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Will & Becky
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What is your favorite place in Europe so far?
We have great memories of all our trips..find it impossible to pick just one.
Where would you most like to go next?
Thinking of Spain. Will visited there briefly in the early 70's. We do love France and are always tempted to return to explore another region more intimately.
Tell us about one of your favorite places to stay on an Untour. Do you have a favorite host? Apartment? Village?
Last fall, we stayed at the farm La Canonica just outside Torrenieri in southern Tuscany. The views from the hilltop were breathtaking in every direction.
Do you have any special interests or hobbies that you follow when you travel?
We love wine and enjoy tasting local production. Our favorite part of travel is the people.
When you upload photos to Untours Cafe, you are also giving Untours permission to use the photos in their promotional material (with credit to you)
Will was in the shower covered with soap when the power went off at our farm stopping the water flow. Turned out a faulty toaster in another Untourist's apartment was the cause. We all gathered in the courtyard laughing after Will used a damp towel to remove most of the suds.
Which Untours have you already done?
We have taken two Untours. In Spring 2005, we visited France-Alsace and stayed in Bergheim with the Schneiders just on the edge of town. Great location and the area was beautiful.
In Fall 2007, we went to Italy -Tuscany South and stayed at La Canonica with the Vannetti family. They do not reside on the farm but are there during working hours. Also they offered Untourists option of scheduling two dinners. Wonderful opportunity to eat family cooked meal and learn more of the culture.
What advice would you give others considering an Untour?
We had great experiences and would recommend it highly without reservation. Also the work of the Foundation makes it a double pleasure!
What is your favorite Untour? (so far)
Toss up... and hope we get a chance to go again. Both Hosts and Untours Representatives were most welcoming and helpful!

Trip log Tuscany South Fall 2007 (-Also posted as a blog)

UNTOURS –SOUTH TUSCANY – SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2007
By Will & Becky

After a wonderful experience with our first Untour (Alsace region in France, Spring 2005), we chose Tuscany South for our next adventure. We booked our own travel using AA frequent flyer miles opting for an extended trip. Our first destination was arranged with TheRightVacationRental, an associated Untours company.

September 7-14: Arrive Paris CDG and depart 3 hours later aboard TGV train for Rennes, in northwestern France about 190 miles southwest of Paris. We stay the night at a hotel adjacent to the train station and pick up our rental car the next day. We proceed north to Mont-Dol and a week in an apartment at the Chateau Mont-Dol. We highly recommend this destination hosted by a charming young couple. (http://www.therightvacationrental.com/prop.asp?SID=4163) Take advantage of the opportunity to book an evening meal as Yannick is an extraordinary chef with international experience. The hosts have an improving and functional grasp of English and are most willing to assist in any way. The Brittany region of France was filled with lots of exciting destinations for day trips. More info on the region is available at http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Provinces/Brittany.shtml.

September 15-21 Departing Mont-Dol, we drive south stopping for one night at a B&B for a wonderful dinner and conversation with world sailor hosts at http://www.lemouillagevert.com/
Three nights in Les Eyzies at a B&B continues our good fortune of excellent food and delightful hosts at http://www.fermedetayac.com/. Two days drive brings us to Avignon, where we return the Renault Senic to Europcar, and board the TGV train for Nice.

