If you're looking for a short getaway then look no further; this break is perfect to relieve the stresses of life, to hone up on those riding skills or to simply add onto a holiday in Rome. This riding centre has it all - outstanding food, fun and varied riding in a glorious setting and hosts that welcome you like long lost friends. This action-packed long weekend takes in one half-day and two full-day rides without eating up too much of your holiday budget. There is even a one-hour lesson to help you develop your technique or do some jumping.
This riding centre was founded more than 30 years ago and has carved a reputation as one of the best-run riding establishments in Umbria. In a panoramic setting, surrounded by woodland and overlooking mountains and valleys on all sides, the stables are the perfect antidote to the stress and strains of everyday life. The centre is also the largest of its kind in central Italy but you wouldn't know it from the friendly, family atmosphere.
The centre is a family venture in the best Italian tradition, headed by two brothers, Agostino and Giancarlo Bevilacqua. They are helped by their three children, all expert riders, and their wives Giuliana and Clara, who are amazing cooks! Clare, a British ex-pat who has been living in Italy for a number of years, is on hand to guide trails and be your point of contact.
Explore rolling mountains, hidden valleys and medieval hill villages in this unspoilt corner of Umbria, where time has stood still. There is excellent riding available for beginner or experienced riders and of course an apertif or two are never far away. The food is truly excellent here, all home-cooked using fresh local ingredients and plenty of it too!
For those wanting to explore further on this riding holiday, 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. Only a short drive or train ride from Rome, this holiday is also perfect for adding onto the start or end of a holiday to the Eternal City; your hosts would be pleased to advise you on the best that Rome has to offer and it certainly won't disappoint.
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 DE of Ivybridge on 13/05/2019
Arrive Spoleto. You will be picked up at the train station and transferred to stables. A three-course dinner with wine will be served in the clubhouse. Accommodation is in comfortable chalets.
You will start off with a half-day ride that 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. You will ride back for lunch at the clubhouse with a free afternoon to relax or go exploring in nearby Spoleto (transport can be provided at reasonable cost). Alternatively you can have a free one-hour lesson with a FISE (BHS equivalent) instructor, doing flatwork or jumping, depending on your level.
Dinner will be served in the clubhouse.
Pianella is the destination for this day-long trek of 5-6 hours (35 kms), 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 thoughtfully 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.
Today’s ride is a spectacular one, and great fun too. The terrain and scenery is very varied during the 35 kms and 5-6 hours that you will spend in the saddle. Winding through woodland trails you will come to the hamlet of Torrecolla before passing a delightful stone church and heading along some wider paths. Then it's time to begin the long but gentle climb up to Monte Fionchi, a huge alpine meadow at the top of a 1300 metre high mountain, where you can refresh yourself with a drink from an ice-cold mountain spring. A leisurely picnic lunch will be served in a meadow close to another lovely Umbrian country church, the Chiesa di Sant'Antonio. The return leg will take you through the wild and staggeringly beautiful Valnerina, past abandoned villages stuck to the side of the mountain, through other inhabited hill villages and back to the stables. Dinner will be served in the clubhouse.
Breakfast and departure.
In the warmer months, it is possible to replace one of the day rides with an amazing Night Ride (if all guests agree). Riders leave in late afternoon and ride up onto the hills for about 3 hours to watch the sunset. Then a 3 course dinner is served at a table in a dramatic hill-top setting, before riding back by moonlight often accompanied by fire-flies. An unforgettable experience!
Along with the horses, the beautiful food and warm hospitality from your hosts makes this ride very special; multi course lunches and dinners are lovingly homemade and use the freshest ingredients meaning no one goes hungry here! Enjoy antipasti, soup, organic meats, pasta and of course beautiful desserts whilst sitting with the family chatting about your day and of course washing it all down with good quality wine from the region. There is also a wine tasting session during one of the rides.
Please enquire if you have younger children who would like to ride.
Other activities and extra days:
It is possible to add-on extra days onto this short break in order to experience some of the other activities which are on offer from this super riding centre. Alternatively, it may be possible to swap rides around and add in extra rides/activities within the short break. Please enquire.
White Water Rafting: Available on all riding holidays as an alternative to a half day ride this excursion costs approximately €75 (in 2020) payable locally. The stables will transport you 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.
