This post is part of a series on slow travel in Tuscany which I had the incredible fortune of enjoying with the wonderful couple behind Km Zero Tours. Native of Chianti, in Tuscany, Arianna decided to take over the 13th century family stone house rental and add personal slow travel experiences visiting the local producers she now calls friends. Together with her Sommelier husband, Alessio, they take food, nature and wine lovers to discover Tuscany and meet with the real, small and genuine producers that are the soul and spirit of the region. There are no theatrical shows tricking tourists into the fairy tale of Tuscan love affairs, only sustainable, uncompromised and genuine stories about life in Tuscany through the eyes of people keeping up with the ancient traditions that made this region so unique; The goat herders, the cattle growers, the small organic wine producers, the biodynamic wine makers, the olive grove owners, the wood turning artists, the cheese producers, the pasta makers, the Tuscan villa owners and the home chefs that whipped up a feast of fresh farm to table Tuscan food by the fire place or the garden terrace. All the people we met shared their lives and lifestyle with us giving us an insight into Tuscan culture, traditions and challenges through their animals, their food and their land. An experience that came from the heart. When we travel, it is the people who make the difference.

What is Slow travel

Slow travel is a movement started off in Italy, particularly in Rome, as a protesting movement on the back off Starbucks’s first coffee store opening in the 80s.

Although there is no fixed definition, Slow travel advocates for experiencing a destination and a place like a local. It encourages travelers to take it slowly, to rent an apartment, to go do the groceries at the local stores, to understand where the food they are eating comes from, the produce who makes it, the farmer who grows it, and to basically take it all in as if one was living there.

To illustrate further. The opposite of Slow Travel is the usual check-list ticking type of travel that I am guilty off on occasion, where you just fly from place to place, tick items off a list, have no understanding of what is behind what you are seeing and simply want to cover as much ground as possible. Slow Travel is the antithesis of that.

Why is the region so fascinating?

Tuscan landscapes

Tuscan landscapes

Tuscany’s 21st century renaissance came into being through the images and the fairy tales of Hollywood movies such as “Eat, Pray, Love” or “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

Hollywood movies aside, Tuscany’s cultural importance dates back to the 16th century as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance movement. It is home to famous museums like the Uffizi, built by the wealthy Medici family, and there are 6 sites that have been included in the UNESCO protected heritage list including the historical centers of Siena, Pienza and Florence, the city with the highest concentration of Renaissance art and architecture in the world. Both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo lived in Tuscany as did important authors such as Dante Alighieri, Petrarch or Niccolò Machiavelli who gave the Tuscan dialect the substance to become the basis for the modern day Italian language.

Slow Travel in Florence

Florence

The area is also known for its food. There are four wine appellations, Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Morellino di Scansano and Brunello di Montalcino, dozens of high quality olive groves and cheese producers and a cow breed that gives the region is famous (and divine) Florentine steak.

Its iconic undulating green hills with large country houses surrounded by vineyards, plains and olive groves are the result of ancient defensive practices as the area was the center of many wars and disputes between Siena and Florence. Geographically, Tuscany extends from the Appalachian mountains to the sea but fertile hills still occupy 60% of its territory.

Carpaccio and Forentine steak

Carpaccio and Forentine steak

With such a rich heritage, culture and cuisine, it is no wonder that Tuscany is a magnet for foodies, wine connoisseurs and nature lovers. But to grasp the realities behind the idyllic tourist traps, locals advocate for Slow travel because to truly understand how Tuscany works, you have to immerse yourself in the culture, one that is sure to give anyone an unforgettable time. Else, ask Sarah how much she enjoyed her cooking class in Spannocchia Farm!

Why I would love to change my ultra-frequent traveler status for a Slow Traveling Life

I spent a few days in Tuscany with Arianna and Alessio from Km Zero Tours, an adventure they started a few years ago to show people their beautiful part of the world thought Slow Travel tours of Tuscany. After a few days enjoying the slow life, spending half day with producers, having lunches or dinners at their homes and learning about real life in Tuscany I realised that my travel style, sometimes, misses our on the beauty of simply enjoying a place without an agenda.

I used to be the extreme ultra-frequent traveler. I was somewhere in the morning, somewhere in the afternoon, somewhere before dinner, somewhere for dinner, somewhere after…I had list of places to see and things to do and I wanted to cross them all off a list. I was the opposite of slow travel.