September 22-26 A change of trains in Nice, sends us on our way to Alassio, Italy, and our first taste of the Italian Riviera. We stay 2 nights at Albergo Meuble Fiorenza e Banksia (http://www.alassiobedandbreakfast.it/).The rate includes a nice breakfast and the staff is very helpful. Alassio is an easy town to walk about with few American tourists. It boasts a beautiful sandy beach of pure quartz . Back to the train station, we continue on to Pisa. Each trip has to have a little something unexpected. We arrive to find the B&B had given away our room, not a pleasant thought at 6PM on a Sunday evening. Hours spent in trip preparation on the internet paid off, as a small kernel of human memory leads us to the Hotel Minerva several blocks away with a room available. (http://www.pisaonline.it/hotelminerva/ ). Crisis passed, we console ourselves with wine and pizza at Ristorante Galileo. After a quick visit to the famous leaning tower the next morning and a stroll down the shopping street Corsa Italia, we are off to Siena, one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Italy. We enjoy a stay at the Albergo Bernini (http://www.albergobernini.com/). Siena, built on 3 hills, is not for the faint of leg. The rewards of this beautiful town are worth the effort. Take time to savor the setting sun at one of the many cafes at Piazza del Campo and visit the famous Duomo. A fortuitous stop at a Siena pizzicheria for wine & pasta to go contributes greatly to the remainder of our trip. We inquire about the music playing when we enter. It is a CD (il pane, il vino e la visione) by Sergio Cammariere. We purchase one the next day and it never left the CD player in our car for the next two weeks. We purchased 3 more copies and brought them home as gifts.

September 26-October 2 We taxi to the Avis car rental office in Siena, and anxious to begin the Untours part of our trip, are off to our farm with some excellent emailed directions from Untour’s Andi Cancelliere. Our destination is La Canonica, beyond Torrineri toward San Giovanni d'Asso. Donella shows us to our apartment Diana after being treated to coffee and a snack. We unpack and do a load of laundry (6 Euros). Drying racks and clothes pins are available to hang wash outside your apartment. We explore the various TV stations available, all Italian of course. They have just as many infomercials as we do! Our welcoming basket in the apartment contains a bottle of house wine, fruit, bread, juice, milk, butter, eggs, lettuce, cheese, & meat with coffee, sugar, & salt staples. The escorted Untourists arrived later in the afternoon and all 6 apartments are filled.

The Vannetti family cooks dinner for all who want to come (20 Euros per person). It is a delicious multi-course Tuscan meal complete with wine and vin santo produced on the farm. They employ a young woman from Peru (Yngrid) who is fluent in English and the dinner is also attended by a retired professor (Claudia), native German, living in the vicinity. She acts as interpreter as each course is served so we understand what we are eating. The head of the family, Orfeo, is in the hospital. It is a wonderful way to start the Tuscan holiday. Wine, olive oil, honey, and jams are for sale at the farm store.
We awake the next morning to find a copy of the orientation folder at our door with instructions on how to get to the meeting at Fattoria Pieve a Salti outside Buonconvento. The Untours representative, Harriet Gussoni, gives an excellent presentation with extensive handouts. She is assisted by Sarah, British by birth, and current resident of Murlo. All questions being answered, we proceed to the main building for dutch treat lunch (18 Euros each). It is a good chance to meet someone from another farm and we have a delightful conversation with a couple from Iowa. Experiencing the first rain of our trip, we opt to return to our apartment to look over handouts.
Friday dawns cloudy and cool. We walk around the grounds and the many views are like a portrait coming to life. The various contrasting hues of the landscape are extraordinary. Highlight of the day is being asked to join the group of 8 from Wilmington, NC, for dinner at Mario’s in Buonconvento. It is a most entertaining evening as we sample a variety of foods and share many laughs and more than a little of the vino della casa. One couple got the Bistecca a la Fiorentina which must have been 3 inches thick. Even we Texans have to say that was one big steak! Saturday we go back to Buonconvento (http://www.abctuscany.com/siena/buonconvento/index.cfm) for the market. It is an extended affair due to weekend festival. We take a Sunday drive on the roads to Montepulciano (http://www.montepulciano.net/) and Pienza ( http://www.pienza.com/). Both destinations are well known on the tourist map and parking is at a premium. One must be grateful not to suffer car sickness when driving the roads of this region. Orfeo has come home from the hospital and grape harvest is underway at La Canonica, reminding us we are on a working farm. Monday we are off to explore nearby Montalcino (http://www.ilpalio.org/brief_montalcino.htm). Parking in the lower gravel lot with self pay meter, we hike up to town & stop at the Tourist Info office for a detailed map. Hint: restrooms are by the fortress. . Internet access is available at via Mazzini, 30 (2 Euros for 15 min). Exiting Montalcino by the back road, we visit the Abbey of Sant’Antimo near Castelnuovo dell'Abate. This historic abbey is one of the most outstanding examples of Romanesque monastic architecture in Italy.


