As soon as I knew Rome was on the itinerary, I looked for and booked a horseback ride.
I looked forward to my Roman trail ride for months. When the day came, however, I waited at the train station for several hours. The first company (which I won’t mention) never showed up to take me to the stables.
So I sent an emergency message to Riding Ancient Rome. They were kind enough to fit me into a private trail ride the next day and were very responsive over email. I sighed in relief… I wouldn’t have to go home with a vacation regret!
Getting To Riding Ancient Rome
It was a long few bus rides from the center of Rome, but not difficult.
I accidentally went one bus stop too far – so make sure you don’t start daydreaming when you’re almost there. They have a parking lot and suggest using a taxi… But I just took bus 118 from Appia/villa Dei Quintili until the Appia Pignatelli/Almone stop. It was about a two-minute walk from there.
The Stable & Courtyard
I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right place when I found the gate, but a friendly woman was also walking up the driveway.
“Scusa, cerco per il maneggio?” I asked. “Per cavalli?” I was sure people around here were used to being asked which way the horses were.
“Cavalli? Horses?” She asked me back. I nodded.
“Si!” And so she waved me through. I walked through the smaller gate into the courtyard and immediately felt at home. I know the sights, smells, and sounds of a barn when I get there. A man, who happened to be the main trail guide, Sandro, was tacking up a beautiful bay mare. I confirmed my identity and riding skill level, he pointed me toward the helmets, and asked me the question I’d been hoping for:
“You speak Italian?”
“Si. Piu o meno.” I still feel the need to clarify that I wasn’t fluent. But, after that, he shrugged and gave all directions in very simple Italian. Including asking about my stirrup length and telling me to walk my mount around the courtyard while he got himself tacked up and mounted.
The Trail – Appia Antica
It took a few minutes to get out to l’Appia Antica. We passed a few gated properties and businesses, with Sandro waving at people he obviously rode past frequently. But as soon as the street opened up to a quiet cobblestone lane I knew this was going to be the best money I had spent in Italy. Or maybe ever.
After 4-5 days in the busy city centre of Rome, hearing the birds, the breeze, and not much else was so relaxing. Sandro would point out different statues, mausoleums, and tombstones as we went, talking about the families who placed them there.
Did you know that the carved faces in the tombstones used to be painted? It makes sense, but I’ve never really thought about how statues or tombstones have changed through the ages.
Did you know a few people still live off the Appian Way? I didn’t. If you peek past tall gates and hedges, though, you can see some beautiful estates.
Our ride took us off the beaten path as well. We made our way into part of the untamed Appian park and waded through knee-high-on-horseback grasses and wildflowers. A highlight was trotting through a field overgrown with poppies and cantering up a hill that overlooked the whole park.
At one point, Sandro took his knife off his belt and used it as a machete to cut our way through some overgrown trees. This was officially the most badass trail ride of my life.
Sandro told me that we were in the largest city centre park in all of Europe. I can believe it – I thought Hyde Park was huge, but it was nowhere near this scale! On our walk back we saw more wildlife – colorful birds, a few cats, and even a very large and very colorful pheasant. I was just a bit sad when we rounded the corner and saw the front gate of the stable again.
However, I think Sandro had really warmed up to me and my slow Italian by the end. As I was leaving, I got a firm handshake and a “molto piacere.”
(Translated: Very nice to meet you.)
All in all – one of the best things I’ve ever done in Rome.