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 KE of London on 24/09/2015
Upon arrival at Spoleto train station you will be transferred to the riding centre. After settling into your room and depending on the time, you will be able to have a look around the stables, relax in the clubhouse or sit down to enjoy your first delicious meal.
Your horse riding holiday will start off in a fairly leisurely way on the first day, to give you the chance to get to know your horse. You will pass through shady paths among the chestnut woods and you’ll have time to admire the magnificent gnarled old trees which have supplied chestnuts to generations of people living in this area, and to spot the wild cyclamen and other flowers that grow in the woods, before climbing steeply up into the foothills of Mount Acetella, today’s destination. There are plenty of chances to trot or canter along these paths, but don’t forget to stop and take stock of the magnificent views here. You can see high mountain peaks in the distance, with the stables and Montebibico, a mediaeval village where time seems to have stood still, nestling in the foreground – a great place for a photograph.
Afterwards, you will head up to the top of Mount Acetella itself, just a short climb, where you will be rewarded with more stunning views here on top of the world. You will head back to the stables via another series of trails for lunch. In the afternoon you will make your way to the stables to become acquainted with your horse and instructor for the week and enjoy your 1st 1 hour lesson.
Today it is time to recap on the previous days lessons with two more in the morning and afternoon. There will be free time in between the lessons for you to relax.
This half-day ride will take you through the grounds of a magnificent 600-hectare private estate called La Tenuta dello Schioppo, but known locally as Il Parco delle Farfalle, the Butterfly Park. There are wide avenues perfect for cantering for those who want to, and trotting for those who don't, and splendid views of mountains, valleys and hill villages in all directions. In a woodland glade a huntsman's table has been fashioned out of local chestnut wood, and this will be the stopping place for an aperitif. In May and June, these woods are carpeted with tiny wild strawberries. You will ride back for lunch at the clubhouse.
Pianella, the destination for this day-long trek of 5-6 hours (35kms), is a gloriously peaceful spot in the heart of the Umbrian countryside. To get there, you will ride through woods and trails and down into a hidden valley where you can pause to admire the exquisite little village of Castagnacupa, whose old stone houses have all been recently restored.
From here you will ride past a beautiful Romanesque church and into more woodland before reaching the shady meadow where you will have lunch, tying the horses to a post and rails and sitting on wooden tables and benches thoughfully provided for picnickers. After lunch you will head on through the old village of Pompagnano, close to Spoleto, and back over the hills via Catinelli, a village poised spectacularly on a rock outcrop and home to just two people, an old man and a woman who can often be seen tending to their animals.
After your rest day from the school yesterday, today is back to work with two one hour lessons in the morning and afternoon.
Today will be your final day of riding and the chance to re-cap on your week's Show Jumping or Dressage tuition, with a 1 hour lesson in the morning and afternoon to round off your week nicely.
After breakfast you will be transferred back to Spoleto train station.
Note: As with many riding holidays, this itinerary is subject to change depending on weather conditions.
The Combo programme runs alongside the Umbrian Adventure/Summer Adventure programmes so in addition to riders having tuition, there will be others who are taking daily rides from the base. The programme is very flexible and can be tailor made to suit the requirements of individual participants.
For children who cannot go on the trail rides there are lessons and pony games on offer with the instructors (approx 2 hours a day). Children can then by driven to the day's lunch spot to join their parents/older siblings for lunch. The pony games form an important part of each lesson.
The terrain is varied, passing through woodland trails, and open meadows, with a small amount of roadwork on quiet country roads with little traffic. Some parts are steep and may involve riders dismounting to lead their horses for a few hundred yards. Qualified English speaking guides are always on hand to help dismount and remount. One guide to every 5-6 riders. Max number of riders in group is 10.
The tuition this will take place in one of two large outdoor arenas will all necessary facilities. All instructors have Federazione Italiana Sport Equestre (FISE) qualifications. This roughly translates as the BHS instructor qualifications.
In summer, night rides are organised, along tracks and trails lit only by the full moon, where riders are met with a supper of grilled meats and local wine, as they scan the mountain skies for shooting stars.
Fancy a half-day white water rafting experience? Available on all riding holidays as an alternative to a half day ride this excursion costs €70 (in 2018) payable locally. The stables will transport you for for free to enjoy a fun descent on the beautiful River Corno. Each boat is manned by expert guides and this activity is suitable for all ages, from 5 to 75, as it is safe and relatively gentle rafting (though exciting enough to feel you have done something adventurous!). Wet suits, lifejackets and helmets are provided but bring along a towel and swimming costume.