Memories of reading Bella Tuscany just prior to our trip send us off to visit Cortona on Tuesday. It turns into quite an outing as we get “lost” and take a meandering route finally arriving near 2PM. Glad to find escalators up from the parking lot, we locate a restaurant and sit outside hearing more British, Aussie, & German accents than Italian. We returned home via Castiglione del Largo and a stop at the larger COOP there for food supplies.

October 3-9 Our second week begins with the Untours mid-stay activity, a guided tour of the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore followed by a very nice lunch at Ristorante La Torre di Monte Oliveto. (http://www.monte-oliveto.com/ ) The tour is most informative & the Abbey gift shop has a varied selection of souvenirs. The lunch is delicious and once again we have the opportunity to visit with other Untourists. Meeting new people is always a highlight of our travels. Well done Harriet!

Thursday we are off early to return to the Abbey at Sant’Antimo to attend the Gregorian chant mass. After lunch at home, we wander the streets of Buonconvento frequenting the green grocer & other shops.
Friday is devoted to Murlo, the heart of the great Etruscan high culture that dominated central Italy from the 8th to about the 1st C BC. The former Sienese bishop’s palace in Murlo is now a small, ultra-modern museum displaying the finds from Poggio Civitate, the name given a nearby hill with an excavated Etruscan villa. DO NOT MISS THIS! http://www.murlo.info/

We continue the day driving west joining the road from Siena to Grosetto, south to Civitella Paganico before turning back east. The route reveals drastic changes in scenery with forested hillsides and deep gorges. We drive toward Monte Amiata and return to Montalcino and home. Arrangements have been made for this night of October 5, to dine together again hosted by our farm family, the Vannetti’s. Once again we enjoy a delicious meal “prepared from the heart” as Serenella says. Orfeo plays his accordion and dancing ensues. The evening is all of what we came to Tuscany to experience!
Saturday, we stay close to home and enjoy a splurge bottle of Brunello di Montalcino (a “young” one is all we can afford) and pasta ala Becky. Sunday, we take a trial run to Chiusi to locate the Avis office for returning the car on Wednesday. The directions faxed to us by Harriet are right on the mark. We are Untourists and this is our UnMichelin day trying to find the grey roads less frequented by tour buses. This evening we join Yngrid & Claudia for dinner at a small restaurant in Chiusure http://www.ilpozzodichiusure.it/Osteria%20inglese.htm Monday we say goodbye to the “Wilmington 8” who are off to Florence. We head north of Siena to explore the Chianti region. It is a beautiful day and we enjoy lunch at Greve in Chianti in the triangular Piazza Matteotti lined with porticoes. This principal town in the region is named for the river which runs through it. http://www.greve-in-chianti.com/
On Tuesday we say goodbye to the other two couples (from TN & MI) at La Canonica. We are the last.
We venture no further than the COOP in Torrineri, repack our bags, and clean the apartment. We drop by the office to give Diana a small gift we brought from TX to thank her for the wonderful hospitality. No English is needed as her smile imparts everything..We stroll at sunset as we try to imprint the view in our memory. Where did two weeks go??

October 10-12 Determined to spend every possible minute at La Canonica, we walk out the door at 8AM. We say our last goodbyes and head to Chiusi. The nice gentleman at the Avis office drives us to the train station. While waiting for the train to Rome we met fellow TX Untourists we did not get a chance to talk to during our stay. We all agree it was a wonderful vacation.
We arrive at Roma Termini and purchase tickets for Leonardo Express train to airport the next morning. A 15 min walk brings us to Hotel Montreal (http://www.hotelmontrealrome.com/ ). It is beginning to rain but we are off by city bus to explore region around the Spanish Steps. We shop in the underground at the train station and enjoy our last meal in Italy at Le 2 Colonne near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Thursday morning the rain has cleared and we are off to the airport.
Milking every frequent flyer mile possible out of this trip, we await our Aer Lingus flight (partner of AA) to Dublin. Spending the night at an airport hotel, we bus to town & enjoy fish and chips with a pint of Guinness at a Dublin pub. Friday, Oct 12, finds us back at the Dublin airport, off to Chicago, and safely deposited back in TX by nightfall.
We have readjusted to Central time zone and settled back into our daily routine. Our money bank has shrunk but our memory bank is overflowing. Now I am waiting to see if any “failure to control speed” tickets show up on my credit card statement…or perhaps Italians do not issue tickets for going too slow!

