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This Week's Guest Blog: Susan Umberger (in Venice)

on Tue, 08/27/2013 - 10:24

My husband and I arrived at the Marco Polo airport for the first leg of our Venice/Tuscany Sampler. We were a little early, but had an espresso and walked around inside and out while we waited for our transport to Donna Onesta, our apartment for the week. The water taxi was unexpected luxury, that’s the way to arrive in Venice! And our apartment was beautiful and located only steps from the taxi…

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Donna and Chuck Beck, Untourists of the Week

on Wed, 05/15/2013 - 13:54
Untourists, Untours,

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

Our most recent Untour was at the Hastalska apartment in the Jewish Quarter in Prague. This was a great location for exploring the city both on foot and by public transportation. The apartment was delightful, well furnished and equipped, and we enjoyed the small courtyard outside our door.

2. Why did you choose to go there?

We had never been to the Czech Republic and family and friends had highly recommended this magnificent city.

3. What is your favorite Untours memory?

Every Untour experience has been memorable; it is hard to pick a

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Untourists of the Week: Elsa and Raymond Heald

on Thu, 03/21/2013 - 09:13
Raymond Heald, Untours

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

It was a dream vacation: 8 days on the Variety Voyager, the sleek 73-passenger yacht that put us ashore at the fabled ports of Capri, Lipari, Malta, plus 4 ports in Sicily. Then, a train ride to the sparkling Cinque Terre for 4 nights and a heavenly 2 weeks in the fabulous Bonalumi apartment in Locarno, with a breathtaking view of Lake Maggiore.

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La Serenissima...the most serene

on Mon, 02/18/2013 - 10:43
Gondolas as far as the eye can see!
This is the final of 6 posts in a series covering my 5 weeks in Greece, Istanbul and Italy. The other posts are linked at the bottom of this post.

On a rather dreary Monday morning in early October I packed up the car, stopped for a coffee with a friend and then took my leave from Bologna. The Fiat 500 handled well in the rain along the highway and I arrived in a more pleasant Venice around 3pm. I turned in the car, sadly giving up the freedom of four wheels, and allowed myself to be enveloped in the beauty of riding along the canals of Venice.

I was met at Piazzale Roma by our agents Paolo

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Firenze, la bella

on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 16:54
Here's Harriet, Mary Jane and then me!
This is post number 5 of 6 in a series covering my 5 weeks in Greece, Istanbul and Italy. The other posts are linked at the bottom of this post.

Florence has always been one of my favorite stops when in Italy, even before we had an Untour there, even before I started working at Untours. Its beauty, art, architecture and life are compared to no other city in Italy or elsewhere. There is constant movement, always something “on,” always something new. And though this was a brief, three-day stop for me, I had a lot to see and do, as usual.

I arrived on a Thursday, but due to my appointments in

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Untourists of the Week: Pat and Jack Cruser

on Wed, 12/12/2012 - 09:44
Untourists, Untours,

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

"Practically speaking, taking an Untour means no group travel warnings like “Have your bags in the hall by 0530,” “Breakfast is served from 0630 to 0815,” “Be on the bus by 0745,” and it means no searching for an apartment on line, no harried transport from the airport or train station, and no nervousness from being in a foreign country with or without the language. And it means knowing that should the need arise, the local Untours representative is at hand for any emergency: health problems, accident, locked doors, or stolen passport—only one of which afflicted us, but which we saw involve other Untourists.

An Untour means being free to have late coffee, to stay in comfortable surroundings if the weather is nasty, to shop in markets as the locals do for food without bar codes and, more importantly, to immerse oneself in the local culture as much as any foreigner can. Untourists’ local encounters are not limited to tour guides or tourist hustlers, but provide the chance to meet local residents in their everyday surroundings--in their bistros, museums, galleries, or concerts."

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Italy, myth and reality

on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 11:36
Untourist and photographer Glenn McClure took this photo of a man while on an Italian Untour

Italy is so alive in American media. We are a culture obsessed with the Italians, whether in the reality of in-depth cooking and travel shows or the stereotypes of wildly gesticulating movie characters, sexy sirens, mafia dons or Italian mamas insisting we "mangia, mangia!" The name Tuscany is used to brand everything from furniture to processed foods to housing subdivisions. Where does the myth end and the reality begin?

While I dare not speak for the Italians, I would like to take a moment to further examine some of our flawed and romantic notions of Italy and Italians...

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So You Thought Italians Only Drank Wine: Italian Microbrews

on Wed, 09/19/2012 - 12:04
Who goes to Italy to drink beer? Those in the know.

Italians have long enjoyed beer with their pizza, but refined and complex micro brews have replaced the old Peroni. Indeed birra artiginale (Italian craft beer) is putting Italy on the world brewing map.

Unlike their northern European counterparts, Italian brewers are not bound by an old world beer making tradition. So they can borrow the best from the Germans or Belgians but add their own unconventional twist or look to America for inspiration.

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Vickie Kelber, Renaissance Woman

on Mon, 09/17/2012 - 11:42
Amalfi, Untours, Untourist of the Week

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

"Fifteen years ago, I was so impressed with Untours that I wrote a letter to the New York Times travel editor and it was published. The things I liked enough to write about then have not changed; they’ve only gotten better."

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Caffé rules: Feel at home in the Italian coffee bar

on Wed, 09/12/2012 - 09:28
How to feel at home in an Italian coffee bar, by the Untours blog

Italian coffee rules. We don't need to tell you that. We've gotten much more sophisticated as a coffee-drinking people ourselves. Surely most of us know our cappuccino from our macchiato well before we set foot on a plane. (We may have even gotten a twenty ounce latte at the drive-thru coffee shop on the way to the airport!) But in Italy, there are some important differences to note. As with all rules, the Italians love to make exceptions. But here are some guidelines to aid in the quality of your Italian coffee bar experience.