If the past year has taught the world anything, it is that we all need to slow down. To “stop and smell the roses.” To linger a little longer and appreciate the small joys in life. I’ve always preferred to travel deeply. Like, really deeply. I’d rather spend 10 days in only one place, instead of one day in 10 different places. But the thing is, finding a tour company that shares this travel philosophy is an almost impossible task. In recent years, the “bucket-listing checking mentality” has paved the way for tour operators that offer jam-packed itineraries to explore just the highlights of a destination. On the other end of the spectrum, you have sustainable service providers like KM Zero Tours that are challenging traveller to slow down, stay a little longer, and – in their case – experience the art of slow travel in the Tuscany countryside.
Tuscany has been on my radar for a very long time, but there is so much to do I really didn’t know where to start planning. The Tuscany countryside is a very popular tourism destination. When you search “Tuscany” online you’re likely to see photos of the rolling hills of vineyards, winding cypress tree-lined roads, and maybe even couples driving around in suits and fancy dresses with their convertible tops down. But to quote Arianna, co-owner of KM Zero Tours and a native to the Chianti region, “you’d never see a local dressed like this, we are all just small town country people.” The Tuscan locals don’t wear suits. Instead, they are farmers, wine makers, labourers, creatives, and culinary artisans. These people share a passion for their craft, and are truly the beating heart of the “real” Tuscany.
Want to meet these inspiring locals? Keep reading to hear about my personalized experience in the Tuscany countryside.
KM Zero Tours: Slow Travel in the Tuscany Countryside
Meet your new Italian friends – Arianna and Alessio – who live locally in Chianti and own the slow travel tour company KM Zero Tours. After meeting in Bologna, the couple moved back to Arianna’s home of Tuscany and have been living locally in the Chianti region for many years. Recently, they decided to lay down more permanent roots in Chianti and bought their own villa in a tiny Tuscan hamlet, complete with an olive grove, vineyard to make their own wine, and a whole bunch of animals (including a growing number of pet dogs and pigeons).
Arianna and Alessio believe wholeheartedly in the slow travel movement – in exploring deeper, supporting the local economy, preserving the unique history of the Tuscany countryside, and sharing their special home with the world. They named their company “KM Zero” or “zero kilometres,” which reinforces their travel philosophy of eliminating the distance between the producer and consumer by buying, staying, and supporting local.
They aren’t one of those companies that is using greenwashing to pass as a sustainable company. They practice what they preach in seemingly every aspect of their life. After spending two days with them, their passion for sustainability and responsible travel radiates.
Who doesn’t want to have their own friends in the Tuscany countryside? I know I do! While living in Chianti, Arianna and Alessio have developed a wonderful network of local friends and small business owners who share a mutual love for preserving the traditions of the Tuscan countryside – both past and present. With KM Zero Tours, they aim to take you on a journey through their home, into the homes of their friends – who welcome you with open arms and make you feel like you’re part of their family.
During our time in Tuscany, we had the pleasure of spending two full days with Arianna and Alessio exploring both Chianti and Val d’Orcia. Here are some of the highlights.
Day 1: Chianti Tuscany Slow Travel
Arianna and Alessio picked us up on a very hot August morning. Despite only communicating back-and-forth through email prior to our trip, it instantly felt like we were meeting old friends that we’d known for years. We hopped into their car and headed out into the Chianti countryside.
We started our day in the tiny hilltop village of Montefioralle. Arianna explained the typical characteristics that many of these Chianti villages share, told stories of what life looks like for locals in the village, and showed us some of the typical village plants, trees, and crops, including capers that grew all over the walls. Suddenly, the that everything coexisted together in this small village just made sense. After visiting a few other Chianti villages the day prior, having someone to guide us completely changed the way I viewed them. The day was off to a great start!
The great thing about KM Zero Tours is that they curate itineraries to your specific interests. Prior to the trip, I had told Arianna that I was a huge wine enthusiast and was really eager to learn more about Tuscan wine culture, so she curated a perfect day-long itinerary around this interest.
We went to a small local farm where we enjoyed a farm tour, homemade lunch, and a wine tasting of their own certified Chianti Classico wines. We met the family who owned the property and learned about their business, including how they have had to adapt their crops overtime to meet different market demands. Specifically, Arianna explained how the iris flower used to be a main export of the region to France for perfume. However, the rise of synthetic scents halted the Tuscan iris production, which meant many farms had to begin making more wine in the 80s and 90s. In recent years, natural scents are beginning to grow in popularity again, so iris production is also increasing and we were able to see the iris harvest during our farm visit.
After the most delicious lunch of meats, cheeses, and homemade zucchini pasta sourced from the farm, we hopped back in the car and Alessio drove around the Chianti countryside. Arianna and Alessio shared more about the region including how “Super Tuscan wines” are made (and the funny of story of how they got this name). We also learned about how some vineyards plant rose bushes at the heads of the vines. This is because in the early years of wine making if there was something wrong with the grape vines they believed you would notice the first signs on the rose bushes, and some farmers have still held onto that tradition.
Both Alessio and Arianna had an incredible knowledge of the region, and their words were filled with so much passion. Our day in Chianti was full of information and stories like these, but in order to tell them all I’d have to write a book. So you’re best just to go and experience it for yourself.
After driving around the Tuscany countryside it was time to go to our second wine tasting at another small family-owned vineyard and olive oil farm. After a tour of the cellars we were able to chat more about their wine-making process, meet their adorable tailless cat Dante who insisted I give him unlimited belly rubs, and enjoy a wine tasting overlooking their gorgeous property.
