Wow, where can I even begin? When friends and family ask me about my one week trip to the Chianti region of Tuscany my response is usually something along the lines of: "Words can’t do it justice…" followed by a descriptor of "Authentic” to try and find somewhere to start.
Hi! Amanda and Ross here!! We signed up with KM Zero tours for a one week trip to the Chianti region of Tuscany in October 2016, it was clear from the very beginning that the trip was going to be unreal!
Before our flights were even booked, Arianna was making sure that arrangements were suitable for us, as well as planning menus around the multiple allergies Ross was blessed with. Allergies were not the only flexibility that KMZero tours provided us: when we couldn't find an arriving flight that would fit within the pick-up times outlined by KMZ, they offered to pick us up at a later time as a welcoming present! They also provided us with multiple solutions to our departure flight when we ran into the same problem. This alleviated a lot of potential stress that could have been added to the trip.
We stayed at Arianna's childhood home, a beautiful 13th century, countryside villa that had been upgraded with plumbing, electricity and beautiful Tuscan décor in the 80s. Seriously...13th century brick flooring everyone!! Weathered from the centuries of people who stood there before us! The villa is plunked right in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. Our room was like its own little retreat, with calming colours and beautiful views. We were immediately swept up in the slow paced, relaxed lifestyle.
To kick off the trip Arianna, along with her boyfriend Alessio and his brother Michael hosted a beautiful pizza supper. Alessio wowed us all with his innate cooking talents, making many different types of pizzas in a homemade outdoor pizza oven. This is where we were first introduced to the slow and relaxing ways of the Tuscan people, we were encouraged to take our time and enjoy the fresh local ingredients on each pizza, along with a beautiful white wine. It was a great welcoming supper event.
I would describe travelling through the Chianti region of Tuscany as “a breeze”. For real, we did not have to consider one detail, everything was taken care of, including, but not limited to: transportation (with Michael and Alessio acting as our own personal chauffeurs), hydration, and meals. Our typical day consisted of breakfast in the villa (all local foods, including hand delivered baked goods from the local Paniao) two major tour events a “light” lunch and a delicious supper.
Here is a brief breakdown of our the tours we got to experience: A walking tour of Arianna’s home town of Mercatale as well as the surrounding villages and countryside, hosted by two men from Mercatale: Roberto and the local Panaio, Beppe. Their route ended with a tour of a local goat cheese farm where we had the pleasure of learning all about goat cheese, how it’s made, how it tastes, and the importance of sustainable and organic farming; A really cool cooking class where we learned how to cook a traditional Tuscan meal with local ingredients, and then enjoyed the meal that we took part in producing; A visit to a local, family owned terracotta workshop where we learned all about what it takes to make a piece of true terracotta pottery as well as how to spot a fake; A visit to the actual olive oil producer that Arianna and Alessio personally bring their olives to during the harvest season, which included a professional olive oil tasting and learning about how much work goes into producing a high quality olive oil, and what to take into consideration when shopping for a tasty oil at the supermarket; A visit to an artisanal pasta factory, stressing the importance of time in the creation of pasta products, and the proper way to cook various types of pasta; Visits to both a local red, and white winery: the former in production for centuries, with a beautiful 15th century estate, the latter, a vineyard taken over by a young family producing the only white wine variety in the Chianti region; Picturesque walking tours of the cute little town of Montefioralle, the Town of Fine Towers San Gimignano, and Greve in Chianti, all beautiful local towns with historical importance and gorgeous views; A walking tour of San Frediano district in Florence, including crossing the famous Ponte Vecchio over the beautiful Arno River, and displaying the side of Florence that had a more relaxed community feel, rather than the hustle and bustle of typical city life; and finally a biking tour of the village where we gathered the ingredients for the final meal of the week Steak Florentine.
And now to the food! I think it’s fair to describe it as PHENOMINAL! Truely, each meal was an experience: from picnic lunches to full out 5 course meals, not one repeated dish, and many new tastes! Many of our tours included a “light” lunch, Arianna explained to us that a light meal in Italy means a meal without a meat main… so don’t be fooled! Both winery tours included one of these so called light lunches where we were given the opportunity to taste some of their wines along with some delicious eats, the pasta factory also provided a delightful lunch allowing us to sample some of their “Priest Choker” pasta, finishing off with their cantucci and some vin santo! The lunches were all great, but for us, the dinners were really the star of the show! I have already described the initial pizza night which was amazing, the next night we were invited into the home of Arianna and Alessio’s close friends who prepared for us a delicious meal which was cooked in their outdoor oven, it was such a welcoming experience, we felt like we were personally part of their friend group. On a few other nights we ate twice at a local eco-tourisimo and once at a local restaurant where we were served, again, multiple courses of traditional Tuscan cuisine, which were all created using locally produced ingredients from organic and sustainable sources and paired with local and organic wines. Our favorite meals though, were the ones that were carefully and skillfully prepared by KMZ’s own Alessio, a very talented cook. The second meal that Alessio prepared for us after pizza night was Polenta all’Abruzzese a delightful traditional meal from Alessio and Michaels hometown which is typically reserved for family celebrations and gatherings, a meal that I think everyone should have the chance to experience, and on the final night a glorious meal of Steak Florentine cooked outside on their home made brick barbeque, Amazing! Another part of each meal that we appreciated was that before we ate the chef of the meal or Arianna would explain the importance or historical value of each dish and how it was eaten, and a little about the vineyard the wine we would be enjoying came from, it really added to the educational value of the trip.
A few things amazed us about these tours #1 Arianna’s immaculate knowledge of local history, sustainable farming, wine production, olive oil production and more… she was a great source of information and hard to stump with any questions we had #2 The total community vibe of sustainable eco-tourism, it was like Arianna, Alessio and Michael were employees at each place we stopped! They were always willing to lend a helping hand to anyone, anywhere we went: dealing with compost on one winery, selling bottles at another, serving meals at dinner in other people’s homes and more! #3 The history of the country is unbelievable, from reinforcements on buildings as a result of assaults from WWII, to the realization that the age of a vineyard / olive tree grove is older than the country that you come from!
The whole trip was just fantastic, we didn’t want to leave! Thank you so much to Arianna, Alessio, and Michael for providing us with such an amazing experience, we will never forget it!