Guest Reviews – Horse riding holidays in Italy
Susanne (from London)
I have just returned from a 4 day, 100+ km trek around a small part of La Majella, in Abruzzo. These 4 days were a gift. I met Frank Montefusco and his lovely partner, Claudia, and I immediately understood this was going to be a wholey different experience. Their philosophy is very holistic – the horses, the environment, the local culture and history, the food, the mountains – they are all inextricably linked. The horses are all Hafflingers. Sure-footed, solid, calm, intelligent, single minded. Blond and beautiful. With generations of ‘mountain’ coursing through their veins. Like mountain people, you have to gain their respect before they agree to work with you and be friends. Each day was different – up, down and across the mountains, always through swathes of flowers, up to 2000 meters. Along narrow mountain paths, through ancient beech woods, down almost vertical slopes, up steep steep mountain sides, through streams and past panoramic views. The Hafflingers took everything in their stride. Nothing spooked them. Along the way we saw a large herd of wild horses, water buffalo (Mozzarella!), many wild boar with their stripey piglets, golden eagles, kestrels, roe deer, red deer – we didn’t spot Chamois, but they are up there, as are wolves and bears. This type of riding is challenging because of the environment but also because of the individuality of the horses. We travelled at all paces including on foot, depending on the terrain and Frank’s sense of fun and knowledge of his horses meant everyone, including the horses, had an excellent time. Each lunchtime, we stopped in some breath-takingly beautiful place where we dismounted, watered the horses and then let them wander off to graze whilst we ate the simple, delicious packed lunch provided by Claudia every morning. We drank the same spring water as the horses. Over the 4 days we saw how well Frank treats his horses. He has a very instinctive understanding and relationship with them. He commands their respect through his knowledge and exceptional treatment of them. I now know what I’m doing every June for the rest of my life! If you love riding, and you love nature, and you feel they are connected, then this is the riding holiday for you. I hate lists but if there’s one ride you do this year, this life, make it this one. You will not be disappointed.
Massimo (from Rome)
What a fabulous ride in the beautiful Majella National Park! I am a mountain lover and this National Park is unique for geographical position, its unpredictable climate and stunning sceneries. We rode across valleys and high mountain peaks, exploring ancient hermitages and other historical places in a wild and rich environment. The hospitality was excellent, Claudia&Frank took really good care of us and looked after every single aspect of the experience. Their Haflinger are beautiful well-kept horses, reliable and very experienced on mountain terrains. Food and wines were local and delicious, and there was always a great variety of it. It was definitely an excellent holiday in a very evocative and charming environment, an experience that I would highly recommend.
Sarah A. Pletts (from USA)
As a 21st century American woman, I must tell you that riding upon a horse through a Hazelnut grove in Italy with Elena Riccioni was a life saving, life affirming experience. Elena encouraged me to get back on a horse for the first time in years. Then she rode ahead with the patience of Job (from the Bible,) the joy of the Greek Goddesses in May and the confidence of a mother of ten. The ride she took me on through green hills and ancient stones was informative as she spoke of wise ancient peoples. It was soothing as she was silent while the power of nature filled my soul again. She got me to gallop and she got me to go very slowly, soaking up the ancient wisdom of inhabitants who know how to love and care for the land. I can still hear the clopping of the hooves when we came upon the Roman stone road. I can still feel the peace of the hills. If you are going to Italy and you want to have a rich experience, go on a horse trek with Elena. It will enliven you and fill your body with hope for mankind’s future of balance and harmony with our glorious Earth.
Mirella (from Rome)
Frank and Claudia’s hospitality is exceptional. Frank is a very experienced guide, who knows the area and its history extremely well. Claudia is a kind lady who will cook for you typical regional meals following traditional recipes. Their Haflinger horses are docile and tireless, even on the most demanding mountainous tracks. The trails of the Majella National Park are various and the nature is wild and rich. We visited beautiful green valleys, with lovely streams and encountered herd of wild boars and solitaire foxes; then we moved higher into beech woodlands where we saw deers and roe deers. Then up higher, on high pasture and peaks from where the views are stunning! All that beauty around me made me feeling part of the surroundings and filled with calm and joy. Sometimes the trail gets a bit difficult, with narrow and overhanging crests but Frank’s experience will make you feeling safe whatever the situation. The hermitages and the dry stone huts we visited told me the story of a past of hard work, sacrifice and strong faith in God contributing in making this holiday rich in experiences and emotions. I’ll remember this wonderful trip for long time, thanks!