Return to a time when life’s pleasures are savoured, food is prepared with great care, integrity, and pride; a time when people appreciated the going as much as the getting there. 

Return to a time when life’s pleasures are savoured, food is prepared with great care, integrity, and pride; a time when people appreciated the going as much as the getting there.

My room with a view of the Tuscan landscape

How often have you heard yourself say, “I need a vacation after this vacation”? Many of us live hectic, stressful lives, and the frantic pace only continues while we're on a trip as we rush from one tourist attraction to another. The anticipation of arrival is eclipsed by the pleasure of the journey.

Slow travel offers an antidote to today’s fast-paced lifestyle. The emphasis is less on manic sightseeing and more on taking in your surroundings at a relaxed pace. Rather than trying to squeeze as many sights or cities as possible into each trip, the slow traveller takes the time to explore each destination thoroughly and to engage with communities that lie en route. Travellers get the chance to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. It’s not so much a particular mode of transportation as it is a mind set or a state of mind; it’s a whole way of looking at the world. It shares some common values with ecotourism. It is downbeat, eco-friendly, focuses on unhurried, and low-impact journeys.

Slow travel can mean renting a villa or an apartment for a week at a time and exploring your immediate surroundings on foot or by car. It can mean crossing long distances by train instead of air, so that you can see the scenery along the way. But no matter how you do it, the key is slowing down – and making the most of each moment of your vacation.

Charming details on the Fattoria Lavacchio estate

My slow travel revolved around agriturismo (agritourism), where agriculture and tourism intersect. Agritourism has different definitions in different parts of the world, and sometimes refers specifically to farm stays in Italy. Experiential food and farm travel has exploded in the last decade, which connects travellers more deeply with the sources of what they eat while helping family farmers.

The main house, Casabella

My farm stay was at Fattoria Lavacchio, an organic farm about an hour’s drive from Florence. The farm was built in the 1700s and owned by Peruzzi – a Florentine noble family. In 1978 the Lottero brothers bought the farm from Genova, who retained the traditional farming techniques along with the biological cultivation and production of wine and oil. The charming couple, Faye Lottero and her husband Dimitri, now run this Tuscan paradise.

A breath-taking view of the Tuscan landscape surrounded by chianti grapevines

Fattoria Lavacchio is located between Sieci and Pontassieve. The property consists of 110 hectares (about 275 acres) with four farmhouses, which have been fully restored, respecting the environment and the true Tuscany traditions surrounded by a breath-taking landscape of olive groves and grapevines. The estate has a cosy restaurant and its cooking is closely linked to the territory and the change of seasons. Products are always fresh and seasonal: the vegetables from the garden, the flour from the organic wheat grinded by the windmill, and other ingredients are sourced from nearby local farmers.

On the grounds of the manor is a centuries-old Cedar of Lebanon
that has become the symbol of the farm

Depending on the season, guests have a choice to attend ceramic and cooking classes, to hunt for truffles, and go horse trekking through the farm's vineyards and olive groves. I found myself enjoying long walks discovering everyday farm life and decided to indulge in two activities: wine tasting and harvesting olives.

Helping harvest olives the traditional way
Helping harvest olives the traditional way

Fattoria Lavacchio's wines reflect the nature and the composition of the land, together with the climate of the area, the vineyards, and the vintage. Grape picking is carried out by hand according to old country traditions. The limited production imposed by organic cultivation guarantees a better quality year after year. Their wines are offered only in vintage years in which they reach their full potential and contribute to the high quality level, which won numerous awards.

Oak barrels storing one of the many organic wines of Fattoria Lavacchio

Participating in the olive harvest ritual was the highlight of my stay. My experience was reminiscent of movie scenes (more of a comedy) and romanticised by the picturesque setting. It was a cinematographer’s dream. The locals were quite amused that I actually wanted to work instead of “dolce far niente,” which is an old Italian expression that means "sweetness of doing nothing" or "delicious idleness." Without the proper attire, they happily taught me the traditional way of "stripping off" olives by hand or hand combing with a net (a mano con telo) or a basket.

My experience could be summed up with the words of Carlo Petrini, the charismatic founder of the Slow Food Movement, “The art of living is about learning to give time to each and everything.” And that, without a doubt, should include travel.

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