In May of 2013 I was in Napoli, Italia for the first time. There was an excursion that was listed up on the hostel board at Hostel of the Sun. It was to go horseback riding up Mt. Vesuvius. At the time in 2013 I had never been on a horse before and I also didn’t have health insurance. I really wanted to do it, but felt it was best to stay safe.
Fast forward to 2015. I now have insurance (Thanks SAG-AFTRA, Thanks Sisters! ) and I’m headed back to Italy. Napoli was a little out of the way for what I had wanted to do, however I couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunity to ride a horse up Mt. Vesuvius. And so I went back to Napoli and back to the Hostel of the Sun.
I signed up for the tour and anxiously awaited my pick up. When the driver came he was in a 4 door sedan and I wasn’t quite sure what to think. But it was set up by my hostel, so it must be legit right? I threw caution to the wind and got in.
We drove outside the city of Napoli and made our way to the stables of Vesuvius Horseback Riding Tour. When I got there I was introduced to everyone that was working on site that day. I was offered coffee and water while they introduced me to my horse.
I still had never been on a horse before in my entire life, but having health insurance I decided as the kids say, YOLO (I really hate that term). I got on up and they briefly explained about kicking into the side of the horse with my heel, pulling the reins up, or down, how tightly to hold them, pulling them left or right and then we were on our way.
My guide (a different person from my driver), who spoke with what sounded like a Southern American accent but was Italian, the one other girl on the tour, and myself took a street road to get to the trail and then began our ascent up the volcano. Upon entering the woods the temperature dropped significantly. I was glad I had decided to wear pants (if you count yoga “pants” as pants.).
I soon realized it was good I worse pants for another reason, the trail at points became very narrow and having the brush rub against my bare leg would have been painful. The horses were all well trained and were easily led up the trail by a beginner like myself. I felt bad kicking my heel into her side, because I personally would not enjoy being kicked into the side, but a couple times I began to fall behind and my guide said I needed to kick her, so I did. I still feel bad about it. Sorry Lady! (That’s her name)
Napoli is a loud and crazy city with what seems like no traffic rules. If they have them, I don’t understand them. It’s like Time Square in New York but without the rules. So to be in the woods on the side of a volcano was a welcome change. Don’t get me wrong I love Napoli (my father’s ancestry traces back to there) but I also love New York City and need a break from there too. It was quiet and peaceful with nothing more than the sound of the horses hooves hitting the earth below me. The earth. It was nice to have the earth around me than a concrete jungle that’s been built on top of the earth taking away from it’s natural beauty and splendor.
Once we got up to the clearing (on a horseback riding trip you climb about halfway up Mt. Vesuvius, if you want to go all the way you need to go on foot.) we tied the horses up and dismounted for a bit. It was nice to walk around and get my feet back under me for a little bit. The guide also took some photos for us with Napoli in the background both on foot and on horseback.
Then before I knew it we were climbing back up on our respective horses and heading back down the trail. Heading down was a little scary to someone inexperienced as myself, but Lady knew what she was doing and I had to put all my faith and trust in her. And she got us down safely.
Throughout the ride there were times when the route was flat enough and wide enough that my guide would tell us to go a bit faster. What I learned was that it was called cantering. Upon further investigation once home I learned that:
The canter is a controlled, three-beat gait performed by a horse. It is a natural gait possessed by all horses, faster than most horses’ trot but slower than the gallop, and is used by all riders. The speed of the canter varies between 16 and 27 km/h (10 and 17 mph), depending on the length of the stride of the horse. (Thank you Wikipedia.)
Not bad for a first timer on a horse eh? When I say first time, I mean first time. I never even rode one of those ponies at the county fair that’s tied to the ring and you all just go around in a circle that a lot of American kids do that the age of 5.
Once we returned they offered me a glass of wine which, when in Rome (okay, not quite in Rome, but I was in Italy), I of course enthusiastically accepted. I got to visit with some of the other horses in the stables including the very young ponies.
Afterwards I hopped back in the 4 door sedan with my driver and he drove me back to Napoli. It was by far one of my favorite experiences to date.