Special day ride: In the summer months, the hosts may offer to take guests to Castelluccio di Norcia for a truly unforgettable day ride. This is a suspended mountain plateau in one of Italy’s loveliest national parks, about one hour’s drive away. You will visit and ride through lakes where there are wild horses and foals and riders can canter over the spectacular mountain plain, which is covered with wild orchids and narcissi. Horses are taken by horsebox and guests by jeep. Supplement payable locally to cover transport €80.
Wine tasting: Guests who are interested will be taken to a local enoteca for a memorable session tasting Umbrian wines and sampling the excellent local olive oil on bruschetta. Supplement payable locally approximately €16 plus €60 per car to get there if guests don't have their own car.
Night Rides: In the summer months night rides are also an option which avoids riding in the heat of the day and gives a whole different experience of Umbria!
Swimming Pool: An on-site swimming pool has now been completed, with spectacular views over the hill and valleys.
The Bevilaqua family also run the following week long 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.
Show Jumping Combo - Enjoy lessons taught by Count Adolfo Poli or the Centre's main instructor Andrea Bevilacqua, both trained FISE instructors with years of experience teaching show jumping and dressage. In addition to the invaluable lessons you will also have the chance to ride out and explore the beautiful surrounding countryside. Beginners and novice riders can also receive lessons appropriate to their level as can children, and dressage tuition is also available.
Ryanair flies to Rome frequently as does easyJet. A transfer is available from there 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 evenings and whilst not in the saddle.
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 65 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. 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. All trekking horses have numnahs with pockets for water, cameras, phones 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. Body protectors are compulsory for jumping lessons and can be borrowed on site.
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: 10.
If you choose 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. Please see the Show Jumping and Dressage Combo webpage on our website.
Riders of all levels are catered for with an appropriate mix of tuition and riding out, thus there is no previous experience necessary.
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 programme, although experienced younger riders may be accepted.
There is a weight limit of 100kg but please enquire if you are an experienced rider over the weight limit .
The weight limit for this ride is 220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
All accommodation is in self-contained apartments or comfortable en-suite bedrooms 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 the 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 outdoor patio and seating area with sun loumgers has similarly vast views over the surrounding countryside. A beautiful swimming pool was built in 2019.
This is a family-run organisation and food is prepared by your hosts with outside help as necessary. A typical meal would be as follows: 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: 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. Homemade dessert followed by coffee and liqueurs (grappa, limoncello etc) and the inevitable espresso.
An onsite swimming pool has now been completed which offers spectacular views over the surrounding hills and valleys.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
Visa are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas issues and emergency issues. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk.
The British Embassy can be found at Via XX Settembre 80a, I-00187 Roma RM. Tel: + (39) 06 4220 0001. Email: email@example.com.
The Italian Embassy in the U.K can be found at 14 Three Kings Yard, Davies Street, London W1K 4EH. Telephone: (020) 7312 2200. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, unlike many other regions of Italy, the temperature is not excessive in this part of Umbria. 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).
We advise taking plenty of sunscreen!
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org
Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.
Mobiles phones/tablets and digital cameras can be charged in your accommodation.
Riding trousers 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, 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.
This is a 5 day/4 night programme with 3 days riding available on set dates, however these are flexible and other dates can be added for 2 or more riders.
2020: 11 Jul; 8, 22, 29 Aug; 12 Sept; 3, 17, 24, 31 Oct.
2021: 3, 24 Apr; 29 May; 10, 24 Jul; 7, 21 Aug; 11 Sept; 2, 16, 30 Oct.
Dates on request for groups of 2 or more.
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Our first recommendation must be that of 'Chickens Eat Pasta', written by Clare Pedrick, who is the English speaking guide and host on this ride. An enjoyable true story of how Clare ended up living in Italy, highly recommended!
Other books include: Lisa St Aubyn de Teram ‘A House In Italy’, E.M Forster ‘A Room With A View’, HV Morton ‘A Traveller in Italy’ and anything by Italo Calvino.
For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback visit www.thelongridersguild.com, also a fantastic place to acquire your equestrian travel books is www.horsetravelbooks.com
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 €75 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.
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.
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.