Helvi & Vincent Larson, Untourists of the Week: 'Returning to Tuscany was like going home.'

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

Recently we took two Untours. The first was in October 2012, when we returned to Quebec City where we had spent our honeymoon 50 years ago. It was as delightful as we remembered it. Definitely deserves a return visit. It’s a great Untours North American destination. In May 2013 we traveled to Tuscany.

2. Why did you choose to go there?

We had wanted to take a trip with my brother, Stan, and sister-in-law, Jean. But where? Perhaps a cruise? River or Mediterranean? Italy, especially Tuscany, was always on the horizon since they had never been. But they thought since we had already been twice, would we want to go again? Of course! In a heartbeat! And so we did. Our “home away from home” became Poggio alle Rose in Buonconvento. Of course, a return visit to Le Chiuse in Montalcino, where we had previously stayed with Untours, was on the agenda.

Returning to Tuscany for the third time was truly like going home. It was even more meaningful to be able to share our favorites with Stan and Jean: Pienza, Montepulciano, Siena, Montalcino, Assisi, the beach at Castiglione della Pescaia, restaurants like Da Mario and I Poggioli, even Harriet our wonderful Untours on-site rep. We even had time to discover new places, like the Chianti region, especially Panzano and its famous butcher, Dario Cecchini.

3. What is your favorite Untours memory?

The serene beauty of the Tuscan countryside, whether it be fall or spring, will be forever etched in our minds. The early morning sounds of church bells ringing in Montalcino when we were staying at Le Chiuse and at Poggio alle Rose, the sight of flocks of sheep grazing in the meadows below, their watchful sheep dog guiding them home at day’s end.

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

We have always been independent travelers and when we were first told by a friend about Untours, we knew that it was for us. It has given us the opportunity to “live like a local,” to follow our own schedule and agenda. The pre-trip planning info we receive prior to departure provides us with a wealth of information on places to visit and things to do (and not do), allowing you to become immersed in the history and culture of the region. Folklore or not, we’ve been told that walking three times around the cisterna (town well) in San Gimignano assures a return visit. So far it has worked. Hopefully it will again!

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

BEST INDEPENDENT TRAVEL!

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