In summer months, all guests will have access to a swimming pool located in a picturesque village 5 mins drive from the stables. Transport can be provided. There will be a modest charge, payable locally. There is an optional day ride with a stopover for a fantastic lunch served near the pool, and the afternoon spent at the pool before riding back in the early evening. This will take the place of one of the other scheduled day rides. A modest supplement (€15) is payable locally.
Ryanair flies to Rome frequently as does easyJet. A transfer is available from there (additional cost) or Spoleto is an easy 2 hour train journey from there. Alternatively car rental is a good option. Once at your destination transport can be arranged to and from Spoleto (13km) and other nearby places for a modest charge. A hire car is a good idea if you wish to explore the area in the afternoons and evenings, whilst not in the saddle.
Please enquire if you have younger children who would like to ride.
The Bevilaqua family also run the following programmes:
Umbrian Adventure - Explore rolling mountains, hidden valleys and medieval hill villages in this unspoilt corner of Umbria, where time has stood still. Take a day ride to a nearby swimming pool to soak away those aches and pains, and during the summer months experience the magic of a night ride lit by fireflies.
Umbrian Summer Highlights - All the highlights of the Umbrian Week in a shorter, 5 night package! Includes a night’s camping on top of a mountain with a three-course dinner as well as a night ride with a stop for a barbeque dinner on the way before getting back on the horses to ride home by moonlight.
Umbrian Short Break in the Saddle - This is a 4 night package with riding on 3 days; ideal for a quick getaway to sunny Umbria or for adding onto a trip to Rome perhaps. Experience unspoilt Umbria on beautiful horses whilst being treated as one of the family, this is such a welcoming break.
We are avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
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 40 horses of all types available at the stable. They are without exception in excellent condition and well schooled. Anglo-Arabs, Maremanni (a sturdy local breed), Thoroughbreds and Argentinians are the main breeds. They vary in size from 13.2-16.2 hh. All are shod and several are trained in neck reining. The stable has a large outdoor Menage and a generous selection of show jumps, making it the perfect place to further your skills or brush up on your technique.
For the Show Jumping/Dressage tuition, clients will ride Italian Saddle horses and Dutch Warmbloods - some of which are currently at competition level and are competing regularly with their riders. There is a variety of tack from English saddles, Trekking saddles (large comfortable Western-style saddles), Western and Endurance saddles.
The temperament of the horses varies from docile schoolmasters to suit novices to more lively rides for experienced riders. All are very sure footed in the steep terrain and totally traffic proof, though roadwork is minimal. Horses will be prepared, saddled and cared for by the grooms and guides, but the spirit is friendly and informal and anyone wanting to help will be very welcome.
The ride leader carries saddle bags with essential items such as water for en route necessities. It is advisable to bring a small bum bag that can be strapped around your waist to carry items you might need on the ride such as sunglasses, camera, sun block, gloves etc. A wide range of riding hats suitable for children and adults are available on site, and it is compulsory for all riders to wear one.
Riders of all levels are catered for with an appropriate mix of tuition and riding out thus there is no previous experience necessary.
Due to the hilly terrain covered, a large amount of the riding out is at the walk. There are frequent opportunities to trot and canter for experienced riders as well as jumping in classes.
There is no minimum age for arena riding. There is a minimum age of 14 for the riding out, although experienced younger riders may be accepted.
There is no weight limit within reason.
All accommodation is in self-contained apartments at the riding centre. These are attractively built in traditional Umbrian style and equipped and furnished to a high standard. Each apartment has a room with one double bed and a sofa bed in living room. There is an en suite bathroom with shower, toilet and bidet. The rooms are comfortably furnished with good quality bed linen, towels etc. The living room has a fridge, TV and cooking facilities (although the holiday is fully catered). Rooms are not cleaned during your stay, but you may request clean towels etc within reason. Next door is the club house with a dining room and bar where all meals are taken. From the club house there are views over the riding arenas as well as spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The attractive out door patio and seating area has similarly vast views over the surrounding countryside.
This is a family-run organisation and food is prepared by your hosts with outside help as necessary. A typical meal would be as below:
Breakfast: coffee, cappuccino, tea, yoghurt, home-made cake, bread and jams.
