Who? Jess Moreton, Trekking Guide
Job? Owner of Chianti Trails
Where? Near Florence, Tuscany, Italy
A New Zealander who grew up in Australia, Jess first moved to Europe after graduating high school to work on a horse stud farm in Germany. The strict and controlled environment of the elite German warm blood dressage studs didn’t suit, and after saving for the train fare, Jess moved on to working as a groom for a busy classical dressage holiday riding farm near Siena for the winter season.
It was there Jess first met Paolo, now her husband, a trekking guide. After dating for 6 months, the couple split up and Jess moved back to New Zealand working as a flight attendant, finishing her BA in European Languages and moving to Perth to work as a software translator and quality analyst.
Five years later, realising the desk job wasn’t for her, Jess travelled back to Tuscany for a few months, reuniting with Paolo. It was then that the pair decided to start their own business together. It was a case of going into business for themselves or giving up the ‘horsey’ lifestyle. The 27-year old now runs Chianti Trails for ‘adventure riders’ who want to see Tuscany from the saddle.
What is your typical day like?
“We start around 7am feeding and finish around 8pm with feeding. We generally ride out at 9am at the latest. On our ‘centre-based’ week we ride and return to the stables daily, while on our treks we are away for up to five days. On these rides I generally follow the horses and riders in the truck, preparing picnics and transporting bags and feed to each night’s accommodation.”
What makes it all worth it?
“Riding through one of the world’s most beautiful areas on a daily basis and meeting people from all over the world!”
Best part of the job?
“I love the fact that I am outside 24/7 and that every day is different. I found myself constantly bored in office or retail jobs, and here I am constantly stimulated with new challenges or tasks, be they horse related, or human-related. I love the freedom that having your own business offers.”
Worst part of the job?
“All the driving after rides! It can become tedious on 30C afternoons. We work long, long hours – have huge outgoing expenses and little time to spend with family and friends.
I also dislike the huge amount of office work that I never have time for. I have always hated being confined behind a desk, and this is only amplified when outside there are horses, sunshine and a swimming pool beckoning.”
If you had to choose another career what would it be?
“I would love to train and breed horses without having to worry about economics. I, personally, adore Lipizzaner horses and I would love to start breeding our own young stock. Perhaps one day?”
What do you miss from home?
“My family, New Zealand’s relaxed way of life, and Fejoa juice with brunch on Sunday!”
How does the riding experience differ in Italy from NZ or Australia?
“In NZ and Australia horse riding is much more affordable than in Europe, but the riding is better here! In NZ you need to ask permission when you cross private land whereas in Italy, if the land isn’t fenced, and you are not stopping, you can access pretty much anywhere! We have access to 36 000 hectares of national park land, and 700 hectares of private estate land. We can ride pretty much anywhere, be it vineyards or wild wolf country .The terrain is varied, the architechture is so full of history, and the wildlife is so diverse. Here in Tuscany we have wolves, foxes, porcupines, badgers, boars and eagles in the area that we ride through. And riding through a church that was used by templar knights, or through a monastery founded in 1200 is always pretty special!”
What is your favourite thing about living in Italy?
“The food and the history. There is still so much to see. My favourite place so far is the Amalfi coast for holidays!”
Any insider tips?
“Try to visit the small towns and the countryside, be it by horse, by mountain bike or by foot. Don’t miss Aquacheta: the waterfall that inspired Dante’s”inferno" in the Divine Comedy, located in a national park in the Mugello. It’s fabulous to visit by foot or horseback, and completely untouched by tourism!!"
“We are hoping to move into even longer (two week) specialist adventure treks from Florence to Siena twice a year. We have an exciting new trail in the Mugello, following the traces of the Medici dynasty for 2010. We are also planning long weekend ‘Clinics’ specialising on Trail and Adventure riding including map reading, training of the trail horse etc.