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RIDING AND WINE TASTING

Spreading out as far as the eye can see around the lovely little hilltown town of Montefalco, known as the Balcony of Umbria for the views it commands, are more than 2,000 acres of vineyards. This very special Short Break in the Saddle offers an opportunity to ride through the rolling hills of an ancient landscape, and to taste some of the wines that are rapidly making a name for themselves in international circles.

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As with our traditional and very popular Short Breaks in the Saddle, this programme offers a short but intense break, with four nights based at La Somma, including two full-day rides, one half-day ride and a lesson in the manege with flatwork and/or jumping. The starting point for one of the full-day rides will be Montefalco, a short drive away for riders and horses, and the itinerary will take in a stop at two well established wineries, with a short tour to see how the wine is made, and of course an opportunity to taste the result!

The programme is the following, though the order may vary slightly, depending on the weather and other factors.

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Day 1

We start off with a half-day ride that takes us 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. We 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 is served in the clubhouse. Or white-water rafting, (supplement).

Day 2

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, we ride through woods and trails and down into a hidden valley where we pause to admire the exquisite little village of Castagnacupa, whose old stone houses have all been recently restored. From here we ride past a beautiful Romanesque church and into more woodland before reaching the shady meadow where we will have lunch, tying the horses to a post and rails and sitting on wooden tables and benches thoughtfully provided for picnickers. After lunch we 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.

Day 3

After breakfast, the horses are loaded into the horse box and riders are transported by car on the scenic 20-minute trip to Montefalco, the wine-making centre of Italy , with its medieval rampart walls and Romanesque churches. We tack up quickly and begin our ride along wide paths through olive groves and vineyards, with beautiful views whichever way you turn and opportunities for some trots and canters along the way. After a couple of hours in the saddle, it will be time for a welcome break, and we stop at our first winery – cantina in Italian – for a short tour and a tasting, perhaps starting with some bubbly spumante or a glass of locally produced white Grechetto or Trebbiano. Lunch will be served, based on local products, before we head off towards Bevagna, which beckons across the hills in the distance. Originally an Etruscan settlement, this small stone-walled town subsequently became a Roman municipium, called Mevania and mentioned by Pliny, before being incorporated into the Duchy of Spoleto, and later, the papal states. Our next stop will be at a cantina that specialises in the rich red wines for which this area has become justly famous – Montefalco Rosso DOC e Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – and there will be a chance to try them both, as well as to see how they are made and aged in oaken vats. From there, in the early evening, we will ride along more gentle trails through vineyards and back to the waiting horsebox, to untack and load the horses, before a shower and dinner at La Somma.

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Dates 2017

July 18-22

September 13-17*

*This Short Break with wine tasting coincides with the colourful Montefalco wine festival Enologica, dedicated to wine production in Umbria and offering an opportunity to taste a wide range of local wines in the setting of this beautiful hilltown. The programme is the same as the July one, but with one wine tasting during the day ride. In early evening, after the horses have left in the horsebox, guests will be taken to Montefalco to attend the wine festival. Wine tasting is available at various venues in the town (one-off fee for limitless tasting about €10, at clients’ own expense), as are visits to see the lovely 15rth century frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli in the Church of San Francesco, depicting episodes from the life of St Francis of Assisi. Dinner (included) will be in a traditional trattoria in Montefalco, before cars drive guests back to La Somma and overnight.

Price 2017

€690

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