Lunch: a picnic lunch may consist of home-made frittata (omelette) made with wild asparagus, pizza stuffed with sausage and greens, home-cooked porchetta (Umbrian roast pork cooked with garlic and fennel), or sausages cooked over an open fire, salad, wine and coffee.
Dinner: a pasta dish based on local products such as wild mushrooms or asparagus in season, followed by a meat dish, e.g. local grilled lamb with potatoes and a vegetable dish, e.g. chicory, salad. Home-made dessert followed by coffee and liqueurs (grappa, limoncello etc) and the inevitable espresso.
In summer months, all guests will have access to a swimming pool located in a picturesque village 5 mins drive from the stables. Transport can be provided. There will be a modest charge, payable locally.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
This beautiful and unspoilt corner of Umbria has something to offer all year round, though January and February can sometimes be too cold and icy for safe riding.
Spring (mid March onwards) is a lovely time, with wild asparagus on the hillsides. May and June are particularly good months, as the wild flowers are in full bloom and temperatures have not become too hot. For the same reason, September, and early October are good choices.
In July and August, temperatures tend to rise significantly, but the high altitude means the heat is never unbearable and the riding is tailored to allow longer lunch stops, avoiding the hottest part of the day.
This is a mountain setting, so in late Autumn (November/December), temperatures do fall, but this period can produce some very good riding weather with the added bonus of the roast chestnuts for which this region is famous, new wine (mid-November) and new olive oil (early December).
Camera film and batteries can be purchased in nearby towns but we suggest that you take along plenty to see you through your holiday. Digital cameras can be charged in your accommodation.
Riding pants or jodhpurs
Riding boots, paddock boots or riding trainers (with heel) that are comfortable to walk in.
Riding hat with brim
Lip-balm with sunscreen
Hard hat (it is recommended to bring your own if you have one as this is always the best fit however a selection is available on site)
Insect repellent spray/cream
Half chaps (optional)
Camera and film
T-shirts and shorts
Lightweight long sleeved shirts
Heavy sweater or sweatshirt*
Informal/casual wear for evenings
Copy of passport
All terrain sandals
Wearing a waist pouch is a handy method for keeping items such as camera and lip-balm readily accessible.
Riding hats are compulsory for all riders.
This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates. Other dates are available for groups of 2 or more.
2018: 31 Mar; 14 Apr; 5 May; 9 Jun; 7*, 21* Jul; 4*, 25* Aug; 8, 29 Sept; 20 Oct (* denotes high season).
Other dates on request for groups of 2 or more.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,149|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||705|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||Child under 12 not riding||885|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,255|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||705|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||child under 12 not riding||949|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,275|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||779|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||Child under 12 not riding||979|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,389|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||175|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||779|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||child under 12 not riding||1,055|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,589|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||975|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||Child under 12 not riding||1,225|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,735|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||219|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||975|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||child under 12 not riding||1,315|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||12,769|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||7,819|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,759|
|2018 Low Season||8d/7n||6||Child under 12 not riding||9,839|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||double pp||13,939|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,759|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||non-rider||7,819|
|2018 High Season||8d/7n||6||child under 12 not riding||10,555|
The riding stables are situated in some of the most spectacular countryside to be found anywhere in Italy.
Set up on a plateau overlooking the mountains and valleys around Spoleto, the scenery is stunning, with varied landscapes ranging from craggy rocks and peaks to soft rolling hills and cool and quiet woodland, home to porcupines, woodpeckers and wild boar.
For those wanting to explore further, the stables are just 13 km from Spoleto, a Roman, medieval and Renaissance jewel and a great place to spend some time, for riders and non-riders alike. The larger towns of Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto and Todi are all within easy reach as are many of the vineyards of the region.
If you have arranged a car rental for your stay there are a large number of sights in the area and your hosts are always ready with information, suggestions, guide books and routes.
The area immediately surrounding the riding centre is a good place for walks, with trails leading off through the chestnut woods. Guided walks to collect wild asparagus (Spring) or mushrooms (Autumn) can be arranged at a reasonable cost.
Rafting (approx £45 for 2-3 hours) and cycling is available nearby for a reasonable cost. Visits to Spoleto, Assisi can be arranged if own transport is not available.
Unless riders already have one from the BSJA, they will need to purchase a permit to be able to jump on site. This costs €35 and includes insurance cover for jumping.
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.