catania airport. Alternatively you can pay for a transfer back to Palermo airport (€300 per car). All transfers are to be paid in cash locally.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
There are 12 horses available for guests ranging in height from 15hh to 16hh. They are local Sicilian breeds or Sicilian/Arab and very surefooted, forward going and responsive. Riders have the choice of English or Western saddles. The riding is of a varied pace due to the terrain but there will be opportunities for some faster canters.
Riders must have a secure seat at all paces and must be able to walk beside their horse at times due to steep terrain.
There is a minimum age limit of 16 years old and riders must be physically fit and used to long hours in the saddle as some days may involve up to 8 hours in the saddle or more.
Your horses will be prepared for you each morning but you must be willing to assist with untacking, feeding and watering your horse along the trail.
The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is in good quality 3 star hotels or agriturismos with excellent Sicilian cuisine. One of the pleasures of Sicily is the wonderful food. Hearty meat stews, fresh fish, chocolate and marzipan are some of the highlights. With a history of plagues and power struggles, bread has always been a staple of the Sicilian peasant and is coarse and golden, fashioned into a myriad of shapes. Baked bread is treated with the greatest respect and in the past only the head of the family had the privilege of slicing the loaf. Simple pasta dishes are available on every menu along with delicious fresh sauces and local cheese. You will get the opportunity to taste some wonderful regional dishes on this trail. Sicilian wine and beer will be welcome at the end of a day's riding and it is said that you will never get a dud coffee in Sicily. When in Palermo the local street food is worth trying such as 'sfinciuni', a Sicilian pizza with anchovies, fresh tomatoes, onion, primo sale cheese, Parmesan and oregano.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Sicily enjoys a relatively mild climate; high temperatures begin in May, often lasting until sometime in October. While the summers can be very hot and dry, the spring and winter months often bring on torrential rains. Surprisingly, even Sicily has its cold waves in winter, with temperatures falling below zero, especially inland. As of late, it's not been uncommon to see minimal snowfall in Palermo.
You will be able to charge electrical items each evening in your accommodation. Remember an adapter!
We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. This should be used as a guideline as requirements may very according to your programme and preferences.
• Riding Helmet - we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384. Helmets are available at the stables if you do not have your own
• Jodhpurs - jodhpurs, breeches or other comfortable trousers (jeans may rub and can also be quite hot)
• Riding Boots - it is important to have correct shoes or boots for horse riding. Jodhpur or ankle boots with a rubber sole are recommended but sturdy shoes with a definite heel are acceptable (such as walking boots)
• Half Chaps - these are great when worn with ankle boots and help prevent the stirrup leathers rubbing against your legs
• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
• Fleece - Although the weather is generally very warm, the evenings can be a bit cooler
• Warm layers - At times the evening temperature drops significantly
• Casual Clothes - for when out of the saddle
• Water Bottle - it's very important to drink a lot of water when it's hot, especially when doing physical activities
• Raincoat - it is always a wise idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take inset repellent and plenty of sun cream
• Camera and Spare Batteries/Charger - an absolute must! It is also a good idea to take a camera case you can strap around your waist or onto a belt for whilst you are riding
• A copy of your passport
This is an 8 day / 7 night programme with 6 riding days running on set dates for a minimum of 2 riders. Other dates are possible on request, please enquire.
2017: 20 May; 24 Jun; 9 Sept; 7 Oct (FULL); 4 Nov.
2018: 28 Apr; 2 Jun; 1 Sept; 6 Oct; 3 Nov.
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There are populations of hedgehogs, rabbits, squirrels, beavers, foxes, wild cats and wild boar and birds like the falcon, pilgrim hawk, windhover, kite, eagle, rock partridge and imperial crow. Migratory birds that still use Sicily as a pit stop include the common wader, pink seagull, grater sea swallow and the spoonbill. You can also find insects and invertebrates here such as the spotted grass snake, a rather large toad and varieties of frog and gecko.
In terms of river life freshwater fish have all but disappeared but there are still eels. While in the seas there are large numbers of blue-fin tuna and swordfish.
In mountain areas there is broom, lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano, wild olive, dwarf palm, lentisk, cork oaks, oleanders, carob trees and tamarisks. The largest tracts left are largely contained in the Nebrodi, Madonie, Peloritani and Etna slopes in oak trees, holm oaks, cork oaks, chestnut trees and beech trees. Other local fauna includes the agave, palm, plane trees, ficus, cedar, mulberry and eucalyptus.
Other activities in the area include: cycling, diving, fishing, water sports, trekking, mountain biking, windsurfing, tennis, sailing, golf, and snorkelling.
You may be lucky enough to spot the rare San Fratellani horses grazing in the Nebrodi Park. There are less than 800 of these horses left in the world!
Italy forms a peninsula in Southern Europe extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, including the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, Elba and about 70 other smaller islands. It is mostly mountainous, though between the Apennines (which form the spine of Italy) and the eastern coastline there are the fertile plains of Emilia-Romagna in the north and of Puglia in the south. The Alps in the north divide Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.
The Roman Empire was once the most powerful in the world, covering Europe and extending into modern day Asia. Their horsemanship skills second only to the Mongols further east. The incredibly cultured and refined Roman culture still leaves its mark across Europe and has been the foundation for countless artistic movements, including the Renaissance, through cities such as Florence and the medieval university city of Bologna.
Italians are understandably proud of their heritage and are renowned as people of great taste and as having an eye for the aesthetic. Their architecture and fashion leave most of the world in their shadow, appearance is very important to them and the majority of Italians will never leave the house without ensuring they are impeccably and elegantly attired.
Italian food, from pizza to pasta, has been commandeered by the rest of the world but you will never taste a better pizza anywhere else. As with the rest of mainland Europe meals are eaten late with plenty of wine and preferably al fresco.
Italy is one hour ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. (There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram).
The international dialling code is +39.
Important information regarding rail travel:
Visitors are often caught unawares by train and transport systems requiring validation. Tickets bought in Italy for Regionale and Regionale Veloce trains are not marked for any particular time or train and become valid only when time-stamped at a validation machine. Without this validation, train operators assume the rider is trying to fare dodge, since the ticket could be reused. So validation is absolutely essential before boarding, and there are small boxes in the station or near the platform. After being time-stamped, the ticket is valid for the amount of time shown on the ticket.