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Episode #057: Tuscany’s Chianti region with Arianna Cini

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This week, we head to Tuscany’s beautiful Chianti region. This small but perfectly formed region, just south of Florence, is famous for its wine (which is worth the notoriety) but has so much more to offer, including a stunning landscape of sweeping hills, topped by charming, medieval towns with welcoming people and an abundance of delicious local produce.

Show notes

In this episode, we talk to local Arianne Cini, who runs a slow travel tour company along with her husband Alessio. Her passion for the Chianti produce and the connection with, not only the producers, but the environment and seasons comes bursting through as we discuss all the beautiful things you can experience and of course the wonderful wine and food the region has to offer. Its proximity to Florence means it’s easy to visit, be it on a day-trip or for a longer, more laid-back stay to totally slow down your pace, relax and soak up the stunning views (ideally with a glass of local wine!)

What you’ll learn this episode

  1. What you do, see, eat and experience in Chianti, is all based around the seasons
  2. If your time is limited, being so close to Florence means it’s easy to do a day-trip out to experience the Chianti countryside
  3. Alongside wine, Chianti is a huge producer of olive oil and the harvest is the last big event and celebration at the end of the farming year
  4. Other locally grown produce includes wheat, grains, truffles, saffron, pecorino and goats cheeses and are often celebrated in the ‘sagre’ – the food festivals
  5. In winter, chestnuts are used in everything from pasta to local speciality cake Castagnaccio
  6. At Badia a Passignano, a monastery from the 13th century, surrounded by vineyards and with working medieval kitchens, you can do a tour given by a monk
  7. Hilltop medieval towns and villages such as Certaldo, Greve in Chianti and Panzano in Chianti and tiny Montefioralle are like walking through a fairytale
  8. At a medieval festival, you’ll be eating and drinking from pottery vessels with wooden spoons, paid for with medieval coins
  9. At night time, the Cinghiale (wild boar) come out and if you’re lucky you can see one on your drive home from a lovely Chianti dinner (quite possibly of the local Cinghiale parpadelle)
  10. Tuscany has produced some of the world’s most renowned artists, scientists and writers, not least Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo
    and Galileo Galilei
  11. The famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine Steak) made only from the gorgeous, white chiannina cows found in Val di Chiana can only be served rare for the true, melt in your mouth experience
  12. Thanks to Tuscany being the birthplace of Dante Alighieri, the creator of vulgari, the written word of what has become the standard Italian language, they do not have a different dialect in Tuscany, as per most of Italy, but they do have a rather interesting accent!

About our guest – Arianna Cini

Meet Arianna & Alessio, the faces and souls behind KM Zero Tours:

Arianna was born and raised in the Chianti region of Tuscany, and is deeply connected and passionate about her beautiful countryside, its people, and its traditions. She studied abroad in Russia and Australia, and graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in Foreign Languages and Literature. In addition to Italian, Arianna speaks fluent English and Russian.

Arianna is a qualified tour guide and began her career working in international business, including wine exporting. In 2014 she and her partner Alessio Di Genova (from Abruzzo region) started KM Zero Tours – Slow Travel Tuscany, an innovative boutique travel business focused on creating slow and cultural travel experiences aimed at discovering Tuscany from a deeper, authentic and personal perspective.

Alessio, Arianna’s husband and partner of KM Zero Tours, is a qualified sommelier and he graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in Agricultural, Food and Agri-environmental Sciences. After having spent 6 years working as a pastry chef in Bologna he also graduated as an official Sommelier at AIS (Association Italian Sommelier). He was born in Abruzzo but he now lives together with Arianna in San Casciano, a hilltop Chianti town.

They both can’t wait to welcome you in their home in Chianti, and to introduce you to their best friends and favourite places there. Andiamo!

Find out more about Arianna and Allessio’s gift boxes to keep the dream of Chianti, Tuscany and Italy alive (and tasting good) while you can’t visit.

You can find Arianna on these channels:

Places to visit mentioned in the show

  • Mercatale in Val di Pesa – Arianne’s home village, where even the local Coop Supermarket has an underground wine cellar
  • Montefioralle – a village located between Florence and Siena.
  • Certaldo – this hilltop town, with winding medieval streets, has spectacular views all around of Tuscany and the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, an Italian writer and poet from the 1300s
  • Badia a Passignano – one of the most ancient areas in the Chianti Classico region, with an Abbey and vineyards with medieval cellars
  • Greve in Chiantia hub of the local wine industry
  • Panzano in Chianti – with an interesting history and holding some great local festivals and wine tastings
  • Macelleria Cecchini – a famous butchers shop in Panzano run by the world-renowned Dario Checcini
  • Cecina – a town on The Etruscan Coast
  • Chianti Classico – this small region produces perhaps one of the best-known and appreciated wines: the Chianti Classico Wine which has been produced in this area for over 2000 years
  • Colle di Val d’Elsa – a town in the province of Siena known for producing crystal glass, with a monthly market and glass making show
  • Monteriggioni – a walled town, known for its medieval fortifications and watchtowers

Chianti food

  • Ribolitta – a hearty Tuscan bread and vegetable soup, including locally grown cavalo nero (black kale)
  • Castagne – chestnuts
  • Castagnaccio – a chestnut flour cake
  • Cinghiale – wild boar
  • Porcini – a delicious type of mushroom
  • Bistecca alla fiorentina  – chiannina cows from the Val di Chiana
  • Bischeri“Torta coi bischeri” is a typical dessert made in Pisa since the1200s, made of rice and chocolate and enriched by raisins, candied fruit and pine nuts.

Resources

  • Sagre – is a local food festival in Italy
  • Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) – is a long Italian narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, the famous Italian poet, writer and philosopher, usually known simply as Dante
  • Terroir – a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop’s specific growth habitat
  • Fleur de lys – a lily, which Florence is named after
  • The Scoppio del Carro – the Explosion of the Cart is a fiesta/procession held in Florence at Easter
  • Allora” – a filler word meaning, Well, Then, So, Come on, and So What
  • Under the Tuscan Sun – by Francis Mayes

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.

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