Editor’s Note: Arianna Cini and her husband, Alessio Di Genova, the owners of KM Zero Tours in Chianti, exude the warmth that we simply adore in Italians. I spent an amazing day with the two of them several years ago as they helped me experience Chianti in a way I never had before. There’s a vineyard around ever corner in Tuscany and they managed to bring me to one I had never been to before that knocked my socks off with its beauty, history and wine. But my favorite stop of the day was to meet Giorgio, the wood maker, who works his magic on olive wood. I asked Arianna to tell us about life in Chianti right now. — Kathy McCabe
Our company name KM Zero Tours refers to a zero kilometers relationship between producer and traveler, redefining what it means to see Italy by introducing visitors to the local community and the producers who make it come alive. When guests buy local and experience local, the reward is a more enriching kind of travel that benefits everyone.
From the very first day when our company was born in our minds, we felt the need to contrast the stress and speed of our modern days. The world before coronavirus had indeed everything we needed in terms of comfort, technology, success. People felt to be in total control of things, that days were perfectly organized, balanced and synchronized into their busy daily routine.
Modern society often wants people to put career, production and organization in first position, sacrificing spiritual values such as cooperation, trust and genuine interest towards others, and limiting time for family, friends and other human connections. In smaller villages and communities, those values and the local traditions are instead still strongly present and important in our lives.
The aspect I love the most about living in the countryside is that here we can still live, act and think in a sustainable and authentic way. When guests visit us from abroad, we invite them to take part of our community and lifestyle.
We introduce them to our favorite trattoria here in Chianti, and take them to our trusted bakery shop in my home village. They meet Beppe the baker, who knows me since I was little and who is also known as “the mayor” because he knows everyone in town. They stay in beautiful agriturismi here in Chianti, spending fun and quality time with the owners and learning about their beautiful and inspiring stories (and tasting their fabulous homemade recipes and limoncello too).
They learn how aperitivo and siesta for Italians represent such an important part of their life, they discover curiosities about our Tuscan dialect, they participate to beautiful festivals, events and celebrations as new part of the family. Guests learn how to reconnect with themselves through connecting with others, meeting new friends and embracing the real beauty of nature.
A beautiful story I would love to share with you: last May, we were touring Tuscany with a lovely group for several days, and we were visiting a beautiful olive oil farm in Chianti near the hilltop village of Impruneta. We arrive at the farm and Janet, the owner, comes towards us with a big smile. Instead of formally introducing our group about her business and activity, she instead exclaimed excitedly: “Ciao everyone! I am Janet, and so excited to inform you that I just became a nonna!!”
A moment after, we all became family. We totally forgot about the olive oil and the program for the day and started to celebrate this exciting event together, as we knew each other since childhood. These guests who were with us on that day still write me emails, as they want to know how Lea (the name of the little girl who was born that day) is growing and can’t wait to finally meet her in person on their next trip to Tuscany.
It is in these moment that guests are able to rediscover values and traditions, to create memories and experiences that they will never forget. It is a wonderful feeling to be part of that awareness, to grow together and change into better humans.
In the countryside, nature predominates our daily life. Farmers are dependent on what’s Nature decides for them. Ice, snow, hail, drought, wild animals, rain are just some of the daily obstacles in the farmer’s life, and all these unpredictable factors can eliminate or increase the whole production of a year in one second.
This vision seems cruel and unfair at first sight, but it helps people to be aware of their weaknesses and limits, to stay humble and grateful. Human beings become stronger as a whole not as individuals, and this is the incredible beauty and power of a community.
Right now, in our community masks are distributed for free to each family, we have created a What’s App group and when someone goes to buy groceries, we ask if anyone needs anything.
Our neighbor makes homemade yogurt for all of us. we collect wild plants like nettle and fennel and cook delicious recipes. Cheese farms deliver fresh cheese every week, and same can be said for vegetables, eggs, and other products. The local bakery delivers fresh pastries and bread every weekend, and gives its sour dough as a gift to anyone who orders flour and wants to make bread at home.
This virus is like a huge worldwide storm in our lives: it’s destroying whole countries and systems in an extremely cruel way. It travels at incredible speed and it has no compassion or humaneness.
But there is a positive side in each tragedy, and a lesson to learn from every change in our lives.
When the emergency and the virus is over, people may come out from this pandemic with a better soul, being more aware of their fragility and humanity. They may decide to set new priorities and values, understanding what is really important in their lives. To live again and be reborn. Together. — Arianna Cini