Thursday, December 1, 2016

Riding Sicily: An interview with Monica Bonaccorso

Riding Sicily
An interview with Monica Bonaccorso
As seen in the November 2016 issue of Florida Equine Athlete

There are people who travel the world seeking the best horseback riding vacations. With so many riding vacation spots to choose from, deciding which trail to take requires thorough research, a keen eye, and a little tourist knowhow. You don’t have to be an expert rider; all you need is the desire to experience the beauty of the world on horseback.

One of the most popular horseback riding vacations is Sicily Horse Riding (SHR) in the Catania Area, Sicily, Italy. Monica Bonaccorso, an experienced equestrian and the marketing director for SHR, talks about scheduling a tour, Italy’s indigenous horses, and the volcanic terrain. Monica explains, “The mission of SHR is to promote sustainable and responsible equestrian tourism in the beautiful National Parks of Sicily (Italy). Our intent is to revalue the soundless paths, the ancient woodlands and the timeless scenery to create a touch of the past, that doesn't belong to us anymore. The riders enjoy on horseback the magical atmosphere of the unspoiled countryside of Sicily.”

Welcome, Monica!

GM: What is the best way to schedule a SHR tour on horseback?
MB: The best way to schedule a tour on horseback is first to consider your riding ability and then decide which kind of experience do you want to make, like volcano site, National Parks adventure, or simply a short trail to have a first impression of the island.

GM: Volcano site! A rugged terrain requiring athletic horses. What horses do you stable?
MB: Our horses are Sicilian - indigenous horses and mixed breed. We stable horses both for trails and for show jumping.

GM: Your horses are beautiful. Will you choose a horse for me, or will I be able to choose a horse on my own?
MB: Before every riding excursion and trail we ask for your riding ability, so we can choose a suitable horse for you. But if you have preferences we will consider them. 

GM: With so many riding trails to choose, I could spend days at SHR! Describe one of your favorite riding spots and why it is your favorite...
MB: Well, it’s difficult to choose a favorite riding spot, because Sicily is a varied landscape that has a breathtaking beauty of nature. The country is well endowed by nature and the country has huge variety of historical and anthropological treasures. I want to mention two favorites spots, one is the Cefalù – Etna and the other one Majestic Etna. Let me explain the particularities…

Cefalù – Etna, this beautiful trail is a paradise for riders and nature lovers to discover on the back of beloved horses the variety of four Sicilian parks: starting from the Madonie Mountain, also called the “Dolomite of Sicily” formed by carbonate limestones up to the Nebrodi Park with dense woodland passing through the Alcantara Valley with its spectacular basaltic stones to reach the highest active volcano in Europe, the Mount Etna.

Majestic Etna, this is a wonderful trail for riders who wish to admire the rough nature and the stunning landscapes in the Etna area. You will ride from north to south (approximately 2000 a.s.l.) through woodland and lava deserts, extinct crater and lava caves and you will enjoy the beautiful view over the landscapes on the highest and active volcano in Europe.

GM: Wow! Riding through ancient relics and volcanic territory sounds intriguing. When is the best time to schedule a Sicily riding vacation?
MB: We suggest always to make a riding vacation in Sicily from April to July and September until November.

GM: Traveling from the USA to Italy, I am sure the climate is variable. Packing light, I would want to make sure I have the correct riding gear. What should I bring?
MB: We suggest for long trails to bring 2-3 horse trousers and shirts for every day, perhaps a rain jacket, meanwhile for excursion comfortable shoes and long trousers are appropriate.  If you prefer also your own chaps and helmet. At least good mood and spirit of adventure!

GM: With a lot of tourists frequenting your riding camp, you see many different types of riders – from novice to expert. Do you have advice for novice riders and those who have never been on a horseback riding vacation before?
MB: Of course, everybody can book an excursion. For novice and beginners, we have excursion of one hour in the woodland on the slope of the volcano Etna. But if you decide to book an excursion of three hours or more, we suggest to take a few hours of lesson to get in confidence with the horses. Our equestrian guides have over 30 years experience and so they can suggest the right solution for your adventure.

GM: Riding Sicily sounds wonderful, Monica. I hope to book a trip to ride your amazing landscape someday soon. Thanks for telling us about your beautiful horseback riding adventures around the volcanic slopes. As a seasoned equestrian, what does horsemanship mean to you?
MB: The communication, confidence, balance, and harmony between horse and rider. 

Connect with Monica Bonaccorso

Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio USA

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