Andrew & Diana Stevens, Untourists of the Week

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1. Tell us a little bit about your most recent Untour.

Our most recent Untour took us to the village of Amalfi on the Amalfi Coast. This vacation spot provided us with an unexpected mixture of local/tourist, hustle/serenity, activity/rest and nature/architecture.

Our apartment faced the sea but the traffic circle, complete with bus stops, was between us and the sea. We saw the local citizens on the way to school and work in the morning on their motor scooters, people getting on and off the bus for work and tourists catching the bus for villages up and down the coast or up in the mountains. Coffee on the balcony provided a great spot to observe the sea, the hustle of the day and the calmness of late evening.

On some days a cruise ship would anchor offshore and tourists, brought into town on smaller boats, would be absorbed in the shops on main street of Amalfi. This main street was always full of tourists, shopkeepers and locals. The large church was often used for weddings. As busy as the main street was, it was always possible to find a secluded passageway that led into the residences and paths up the hills. These passageways were quite old and narrow and were part of the ancient defense of the city. We could find serenity within minutes of the main street.

Above Amalfi, there were smaller villages that could be reached by steps and pathways, or by a bus. We usually chose to walk and were always rewarded by fantastic photo opportunities along the way or at the village. We found that it was always 800 steps to go most anywhere from Amalfi. But at the end we could usually find a reward of a cold drink which was much needed because it was very warm while we were there. The iced, alcoholic lemon drink was most refreshing as was the cold beer.

The architecture of Amalfi and surrounding villages was varied and interesting. The churches were ornate and influenced by Christian and non-Christian cultures over the centuries. Most interesting to me was the seeming hodge-podge of well-kept residences along the coast. They flowed over the hillside, melded into each other and even extended above the walkways. The walkways and trails went through or beside terraced land with ripe lemons on trees that had been groomed to make the harvest accessible and beside olive trees that were just ready to be harvested. Flowers, small lizards and snails could often be found enjoying the sun. The greatest point of interest to us however was the view of the sea. Especially majestic, was the apparent harmony of the juncture of the sea and the land where houses grew up the steep, rocky shore. That was breathtaking from many vantage points.

2. Why did you choose to go there?

We usually try to combine walking with our travels. When we walk, be it in a large city or less metropolitan area, we feel that we experience the place in a more personal way. We expected that Amalfi would offer a good opportunity for that experience and were pleased that it exceeded those expectations. We did our research and saw that Amalfi offered excellent scenery and a culture that retains its historic links. Choosing an unknown foreign destination carries uncertainties but today’s internet resources minimize those doubts. Before we decided, we found out about the hiking trails, what others had to say and what Amalfi actually looks like.

3. What is your favorite Untours memory?

I don’t know if I have a single favorite memory. Oddly, my favorite memories may not be the most spectacular sights, although those do provide great memories. Some favorite memories are these: learning to make coffee in our apartment in a completely different way, discovery of local preserved meats, looking at the light streaming into an unoccupied church, watching a wedding party, talking with our driver, buying bread, observing traffic, getting directions from a stranger, waiting for a bus. Those “little” things, taken together with the spectacular scenes, provide those favorite memories.

4. How is taking an Untour different from other ways of travelling?

Rotunda—where they stayed

There is always some uncertainty in any travel and more in international travel. This comes in the form of modes of travel, food, language and customs. Untours provides just enough of a safety net to alleviate some of those uncertainties without homogenizing the travel into a bland experience.

5. If you could describe an Untour in just three words, what would they be?

  • Confidence—Local backup is there if needed.
  • Freedom—We establish our own schedule.
  • Balance—Guide information is available from Untours, but not overwhelming.

6. Have you heard of our trailblazing Untours Foundation? What do you think of a company whose profits have gone to create jobs among vulnerable populations through loans to pioneering, green businesses?

Admirable

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