Horse Riding Holiday Feature: Centro Ippico La Somma
Adventures in Umbria, A Holiday on Horseback
For some it is the extraordinary vistas, with miles of rolling hills punctuated by tiny mediaeval hill villages where time seems to have stood still. For others, it is the horses, and the care taken to match each rider to one that will suit his or her skills and taste. But whatever the special memory they take home with them, almost everyone who takes a riding holiday with the Centro Ippico La Somma in Umbria, Italy ends up feeling part of the family. The stables, just 2 hours from Rome yet set in some of the most unspoilt countryside anywhere in Europe, are run by the Bevilacqua family which spans three generations.
Agostino looks after the trekking side and takes out most of the rides, along with Clare, the English guide and organiser of the riding holidays. His son Andrea teaches show jumping, while cousins Valentina and Lorenzo organise pony games for children and TREC tuition for adults and children, respectively. In the kitchen is Clara, Valentina’s mother, making home-made pasta and other Italian specialities for hungry riders who sit down to dinner with the rest of the clan at a big long table.
It is like being welcomed into an Umbrian home. Every evening our party shared a delicious meal, with three courses, plenty of wine and home-made limoncello at the end. However hungry and thirsty we were after a day in the saddle, we were always completely full by the time we headed for our chalets.”
said Halina Kierkuc, who has been on several riding holidays to La Somma.
On offer is a range of riding holidays, including full weeks and shorter breaks, centre-based holidays and trail rides. All the trekking holidays offer the option to tack on schooling and jumping lessons as required. Alternatively, you can opt for the Show Jumping Combo, an unusual but very popular mix of lessons with former regional jumping champion Andrea and treks out into the beautiful surrounding countryside. Inexperienced riders, or those who prefer dressage to jumping, can have lessons tailored to their needs, and all the treks are suitable for both novices and more advanced riders, with guests grouped according to ability, so that no one is held back or put under pressure.
The week-long Umbrian Adventure programme explores the spectacular rolling hills with a series of half and full-day treks, stopping for picnic lunches with wine in shady groves or hilltops. In summer, another programme includes a two-day trail to some Roman ruins and an optional night camping with the horses in a dramatic mountain setting.
The memorable night ride, available in the warmer months, enables guests to ride out and watch the sun set on the mountains, before sitting down to a three-course lamplit dinner brought out by jeep.
One of the Centro Ippico La Somma trail rides offers a chance to sample some local history on the trail of an ancient Roman chariot, riding to the very pretty, little medieval hill town of Monteleone di Spoleto and spending a night in a former Benedictine monastery. Another programme takes riders through the rolling hills around the lovely little hilltown of Montefalco, the wine-making centre of Umbria, with stops to taste some of the wines that are rapidly making a name for themselves in international circles.
Further afield, the extraordinary mountain plateau of Castellucio di Norcia is an optional day-ride excursion, with horses and riders transported by horsebox and car to a spectacular setting, with flower-filled meadows, lakes where you can see wild horses, and a forest of trees in the shape of a map of Italy, planted by Mussolini and still standing to this day.
For me, the best part was seeing the carpets of the most wonderful wild flowers. We were so well looked after. Agostino and Clare made sure everything went according to plan including providing food and drink in the most spectacular picnic stops you could ask for,”
said Dena Bird, who lives in Devon.
I can’t wait to go back.”
For non-riders, there is plenty to do and see, including visits to Assisi, nearby Spoleto – a type of mini Florence without the crowds – and a host of smaller hilltop towns and villages that are off the tourist beaten track, each one full of hidden gems, such as frescoes, ceramics and family-run trattoria, where a long lunch won’t cost you a fortune. From Spring through to Autumn, the open-air pool at La Somma, with its views over hills and valleys, is hard to beat as a place to wind down with a book and a drink, for riders and non-riders alike.
Regular guests at La Somma – and some of them come back again and again – agree that one of the main draws of a holiday here is the glimpse it gives of a lifestyle that has disappeared in many places. In this part of Italy, the clock seems to have stopped, so you can ride through little medieval hill villages where people still live the way they have done for generations. You’ll see shepherds tending their flocks and smallholder farmers carefully preparing the ground ready for the chestnut harvest in autumn. If you’re lucky, you might spot one of the locals out hunting for truffles with their specially trained dogs. Once out into the countryside, you can trek for hours with nothing to spoil the view of endless rolling hills and valleys, dotted with olive groves and flowers, including wild orchids as far as the eye can see.
For more information on the packages available, please visit the Centro Ippico La Somma website.