|Photo of Il Paretaio from TripAdvisor website.|
Many moons ago, my friend and I planned a trip to Italy. We mapped out Bed and Breakfast inns in Rome, Venice, Florence and Tuscany, in hope that we’d have a more authentic, local experience. We chose Tuscany because Karen Brown recommended Il Paretaio as a relaxing choice that also offered one of the top riding stables in Italy. We thought it would be neat to go horseback riding, as well as visit beautiful countryside.
Preparation for our trip included us taking English riding lessons at a stable near Elizabeth, Colo. We learned how to saddle up the horses, ride them (posting with our legs and knees) and groom them after the ride. Riding English style was very different than Western riding. It required using muscles I didn’t even know I had and a teeny, tiny saddle.
We corresponded with the Tuscan B&B by fax, creating an order form in Italian that included our days of travel, questions, etc. We began to correspond with Cristina de Marchi, who with her husband Giovanni, owned and operated the inn and riding stables. During one phone conversation, Cristina asked if we would be bringing a car. Yes, we’d be renting a car. She got quiet. She then cautioned us on the quality of the rock road, saying that it was sometimes hard to drive on and that it could cause damage to the vehicle. We did rent a tiny European car and had loads of fun bouncing around with our luggage, going from the house to the main road and beyond.
Il Paretaio has been a successful B&B and riding stable since 1986. It is located in Barberino Val d’ Elsa, Italy. Our goal was to stay several days at the inn and then proceed to Venice. We ended up having such an enjoyable time during our stay that we never made it to Venice.
We did ride horses while we were there. First, we had a riding lesson included in our stay. Then, my friend Lilly did the entire ride. I rode partway down the road and my horse got spooked by something along the road and wanted to return to the stable. I did get to visit the rest of the horses in the barn and got to hike among the hills around the house. How can one complain about being in Italy?
We got wonderful day-trip recommendations from our hosts.We visited the medieval castle at Certaldo and the towers of San Gimignano. We also visited a neighborhood antique store that had the most amazing wood furniture and hand-painted dishes.
We had pasta and fish for dinner and red house wine. Wherever we dined in Italy, a pitcher of red house wine was put on the table even before our hosts took our order or the first course was served. It was as plentiful as water was in the States.
In looking up current information on Il Paretaio, I found out that there is a Creative Writing Workshop, held by Dr. J. Ballam, head of the Creative Writing Undergraduate Program from Oxford University, Sept. 28 to Oct. 5, 2013. What a wonderful writer’s retreat. I think I’m do for a vacation…