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 JM of Patchway on 22/10/2016
You will be met upon your arrival and transferred to "Luogo Marchese", where you will enjoy a delicious Sicilian dinner and your first overnight stay. If you arrive in good time it may be possible to arrange a guided tour of the local town of Cefalu.
After breakfast the group will be assigned horses before you depart at around 08:30. This mornings ride will take you to the historical town of Castelbuono. This town has been the administrative headquarters of Ventimiglia for several centuries. These barons were feudal aristocrats among the most powerful of the island, mainly through cultivated fields with olives and manna ash. You will follow the river Pollina and its tributary Raino, in the territories of San Mauro Castelverde and Geraci Sicul; an area covered with bush and scrub, alternating semi-abandoned fields of ancient olive trees. The region was notorious between the late 800s and early 900s for the legendary exploits of bandits and outlaws who resided the area. You will enjoy a picnic lunch en route made with local produce. In the late afternoon you will arrive at ""Casalvecchio Geraci", a restored farmhouse dating back to the IXX century. Dinner and overnight stay.
After breakfast you will depart at around 08:00. You will ride through an old "trazzera" to reach the medieval village of Gangi, among the most beautiful in Italy (awarded in 2014) at approximately 1000m above sea level. The ride will then take you to the territory of Blufi, where there is an outcrop of oil, for centuries considered miraculous. Here you will enjoy a picnic lunch. In the afternoon you will continue towards Resuttano, crossing the river Imera, passing through ancient semi-abandoned farms, fields and pastures. Late afternoon you will arrive at Feudo Tudia, a restored farmhouse located in an agricultural village almost completely uninhabited. Dinner and overnight stay.
You will depart at around 08:30 this morning, riding through organic vineyards of the farm and ancient Sicilian crops. You will ride along the "royal trazzere" routes, established by the Bourbon government of the island during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to allow free movement of herds and people across the island. You will stop for a picnic lunch en route. You will continue on from the sanctuary of 'Our Lady of Bilici', the train station of Marianopoli, and on through a eucalyptus forest which today makes up part of a private nature reserve. You will arrive in 'Mappa', the ancient residence of Prince Spadafora. Dinner and overnight stay.
After breakfast you will depart around 08:00, riding across fields to the charming old town of Sutera, considered one of the oldest of the known history of humanity, where you will find several prehistoric remains. After a short break you will continue to the valley of the river Plantani, one of the major rivers of western Sici8ly, after passing through the picturesque nature reserve of Monte Conca. After a picnic lunch you will continue through the valley to your next stop, Duca di Pietra Tagliata, another restored farmhouse. Dinner and overnight stay.
You will depart around 08:30 in the direction of Sant'Angelo Muxaro, another little ancient town that would have been the seat of Kokalos, King of Sicans, mysterious indigenous people that inhabited the island before the Greeks and Sicules. You will ride along the prehistoric tombs carved into the rock at the base of the town, some of which have been turned into stables over the years. There will be a tour inside the town and you will stop for a demonstration of ricotta tasting along with a tasting session. Once back on the trail you will stop for a picnic amongst eucalyptus trees. In the afternoon you will stop at the Tower of Anjou, an ancient aristocratic mansion from the thirteenth century. Following this you will visit an old abandoned sulphur mine before arriving at Principe di Aragona. Dinner and overnight.
After breakfast you will depart around 08:00. You will ride though an agricultural area near to the town of Aragona before reaching 'Macalube' where the curious resurfacing of methane gas has caused small, cold craters. You will ride on in the direction of Agrigento, the ancient Agrakas, which was founded by people originating from Crete and Rhodes around 580BC. Today's picnic lunch will be in the village of Monte Aperto. In the afternoon you will ride in the direction of the temples where you will enjoy a guided tour of these monuments. The area is considered one of great importance by UNESCO and includes the temples of Hera, Concordia, Hercules, Zeus and Castor. You will then continue towards the seaside village of SanLeone where you will spend your final night in the B&B L'Approdo. A delicious seafood dinner will be enjoyed in a prestigious local restaurant.
After a final breakfast there may be an opportunity to arrange a guided visit to the archaeological museum and/or free time for shopping in the city's medieval centre (depending on your flight time).
NB - Please note that the itinerary is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather or volcanic conditions.
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 as some days may involve 8 hours+ in the saddle.
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 on set dates for a minimum of 2 riders. Other dates are possible on request, please enquire.
2017: 06 May; 10 Jun; 21 Oct (FULL)
2018: 19 May; 23 Jun; 22 Sept; 20 Oct
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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.
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.