Ok, so this is the story I REALLY wanted to tell. The one about how I got to Spoleto, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to ride but that I could borrow some old bike and pedal around picturesque villages, drink espresso and wine and eat cheese, just to realize that I was stuck at a mountain with no escape and that I would go mental if I couldn’t ride, and that I just had to ride, and that THAT was the best thing that ever happened to me, so good that I I decided to throw my crutches in the bin and leave them there (breath pause).
So Centro Ippico La Somma…. What a place, what a family! The farm is run by two families; Giancarlo and Clara, and their daughters Valentina and Cristina, and Giuliana and Agostino (brother of Giancarlo) and their sons, Andrea and Lorenzo. The centre is located on a small mountain about 15 minutes outside Spoleto in Umbria. As almost everywhere else in Italy, the Umbrian landscape is mountainous, almost surrealistically pretty and practically littered with extremely picturesque villages. It is well worth a visit (even Hannibal came by with his elephants once upon a time).
We arrived in Spoleto one and a half hour before Cristina and Giancarlo was scheduled to pick us up, so we took the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere and have some lunch in the olive grove outside the train station. It was very satisfactory: the mountain breeze was nice and chilly, my beer suitably washy and my panino filled with delicious prosciutto and mozarella. Next to us, a group of men with beautiful mustaches playing card games and under our table, skinny cats in the await for leftover crumbles.
Cristina and Giancarlo came to pick us up just as we stuffed our mouths with the last pieces of panini (nothing were left over for the cats), and drove up into the mountains in full “Schumi” mode. As we got higher, the road got narrower and narrower, and steeper and steeper. Well up on the ranch, I realized that there was no way in hell that I was going to pedal around sweet villages and drink wine. With my legs, I would never be able to get up that road again if I went down it. I was in dear need of horse power..
Luckily, horse power is something that Centro Ippicko La Somma has in plenty. Beautiful, strong horse power. My sisters fell instantly in love with their hoof footed friends.
And all of the hoof-footed ones fell instantly in love with my dad. But then again, who wouldn’t?
For me, it took way more than 30 seconds to fall in love (with the horses). I have way to much respect for horses’ muscle to brain ratio. Or at least their muscle to my brain ratio.
The first half day in the paddock showed (with painful clarity) that 1) My dad and sisters are awesome at riding horses,
and 2) that I am not. Ever since I stopped riding on a regular basis (in 5th grade), I have only ridden tour horses that doesn’t want to do anything but follow the pack. Arab full bloods are a bit different. I had to work my ass off, and I was pretty much willing to cut both my feet and my head off after 30 minutes in the paddock.
But then Agustino came strolling into the paddock, smiling gently underneath his cowboy hat and giving me thumbs up. “Perfetto!”
I at once felt much better. After eating a proper Italian lunch (three dishes, of course my horse) cooked by Carla and Giuliana, and tasted some of the local wine (and limoncello), I felt even better. Perhaps I could ride after all? I decided to start of gentle and go with the slow group (just walk and trot) during the afternoon ride tour.
I was assigned the brown beauty “Innocente”. Well up on the horse, I at first felt kind of insecure again, but I soon convinced myself that I and Innocente had some special bond and understood each other completely (yes, I am 11 and dream of horses each night). I spoke to him is soft Italian (complete nonsense of course) and felt how he responded immediately (well trained horse for stupid tourists). My confidence grew substantially. Agostino, who was the lead guide of our group changed that growth from substantial to exponential. “Andrea! Tomorrow, you should ride in the fast group!” (but in Italian, so at least I THINK that was what he said. All I really got was his enthusiasm and the word “Galoppina!!!”).
I of course couldn’t resist that. Good decision! Galopping on narrow trails, ducking for branches in the mountains in Umbria on the back of a full blood horse, is heaven. Pure heaven. It made me experience my first high since the accident. I cried and laughed at the same time. The JOY!!! Imagine not having legs and going mental from not being able to ride your bike down mountains, and then all of a sudden someone giving you those legs – only that the legs are way stronger than you will ever be. JOY is just the foreword. Plenty enough to throw away your crutches and embrace life.
Add to that magnificent company from sisters, daddio, fellow riders and the phenomenal ultra spectacular family of Bevilacqua, and of course their food, and wine, and Limoncello! I don’t think any of us wanted to leave, ever (well, perhaps we needed a resting day or two to heal our buttocks, but still).
A few nights after I came back to Sweden, I and Martin watched the world cup in Downhill. Stevie Smith competed for the first time since he broke his ankle 4 months ago. He did a completely amazing run and ended 5th. I immediately decided to get my sorry ass up on my bike and into the woods. And so I did. Magnificent. No, it was more that magnificent. It was out of this world, even though it was a very flat single track, it was non-wordly (I was so happy that I had to write Stevie Smith and thank him. And guess what? He responded! What a guy!).
It will probably take quite some time until I ride rocky trails on a regular basis, but still – PROGRESS!! Damnit, how much I needed this!
I have said it before, and I will with out a doubt say it again, WOOOO- fuckingly- DOOO!
THANK YOU DAD, MOM, LINA, KARIN, CRISTINA, AGOSTINO, VALENTINA, LORENZO, GIULIANA, CLARA, GIANCARLO, ANDREA, STEVIE SMITH and of course Martin who’s always there and who accompanied my on my virgin bike tour of the year, the most imporant one so far.