Travel Blogger life

Travel Blogger life

After realising that this was not the best ways to understand or learn about a place, I went the other way. I had no plan whatsoever and I even showed up at countries without bookings and without knowing much about the place. I spent two months in the Pacific one of which I decided my plans as I opened my eyes in the morning. I went to airports without bookings, I decided on destinations based on the travel guides I could find in remote bookstores which only sold very old book copies that were tremendously outdated.

Today, I plan and read about a place before going, I try to see what would be the part I would enjoy the most and I make bookings for the essential places I don’t want to miss out on or which I know are very popular. But I leave plenty of time for serendipity. I try to get lost, I aim to discover places that are hidden, I talk to the locals, I seek the stories that have never been told. And I often travel alone. Not that traveling alone is incompatible with Slow or fast travel, but by being a solo woman, I am more likely to attract invitations to meet locals, to join their tables, to interact. People are not threatened by women but instead feel compassion, curiosity for traveling solo and I have found, in my experience, that the vulnerability invites more interaction. It is also true that being a travel blogger, my travel life is also determined and often manipulated by the needs to document every move, but I always have the freedom to choose what part of my life I leave in my memories only vis-a-vis what part I decide to let the world share in with me.

Me and 10 years worth of boarding passes

Me and 10 years worth of boarding passes

If one day I no longer have the limitations and demands of a full time job that does not give me enough time to truly travel slow, I am sure my travel planning will not have a check-list. The Slow Travel trip to Tuscany sure changed my view on travel.

Know more
Also part of this series on Slow Travel in Tuscany

Slow Travel in Tuscany: Chasing ancient Maremmane cows

Slow Travel in Tuscany: Turning wood into beautiful art

Slow travel in Tuscany: Hand made biodynamic wines in Chianti

Slow Travel in Tuscany: olive oil, the liquid gold of life

Slow Travel in Tuscany: Combing cashmere goats

Slow Travel in Tuscany: Villa del Cigliano Chianti Classico wines

  • Carol

    We are also shifting, after about 7 or so years of fast travel, to slow travel beginning mid next year! The trigger? I am turning 68 and he, 73!

  • carlingdoodling

    Planning to slow travel south america next year. Since I have quit my day job, I don’t feel hurried as my travel dates are limited by my holiday leave. I really hate that. This time my travels will be a slow, calm and adventurous one!

    • Wow, I’m jealous! Slow travel through South America sounds amazing can’t wait to hear more about it!

  • You are right, slow travel is the only way to really get to appreciate a local place and culture. Love what KM 0 Zero Tours are doing. Applaud their efforts to really connect with the local producers. Great reading about your experience and hope you can enjoy more travel in this manner 🙂

  • Slow travel is a luxury I just can’t afford at the moment unfortunately – but it is certainly something to aim for once I do not have a full-time office job to show up for! And I love your photo with the boarding passes!

  • I think it takes a lot of time to get to know a country or region. It doesn’t have to be done all in one go, but obviously that’s the nicest way to do it

    • Yes, I agree! For people with day jobs like us, multiple trips are needed just to fully experience a country or a region but yes, being able to slow travel is a luxury!

  • Carol Perehudoff

    I’m all about slow travel and I adore Tuscany -but I’ve never been an extreme see-everything-traveller. This sounds like an ideal trip for me.

  • Valerie Dailey

    I wish I had the time to slow travel more. I only have so much time though and sooooo many things I want to see that I can’t help but over plan trips. I will be going to Italy for the first time in September though! I will have 3 full days in Florence and I can’t wait to get my first taste of Tuscany.

    • Tuscany is a beautiful place – take your time to get to know the wonderful people there! Hope my Tuscany Slow Travel series will be of help! (:

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    I wish I had more time for slow travel. Unfortunately, like yourself, I have often had to rush with a checklist and not had the chance to really immerse myself. I think it’s awesome that you had this experience in Tuscany.

  • I experienced the same situation in my solo travels in Australia with high costs of getting around and accommodation. In the last 2 years I slowed down thanks to Housesitting gigs I can afford to stay longer and fully immerse myself in the place. I believe slow travel is the best way to learn about a place. Nice post.

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