Castles and monasteries on horseback

One of the highlights of a horse riding week in this area is that the surrounding Tuscan hills are full of ancient castles and monastic ruins.
This week we visited the impressive San Vivaldo Monastery – one of the best preserved monasteries and grounds of the 14th century that still has monks living onsite.  On another horseback trail we explored the ruins of a medieval settlement hidden in the woods.

The horseback trail to San Vivaldo convent takes 6 hours. This special ‘sacred hill’ and monastery was built when the ottoman empires expansion made long pilgrimages to Jerusalem dangerous to Christians. It was considered the Italian Jerusalem, and has a series of pretty chapels that can be visited during the weekend.

One of the monks here is a lovely man, and always tells me interesting stories about the area in the past. On this particular ride he looked over smiling at our two cheeky fjord horses, and said he loved horses (and all animals) but was a little scared of them. Then he told us how as a child he had gone with the priest in horse and cart to make visits all over … but that it was the priest who dealt with the horses.

Last week we had two journalists from Colorado here for an equestrian  magazine in the US. Luckily the weather was great during their stay (apart from one day of torrential storms… where fortunately they had opted for a day in Florence).  It was very sad saying goodbye to them both last Sunday, but I hope we will see them both again in the future!

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