The idea of horseback riding in Lucca was planted in my head as soon as I finished listening to my Sister’s plan to bring my youngest niece for a surprise visit in Tuscany. 11 year old Ms. A is just as horse crazy as I was at that age, and I couldn’t think of anything she would like better (AND that would boost me into the coveted “favorite” Aunt category) than a ride on a horse.
Since I was picking them up at Galileo Galilei in Pisa, one of Tuscany’s primary airports, I thought the best way to recuperate from being cramped in an airplane would be galloping along a tree lined road in the nearby countryside. Ok, trotting would be more believable…and yes, walking more likely.
What to consider:
We loved: for the amount of time we actually spent on the horse (a full 2 hours) I felt that the price was reasonable, I appreciated that both the guides and horses were calm even when facing traffic and unseasoned riders. And there is no denying that Lucca and the surrounding area are beautiful
Not so much: I would have preferred a little more info about the area while on the trail (even if I was concentrating quite a bit on recuperating my long lost riding skills), I also would have preferred that we didn’t have to ride single file but, I realize that on the road this was necessary for safety reasons
No horsing around when choosing the right guide
My search brought up 4 interesting choices-this was after slimming down those which hadn’t been updated since 2010 and those with error pages as well as no price lists. I fired off emails with dates, a request of availability and a confirmation of price for two hours (which I calculate to be the maximum time that my gluteus maximus would be able to withstand.)
I got one (1) reply. You’re right, I was surprised. I was actually anticipating that I would need to call them for answers because many places are not…shall I say…techno savvy. They have the website, but haven’t yet figured out that you actually need to answer the emails in order to get the business. Good to remember, if you are looking for info and not getting a reply, you can call. And believe it or not, my experience is that, though the Italians may be slow on the uptake with emails, many of them speak very good English and many times another language (German & French). So out of 4, I got 1 ... not great odds, but I only needed one place to go riding. The replying ranch was quick with a confirmation including directions, local phone number of the guide and prices. I appreciated that the email was in understandable English and it didn’t appear to be a standard form letter not to mention that they answered my subsequent emails with the same speed and always with complete responses.
On the day of our reservation, I picked up the happy duo at the airport and explained to my niece I had a “business appointment.” She was cool with that (of course, she had her iPad to disctract her…) As we got close to the final destination, my sister and I watched her face. The confusion grew as big as her eyes. “What kind of business appointment is this?,” her soft voice was tinted with excitement; calm, cautious and contagious.
The meeting point was fairly easy to find-with the GPS. I believe they meant well with their directions, however I don’t think I would have gotten half as close without the navigator. There was plenty of parking, the area was well tended and the horses were sheltered from the springtime sun…and calm, very calm. The owner explained they get quite a bit of business in the summer but, the comfortable temps in spring and fall are really the best times to go especially because annoying bugs (for both the horses and riders) were normally at a minimum.
When traveling with kids, think safety
Once we were suited with helmets and Ms. A with a riding vest, we were given thorough instructions, introduced to our mounts and encouraged to mount up. My “normally timid and reserved with strangers” niece was looking down from the top of her mount before my sister and I had time to size up our horses. I will admit, these were not your romantic thoroughbreds, they are probably pint size in comparison to most horses but they were gentle and appeared to understand English as well as Italian.
Gotta love a bilingual horse!
I did appreciate the fact that they were very attentive to fitting the helmet and vest. I found out (after the fact) that children under 14 years old are not permitted by law to ride a horse outside of private property - which includes crossing roads to go to an adjoining private property – even if they are accompanied by their parents or adults. You might want to keep this in mind and ask the guide about the trail you will be following. Also note that Italian law does not specify what protective clothing (if any) is required, so if it is important to you then you should ask if they are equipped to outfit all ages at the time of reserving, this way they can be prepared for everyone.
The secret is in the name
I had selected the “La Strada del Vino” Tour because it evoked images of visiting the vineyards of Lucca and admiring the scenery. What I failed to notice was that La Strada del Vino was not the name of the tour but rather the nickname of the road that we were to be following. As you tour Italy, you will notice that there are several regions which have designated "wine roads," where one can appreciate the vineyards at several panoramic stops. Once we saw we were heading towards the "trail" we asked our guide (and had his assurance) that we were not going to be on the road . . . much.
Much is a word that will always be held to various interpretations. However, the “trail” appeared to be a bit more “roadside” as opposed to “countryside.” Without a doubt, the time off the asphalt was much more enjoyable. It didn't take long to figure out why we had a steady mix of trails after just a few minutes into our first “off road” experience. I discovered that both Paco and I (that would be my horse) had something in common; we both enjoyed the landscape.
Except I loved looking at it and he enjoyed … eating it!
What intelligent wine producer would invite a 4-legged menace to eat the profits!
We all agreed that 2 hours for the semi-beginners (which two thirds of us were) was more than sufficient. Young enthusiasm aside, the adults after two hours were ready to un-saddle. The ride was pleasant, but Paco seemed to get hungrier and hungrier as we approached the end of the tour. I could tell without even asking, Ms. A was completely charmed – she didn’t care about the scenery or if we were on road/off road, her gluteus m. took the ware and tear just fine and she seemed to have created an excellent rapport with both the guide and the horse. I think the only thing that could have made her trip better is if she could have taken her horse home with her.
All in all I believed I earned my “favorite” Aunt badge, at least for the duration of this trip!
Lucca Horse Riding
Mobile +39 346 699 2025