Sicilian Trails - Italy

Wild Sicily Trail

5 star rating   2 October 2021

Sophie (this is their first In The Saddle holiday) Quite an adventure | 'Wild Sicily' would be great for charities looking for a challenge ride, such as BHS or the Injured Jockeys Fund. Huge distances are covered each day with a range of forest and montane environments involving steep gradients. The guides take ancient tracks - which makes for both interest and safety - but there is not much soft going. Riders need to be fit, taking boots with thick rubber soles. The final day, riding up Mount Etna and around some of the lateral craters was a unique experience.

The guides, Alessandro and Lizzie, are charming and organised everything beautifully. They obviously have a deep love for trail riding and we felt confident that they had chosen the very best for us. I felt we were in safe hands and would be happy to recommend their trail rides to others.

I did not expect to encounter so many wild flowers in September. There was not much bird life in the mountains but we spotted griffon vultures and quite a few wild pigs. We were enchanted by herds of cattle, sheep and goats with traditional bells hanging around their necks and rode past a variety of traditional farms.

I found myself comparing this trip to riding in Georgia and Romania, countries which lack rural fences and so enable faster going, but don't offer such good food or accommodation. Our final day on Sicily, climbing Mt Etna and riding through vineyards into the historic town of Castiglione offered a world class climax that rivals other European rides.

The Riding

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How would you rate the overall standard of the horses, tack and stables?
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The Accommodation

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How would you rate the standard of the food?
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The food and guesthouse accommodation exceeded my expectations. A couple of the hotels were quite luxurious, and decorated to the highest standard. We had ensuite bathrooms with showers, rather than baths, but there was always plenty of hot wanter. I loved staying at Monte Colla, the traditional hunting lodge in the mountains, but be prepared for bathrooms that lack U bends to the showers!

It was very special to be treated to homegrown fruit and vegetables, cheeses and sausages. Every meal was superb and we were treated to utterly delicious local wines, which was very spoiling.

The Sicilians seem to like serving dinner with brighter than bright overhead lighting. I'm sure it breaks with cultural norms, but I would suggest candle-lit dinners with only side-lighting, especially on the first night. It would cost very little, be relaxing and bring people together, generating a memorable holiday atmosphere.

Before Your Holiday

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Plan and prepare for your holiday?
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Feel comfortable about your transfers and what to expect?
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How could we improve the quality of pre-holiday information that we send?

You could supply the best provider of PCR tests.
Ros Renwick's pharmacy near Tavistock were wonderful in organising ALPHA Laboratory PCR tests to be sent to our home addresses with the relevant paperwork: email:

Do you have any other feedback for us?

I would suggest shortening the route, if possible, and making it faster. We had a back-up guide with us, which was great, otherwise we would often have been waiting for gates to be closed.

When designing week-long rides, it is a good idea to give riders (and horses) a mid-week afternoon off, to enable guests to look around a site of cultural interest such as a castle or medieval town. I don't know if this could be worked into future schedules, perhaps on a different Sicilian ride.

A back-up guide provided excellent picnics on our ride. These were all held in good areas apart from Day 2, when we had sandwiches in a dilapidated National Park picnic site with piles of rubbish lying about. It offered shelter from the rain, but when that isn't needed, why not chose a site with a spectacular view instead? This isn't a complaint - just a suggestion to help improve the wilderness experience. If I was operating this ride, I would try to find a task-force of volunteers to help pick up litter from the entire route. I realise this would be a gargantuan task but it could be accomplished and would bring the operators satisfaction. They hate seeing the litter too