Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Horseback Riding in the Abruzzi Mountains

Weekend before last, I joined a tour organized by our Outdoor Rec program to the Abruzzi Mountains. We stayed overnight at an agriturismo located within the National Park and enjoyed two trail rides through the beautiful region as well as their incredible food. Agriturismos are very popular in Italy and are somewhat similar to a countryside B&B. They usually include meals, which are hearty, traditional, and delicious, and many offer some sort of additional attraction – cooking classes, a vineyard and wine tasting, etc. This one was also a horse ranch and offered trail riding. We were in a group of eight plus one guide provided by NOR (Navy Outdoor Recreation), and I went with my roommate from the EuroChocolate trip of last month and another friend from language class.

We left Naples and quickly found ourselves enjoying Italy’s incredible countryside, stopping twice for the obligatory “caffe,” much needed on the chilly, rainy day. Reaching the agriturismo, ValleCupa, we checked into our cozy, clean and pretty rooms and hotfooted it down to the nearest town, Pescasseroli, for some lunch. The rain was really starting, and much of the town seemed closed. We were able to find a small trattoria, warmed with a wood burning fireplace and decorated with wooden beams and vintage photos of the town, and had filling pasta, bean soup, and local cheeses – yummy! Following lunch, we returned to the agriturismo to saddle up for the first trail ride. The rain continued, but we were determined to head out and see the scenery.

With only one really experienced rider in our group, the first ride was quite an experience. This was capped with the fact that the horses were not at all happy about being taken out in the rain, so they just started wandering up hills on their own, refused to stop, and in general, behaved like cranky children. My horse, in particular, was determined to always be in front. He was not at all a follower, even if keeping his lead meant running through large thorn bushes. We all seemed a bit frazzled after the first ride, and I don’t think any of us really had a chance to actually look around at the landscape.  Even the lone experienced rider in the group had an "active" ride. After naps, we headed into town again to do a little shopping and, as is the Italian way, ended up in the bar (coffee bar). Dinner back at the agriturismo was a traditional meal with many courses, each more delicious than the last.

The next day dawned with blue skies, lifting our spirits and giving us hope that the morning ride would go a little better than before. During breakfast, though, the clouds started rolling in. We were able to get started early, and remarkably, the horses seemed to have gone through a personality transplant overnight. Some were given their same horse; I got a new one – Furetto (I later learned his name meant “Little Fury”). He was wonderful. Calm and very much a follower. He had his friends, and he was determined to stay just behind one of them. He also had some enemies, resulting in a little kick given to one horse and a few bites when some of his enemies tried to pass too closely. But he remained calm and even-paced for me, so I was quite happy with him. Some of the other riders were not so happy with him, so there were a few people I did not get to visit with on the ride.

I could not get over the scenery. In our two hour ride we traveled through mysterious forests, populated with trees covered with moss and bare branches reaching to the grey, rain-laden clouds, huge boulders rising up from the red leaves coating the ground, a green grass highland reminding me of Scottish moors that I’ve seen only in my imagination, and steep, rocky trails where each of us were sure our horse would slip, throwing us onto the rocks below. It was so tranquil, and the only signs of other life came when we came across a group of wild horses. They must not have been too wild since one was wearing a cow bell, but there was no farm around. The group began to approach our group, and I thought we might have a little horse rumble on our hands, but we passed without incident and got to enjoy watching the lead horse of the wild pack, a magnificent white horse with a flowing mane that was lifting wildly in the high wind. It could have been the cover of a novel.

Our ride was followed with yet another delicious meal, the best one yet, and then back to reality in our little van that took us out of the quiet mountains and back into the craziness of Naples (after a stop for caffe!).


  1. Hey, I'm just curious. Are you gaining weight? Every blog talks about all the great food (especially pasta) and wine tasting and such. Just wondering if it's taking it's toll on your body yet. :-)

  2. Not yet, but "yet" is the operative word. I just uploaded another post with an entire paragraph about food. Hmmmmm...I must have been raised Southern Baptist.

  3. What a great experience!

    Did I understand this correctly: ValleCupa is the agriturismo and they organised the horses - is this them?

    Sounds like a great trip. Loved the post.

  4. It seems you spent a great time there, congrats! Without any doubt, it was an excellent choice.