Just when I thought the day could not get more perfect, Alessio and Arianna had one more surprise for us: Sunset dinner at the most beautiful local wine bar. And while we surely would have enjoyed dinner here on our own, sitting with our new local friends indulging in the most delicious smoked burrata, and hearing the story of resilience the restaurant owner made it so much more special
This wine bar called Bar DiVino has gained a lot of popularity with the locals, but it is actually quite new to the restaurant scene in Chianti. Arianna explained that the owner, who is now a close friend, lost his job a few years ago and became very worried about how he would take care of his family. His mother offered him her backyard to open a wine bar overlooking the vineyards. The only problem was, neither him or his wife had any restaurant experience. But they decided to give it a shot. Now, a couple years later, it has become wildly popular. We met the owner and I can see why it is such a great success – his spirit was contagious and made our visit here a bit extra special.
It was the perfect way to end our day with KM Zero Tours slow travelling around Chianti.
Day 2: A Dreamy Day in Val d'Orcia Tour
After spending a day in Chianti with KM Zero Tours, I was so thankful that the fun wasn’t over yet. Three days later, Alessio and Arianna arrived at the Tuscan agriturismo we were staying at to take us to the more southern region of Val d’Orcia, Tuscany.
Val d’Orcia is a region you’ve probably seen a lot of photos of. Rolling golden wheat fields and roads lined with cypress trees are characteristic of this region. It is truly breathtaking!
I always envisioned Val d’Orcia as a place where movie stars spent their summer, but as we walked together through the town of Pienza, Arianna explained to us that Val d’Orcia only started to become a popular tourism destination in the 1990s. Prior to that, it was actually home to wheat farmers, who were generally quite poor. The wheat farmers were actually a bit jealous of the more prosperous regions, like Chianti, that produced profitable products like wine.
After our walk through town, we drove outside of Pienza along winding dirt roads to Podere Il Casale, a famous organic cheese farm and winery. The successes of this farm aren’t unknown to the world, they have been featured in many global publications so I was thrilled to hear that they were close friends of KM Zero Tours.
On our tour of the farm with owner Sandra, we learned how this Swiss family moved to Val d’Orcia in 1991 before the tourism boom and bought this now-invaluable property. They were drawn to the beauty of the region and knew nothing about wine-making or cheese production, but they learned and turned the farm into a successful business and restaurant. After our tour of Podere Il Casale where we learned about cheese making and met the farm animals, we enjoyed a wine and cheese tasting of their very own products. The views from their terrace are incredible.
While we tasted the cheeses, Arianna explained that despite the many successes of Sandra and her family, the last year and half had been very difficult for their business with restrictions preventing tourists from visiting Tuscany. When they were forced to close their restaurant, they had to find ways to diversify their business model by selling more of their products locally and expanding their outdoor seating space. Now, they are back stronger than ever and excited to begin welcoming visitors again.
Knowing my love of wine, Arianna and Alessio had one very special final stop for us in Val d’Orcia: Wine tasting at an organic Brunello di Montalcino winery. As we drove down another bumpy, winding dirt road that led up to the winery, we were greeted by the owner’s dog who was so excited to see Alessio. We weren’t arriving at some stuffy internationally-owned winery to taste some pricey mass-produced Brunello. This was the beautiful home of a winemaker who was clearly passionate about his craft.
The front door of the villa opened and the winemaker’s young apprentice came outside to greet us with a big smile on his face. His passion for wine radiated as he explained that he had just moved to the Tuscany countryside from Austria to learn more about organic wine making. He enthusiastically shared about the business, and showed us around the beautiful property which completely blew me away. Afterward, we sat on the patio overlooking Abbey of Sant’Antimo in the distance and tasted the best glass of wine I had during my time in Tuscany.
After a scenic journey back to our agriturismo, Sebastian and I said goodbye (for now) to our new Tuscan friends and reflected on the days we spent with them over dinner. After a year and of half of staying (mostly) home, it’s special experiences like this one – the ones I won’t ever forget – that remind me of exactly why I love to slow travel.
Book a Tuscany countryside tour with KM Zero Tours
The great thing about KM Zero Tours is that their packages are completely customizable to you! Whether you’re a wine-lover, culinary enthusiast, or just simply interested in learning more about Tuscan culture, there is no shortage of things to do and see in the Tuscany countryside.
Travelling with kids in Tuscany? KM Zero Tours also enthusiastically welcomes families and will curate a special itinerary that is suitable for all ages.
Their itineraries range from Tuscany day trips from Florence to all-inclusive multi-day itineraries including accommodations. Imagine having two locals design your entire vacation for you, and all you have to do is show up?
Can't make it to Italy? Enjoy a taste of Tuscany at home!
I understand that a trip to the Tuscany countryside isn’t always an option, especially right now. But thankfully, KM Zero Tours is making it easy for you to enjoy a taste of Tuscany at home!
There are a lot of places to buy Italian products, but it’s difficult to know where they are being sourced from. Arianna and Alessio are making it easy to support small Tuscan businesses by curating gift boxes filled with artisan products produced locally in Tuscany. Each box features a rotating assortment of seasonal products, so you can enjoy the flavours of every season in Tuscany.
While in Chianti, we visited their shop where they put together their gift boxes, and I was blown away by the selection of local products. I wish I had more room in my suitcase to bring one of every single product home with me, but I can’t wait to order my own curated box.
Read more about ordering your own taste of Tuscany at home: KM Zero Tours gift boxes.