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Rendola Riding has prepared a new riding program week specially tailored for riders who are also art lovers. Jenny is not an art historian but you don't have to be one to be passionate about medieval and early Renaissance frescoes, and she is happy to transmit her enthusiasm to other art-lovers. This tour will bring you to many of the most famous frescoes of Tuscany!
Rendola Riding holiday center is not a luxurious villa nor a country house hotel, but a farmhouse which is a family home with an informal and friendly atmosphere. Jenny Bawtree, the founder of the riding-center, has lived there for many years, while her son Nicholas makes frequent visits, so the guests become their friends and often come back time and time again.
The house is at the center of a small organic farm with over three hundred olive-trees which supply all the extra-virgin olive oil used in the kitchen. Covered with wisteria, jasmine, and virginia creeper, it is very picturesque and has a wonderful view of the Arno valley and the mountain range beyond it. It has the characteristics typical of a seventeenth-century farmhouse (actually, parts of it may be older), with its small tower, arches, outside staircase and a balcony adorned with geraniums, while inside the floors are of terracotta and the ceilings have oak or chestnut beams.
Rendola Riding has six bedrooms for guests, each with its own bathroom. They are mostly on the small side, but cheerful and pretty, with pictures on the wall and a shelf full of books. In each bedroom, there is an album packed with photographs and information about local places of interest. In the evenings the guests can gather in the comfortable sitting room to read, chat, enjoy a glass of local wine and, when the weather is cool, enjoy the log fire.
If you wake up early in the morning and look out of the window, you will see horses grazing peacefully among the olives in front of the house. You will hear birdsong (in spring nightingales sing both night and day) and smell, the delicate perfume of wisteria and jasmine. It truly is a Tuscan paradise.
On Thursday night you will be accommodated to San Gimignano in a charming ‘residenza d’epoca’.
This is a new riding programme week specially tailored for riders who are also art lovers. Jenny is not an art historian but is passionate about medieval and early Renaissance frescoes and is happy to transmit her enthusiasm to other art-lovers. The tour includes many of the most famous frescoes of Tuscany.
The package does not include transport, lunch in Florence and San Gimignano, dinner, and night in San Gimignano, and entrance into museums and churches. This should cost about 250 EUR, to be paid on site.
Own arrangements to reach Florence main station (Firenze Santa Maria Novella). At 17.50 meet either Jenny Bawtree (middle-aged, white-haired) or her son Nicholas (tall, dark and handsome) outside the Feltrinelli bookshop and snack bar opposite platform 14. You will be accompanied on a forty-minute train ride to Montevarchi and then on a ten-minute drive to Rendola, the 400-year-old typically Tuscan home of your hosts. Settle in and then enjoy a chat and a glass of Chianti Classico wine. Dinner and night at Rendola.
Breakfast and morning ride (about two and a half hours) through vineyards, olive groves, and woodland, passing near an 11th-century tower and a 14th-century church. Return to Rendola for lunch. Jenny will then give you an introduction to the fresco, one of the main art forms of medieval Tuscany: its origins, techniques and its role on the road towards the Renaissance. Dinner at Rendola.
Breakfast and morning ride (about two hours) in the wooded hills north of Rendola, scattered with charming hamlets and traditional farmhouses. After lunch go to the ancient city of Arezzo and enjoy a guided visit to the fascinating, world-famous frescoes of Piero della Francesca of which your host has made a special study. Dinner at Rendola.
Breakfast and morning ride (about two hours), passing the hamlets of Loccano and Noferi with its views of the local ’smotte’ which inspired Leonardo da Vinci. After lunch a visit to Siena to have a look at the magnificent frescoes in the Town Hall. If desired, also a visit to the famed cathedral with its Renaissance frescoes in the Libreria Piccolomini. Dinner at Rendola.
A guided visit to Florence. Highlights of the day: the frescoes and altarpiece of Ghirlandaio in the church of Santa Trìnita, the frescoes of Giotto and his pupils in the Basilica of Santa Croce and finally a visit to Jenny’s favourite church, the Basilica of San Miniato on a hill overlooking the city, to see the frescoes of the 14th century artist from Arezzo, Spinello Aretino and other even earlier frescoes. Lunch in Florence, dinner at Rendola.
A two and a half hour ride passing the Pianacce and skirting the village of Caposelvi. After a light lunch, a short trip to Florence by train, a visit to the frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli in the Palazzo Medici-Ricciardi and then a train journey plus taxi ride to San Gimignano. to spend the night in a charming ‘residenza d’epoca’. A pizza supper at a local pizzeria where, according to Jenny, you will have the best pizza of your life!
A visit to the 14th-century frescoes in the Duomo, which must be at the same time the most charming, dramatic and even unconsciously humorous frescoes you will have seen this week. Then (optional) a visit to Le Cellole, an intact Romanesque church of great beauty to listen to sung prayers by the resident monks. A light lunch nearby in San Gimignano and thence to Florence and home for dinner and night at Rendola.
Breakfast and then a ten-minute journey to Montevarchi station to meet the train back to Florence or down to Rome. Own arrangements for your onward journey from Florence.
Jenny founded Rendola Riding in 1969 because she wanted to transmit to others her love of horses and the Tuscan countryside. She is very knowledgeable not only about its agriculture, flora and fauna but also about Tuscan art and architecture. She is the author of Pietro's Book, the story of a Tuscan peasant (published in 2003 by Constable), a Rendola cookbook and her autobiography, Tuscany on Horseback. In 2020 Terra Nuova Edizioni published her art and travel book Il Ciclo dei Mesi, da Aosta a Otranto alla scoperta di un tesoro dell’arte medievale italiana.
Eraldo Tuveri, your riding instructor and guide. Eraldo first came to work at Rendola in 1995 and then for ten years went to England, where he learnt to speak English fluently and qualified as a British Horse Society instructor. An accomplished horseman and a brilliant and much-loved teacher and guide, he has been back at Rendola since 2005 and is now in charge of the riding-centre. He is very knowledgeable about local fauna and he is happy to talk about it with the guests of the centre. He married pretty Martina four years ago and they now have two small children.
Jovial Franca was born in Sicily but came to live in Tuscany when she was a small child.From her mother she learnt how to prepare Sicilian dishes, but she is also expert in genuine Tuscan cuisine. She adores cooking and likes to give personal, innovative touches to traditional fare. She is happy to give cooking lessons on request.
At Rendola Riding you will enjoy delicious Tuscan cooking prepared usually by Franca but sometimes by Jenny. Here are just a few of the dishes, which cannot all be translated as there is no English equivalent:
Sometimes the hosts invite you to come with them to dine at 'L'Osteria di Rendola' a short walk from the farmhouse, a beautiful restaurant run by Franca, another Franca, but equally jovial!
Rendola Riding does serve meat and fish with most meals but usually, they follow a Mediterranean diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, so they can easily cater for vegetarians.
Please note that the train-travel in Italy is pleasant and is inexpensive as long as you avoid the Eurostar and Freccia Rossa trains. Jenny advises you not to travel first-class, which is double the price with no real advantage. Remember to stamp the date on your ticket before leaving the station (there are little machines for this purpose at the head of the platform).
The local station is Montevarchi-Terranuova. It is on the line between Florence and Arezzo and is only ten minutes from Rendola. All local and regional trains stop there, including trains traveling northwards from Rome. The journey from Florence central station (Firenze Santa Maria Novella Railway Station) takes 40 - 60 minutes, depending on the number of stops. Contact Jenny if you need up-to-date train schedule. The Rendola Riding Ranch minivan can pick you up at the back of the station (via Sugherella).
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