This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here
When visiting Tuscany, many people only get a small taste of the glorious towns and villages, the rolling hills, and the wonderful people that make this region so very special. But the Tuscan countryside is the ideal place for slow travel experiences, to go deeper into the Tuscany culture and way of life – one which mixes artisans, producers, the changing seasons, and human connections.
In this episode, we are joined by local Arianna Cini, who runs a slow travel tour company along with her husband Alessio. Their passion for the Chianti produce, the producers, and the connections to the environment and seasons shines through in everything they do and it is their dream to bring this beautiful lifestyle to the people of the world. Arianna shares the concept behind this kind of slow travel and the special kinds of experiences you can have in Tuscany – not just things to see and do, but experiences that ignite all your senses, hearing, tasting, touching, and feeling!
At Untold Italy tours, we are excited to be working with KM Zero tours on some unique small group tours in Tuscany. Find out more about joining us on tour in Tuscany for our Spring small group tour itinerary and our Autumn/Fall small group tour itinerary.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- Slow travel is a different type of experience to when you travel and go to museums and major sites. Those are of course incredible experiences, but this is a really different style of travel and builds a different kind of memory
- Arianna was born and raised in the Chianti region of Tuscany, halfway between Florence and Siena. Her father is from Florence and her mother is from Siena so she was born in the middle, keeping everyone happy!
- She and her husband Alessio have been building their project, KM Zero Tours – Slow Travel Tuscany, since 2014 when they first brainstormed ideas of the kinds of experiences to craft for travelers. Some people said that it didn’t matter – you’re in Tuscany and it sells itself, but they felt that there was so much more to say about their home, their friends, their land, and the cultures and traditions that are part of daily life. The things that you can’t find in guidebooks or on Google. It’s not quick information, but it’s a deeper kind of feeling and experience that you can only get only if you live somewhere or know somebody from there
- The name of the company came from KM, meaning kilometers, as is used in Italy. The concept of KM zero is the idea of zero distance between you the traveler and the farms and locals. It’s a movement similar to farm-to-table
- It’s about not just the quality but the seasonality of the produce, and gives value to the relationships. It’s meeting the farmers, interacting, touching the soil, and understanding why a given product is made in that specific place and at that specific time of year
- Listening to the stories gives a totally different meaning to that place and you then have these wonderful stories to tell you once you’re back home and will make you feel you have a place that you’ll want to return to again and again
- When you are a tourist, you’re basically seeing places/something beautiful in front of you. You may read something about it, but you’re not connected to it. Then you have the travelers who already have a deeper kind of approach to travel – wanting to understand more but then Arianna is trying to encourage their visitors on a deeper level – to become friends with them and with all of their friends. Not just to see things, but really to experience them and to look at them the same way that Arianna and Alessio look at them. That’s their dream
- Untold founder Katy Clarke had a particularly special experience when she met up with Arianna and her team last year. Not only did they spend a whole day exploring some of the most beautiful towns deep into the Chianti countryside, but knowing her love for baby goats, Arianna arranged for them to visit a goat’s cheese farm. This had so many levels to the experience, learning how the cheese is made, tasting the delicious cheese, meeting the wonderful family that makes it and of course, petting the baby goats
- Arianna was born in one of the most famous wine regions in the world and, of course, she appreciates this of course and shares this with her guests but she also wants to show that there’s more to Chianti than just wine
- They are very close to Florence, which is known for its fine art – in the smaller towns and villages you may not get the fine art but there are so many artisans that are making these little villages come alive. Traditions that go back centuries are part of the identity of these places
- Arianna tries to select different experiences according to the different seasons. In Spring, we go to a wonderful Iris farm. The irises bloom at the end of April/beginning of May, and they are beautiful, colorful fields of flowers. The farm they visit are artisans. She makes cosmetics out of them. It’s all organic, and they farm olives there as well
- Olive oil is another big thing in the area of course. It’s wonderful all year round, but it gets extra special in the fall, especially in October
- There are also cheese artisans – goat cheese and pecorino cheese are the two main kinds of cheese – they have no cow cheese in Tuscany. It’s another wonderful hands-on experience to visit these farms, see the animals, and understand how from the same milk, you can get a huge variety of different products. You then have this cheese plate with so many different kinds of cheese – you can taste and wonder how, starting from the same milk, you get all these different tastes, colors, and textures
- At elementary school, Arianna’s teacher used to call her prezzemolino. In Italian, this means ‘little parsley’ because she was everywhere! So she loves to explore the countryside and experience all it has to offer, especially all the festivals and outdoor events. There is music, street acts like flag wavers and drummers, and everything medieval style. Food and wine are of course always a major part and often they are food festivals at a particular time of year to celebrate a seasonal product. They’re rarely listed on Google or websites. The way to find out about these things if you’re not from there is first, you might get lucky and see a flyer when you’re there or even stumble upon one – or you need to know someone like Arianna
- There’s a real difference between the countryside to the city in terms of interactions with people. In the city when they close the doors of their home it tends to shut the city out so they do that each day but when they want to do anything there is lots of things going on. In the countryside in the wintertime, it’s colder, it gets dark early, and that’s when people tend to retreat into their homes and not see many people or do much but then come the spring as it gets warmer and lighter everyone has renewed energy and they want to see people, meet new people and share with them. In the countryside, everything tends to be family-owned, with smaller accommodation, which makes a big difference to a stay
- Katy and her family are going back next year to an agriturismo that they stayed in previously because her son made such a connection with the young man of the family there. A kid who is keen on his computer games became drawn into the process of producing balsamic vinegar by the young man’s passion and it was an important memory for him from the trip. Staying somewhere smaller and family-run is a very different experience. Find out more about this type of stay in What is an agriturismo and why you should stay in one
- One of the things that happened on one of our Untold Italy tours this year in Puglia – was that one of our guests really wanted to hug one of the beautiful, ancient, old olive trees, so our tour driver just decided to take the whole group to his own farm and not only did she get to hug one of the fantastic old trees, he welcomed everyone there, even introducing them to his donkey. When we speak to those guests now, that’s what they remember – how this man went out of his way to share his family home, his donkey, and his olive tree!
- The amount of time you spend in an agriturismo or a stay somewhere in the countryside is very different from the city. In the city, you want to optimize where you stay so you are close to as many things you want to see as possible. You don’t spend a lot of time in your accommodation. With an agriturismo, where you are staying is part of the experience and you spend much more time there. You are welcomed in by the family. At one of Arianna’s friend’s agriturismo, you are greeted by her two lovable dogs and when she shares her delicious limoncello with guests they never forget it and all want to know the recipe
- Most agriturismo require three nights in minimum stay partly because it takes a little time for people to establish those relationships. Each place’s breakfast will be a little different. There are so many personal touches
- The slower pace of these stays can somehow make you feel rejuvenated. Slowing down can really give you more energy
- Chianti is the perfect place to experience the Tuscan countryside, even when you don’t have a huge amount of time. You are surrounded by pure countryside and a slower kind of pace, but at the same time it is in a very central location. Florence is less than 45 minutes, and Siena is less than an hour
- Some travelers misunderstand slow travel and ask if it means that they do nothing the whole day. Not at all. The approach to slow travel that KM Zero tours has is all about balance. It’s about being able to savor and absorb every experience. It’s a unique opportunity to really open your mind and to grow as a person in the experiences. To really absorb, you need a bit of downtime. Enjoy an exploring experience during the day. then to have a little downtime after – relaxing at your farmhouse agriturismo, take a refreshing walk or just sit and get to appreciate a spectacular sunset
- You don’t have to go for one type of travel over the other. We think this kind of slow travel works great when mixed with other styles of travel – getting to see beautiful sights in Florence or Rome and then you can take that to a deeper level away from the city, in those places where all that beautiful produce you’ve enjoyed in the city restaurants is created. Adding different layers within a trip is a wonderful way to have a really rich experience
- Arianna collaborates with us on our Untold Italy Tuscan tours, but if you wanted to get in touch with her she can offer all kinds of boutique tour experiences for you, find out more and see some sample itineraries at www.kmzerotours.com. For every season there are different products and different experiences that you can have with them
- Untold Italy Tours, in conjunction with KM Zero, offers a Spring small group tour itinerary and an Autumn/Fall small group tour itinerary
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 to their home in Chianti, and to introduce you to their best friends and favorite places there. Andiamo!
You can find Arianna on these channels:
- Website: www.kmzerotours.com
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/kmzerotoursitaly
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/kmzerotours
- Tripadvisor: KM Zero Tours Slow Travel, Tuscany
- Youtube: KM Zero on YouTube
- Twitter: www.twitter.com/Kmzerotours
Places mentioned in the show
- Florence – capital city of Tuscany
- Volterra – walled hilltop city in Tuscany
- San Gimignano – picture-perfect Tuscan village, worth adding to any itinerary
- Siena – ancient Tuscan city south of Florence
- masseria – is a fortified farmhouse or country house on an estate
Resources from Untold Italy
- Join one of our small group tours in Tuscany
- Discover more about the region in our Tuscany guide, in The Best Towns in Tuscany to visit and explore, get some Tuscany itinerary ideas, find the Best agriturismo in Tuscany and find some of the artisan products from the area in Unique gifts from Tuscany
- Listen: to Arianna’s other episodes – Episode #089 Harvest in Tuscany, Episode #062 Special products from Tuscany and Episode #57 Tuscany’s Chianti region. The Chianti region is, of course, famous for its wine – check out Episode #144 Sip your way through the wine bars of Florence and our Episode #13 Introduction to Italian wine to find out about other wine regions and listen to Episode #039: Exploring Florence with Corinna Cooke to learn more about the Tuscan capital. More on Tuscany in Episode #113- Spring dishes from Tuscany, Episode #79 Maremma – Exploring Tuscany’s undiscovered coast and Episode #60 Garfagnana – My Tuscany with Buzz Mccarthy
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step by step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE online community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.