Note: Will is legally blind which influences some of our choices of activities. This was my most challenging experience to be driver, navigator, and sightseer! We recommend taking advantage of the Pecorino cheese tour & hike to the Etruscan ruins if offered.

General Observations and Recommendations:
-Pack light -I know everyone “says it”, but do it.
-Learn a few basic words & phrases in Italian (http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/italian/) Look for the handy laminated foldout called Italian A Language Map
-I do not have GPS but do take a basic car compass. Getting “lost” is part of the fun. In Tuscany, all roads wind, all roads have breathtaking views, all roads have drivers able to sense they can pass no matter how close to the next curve, and all roads lead to interesting destinations.
-The Michelin map provided corresponds to the Guide, but I recommend the Rough Guide Tuscany 1:200,000 for ease of reading. I purchased mine at bookshop in Siena.
-Look for elevators at train stations to change track locations if stairs are a problem or you have heavy luggage
-Two weeks is not too long at one place, it is just a nice beginning
-Untours staff are the best!

Will & Becky's Blog

France -Alsace 2005

2005 France -Alsace - FIRST UNTOUR

Will & Becky



Comments primarily about the Untours portion of our trip. Included some internet links I found useful. Alsace is a land of terraced vineyards, hilltop castles, refreshing wines, mouthwatering cuisine, charming villages and even more charming people!



8-10 May Follow the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag diet beginning 3 days before departure. (http://www.louiselambert-lagace.ca/lllenglish/antijetlagdiet.htm). Depart East Texas… Continue

Posted on April 23, 2008 at 2:14pm

Italy -South Tuscany 2007

UNTOURS –SOUTH TUSCANY – SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2007

By Will & Becky



After a wonderful experience with our first Untour (Alsace region in France, Spring 2005), we chose Tuscany South for our next adventure. We booked our own travel using AA frequent flyer miles opting for an extended trip. Our first destination was arranged with TheRightVacationRental, an associated Untours company.



September 7-14: Arrive Paris CDG and depart 3 hours later aboard TGV train for… Continue

Posted on April 22, 2008 at 8:39pm

Comment Wall (9 comments)

At 3:50pm on April 22, 2008, Mary Lou Grier said…
Welcome, Will & Becky. You did an absolutely fabulous job on your
South Tuscany trip log! We just missed one another, as I was there
the 2 weeks before you, in Buonconvento (my 8th yearly trip in a row,
and leave for #9 & #10 - 2 back-to-back - in 2weeks). Despite what
they say, you can go "home" again!
Where do you hang out in Texas? I'm from Boerne, if you know where
that is. I'm sending you a friend request, and hope you will agree.
Mary Lou
At 4:27pm on April 22, 2008, Powen Shiah said…
Hi Will & Becky! Glad to have you here with us on the Untours Cafe, and thanks so much for sharing that triplog of your Tuscany South adventure.

Take your time to explore some of the photos, and videos. Do you have any photos from your trip that you can share with the rest of us?

If you like, you can even post a question or start a discussion in our forum.

I see you've already figured out how to put up a picture of yourself to personalize your page. Good job!

Now, the only suggestion I have is that you might want to actually post your trip log as a "blog". There should be a button on your page somewhere that says "add a blog post". That way, people will be able to find it more easily than if it's just on your page in a text box.

If you run into any problems with that or have any question, you can send me a message or ask my colleagues, Marilee, Sue, & Kim. We're here to help!
At 8:21am on April 23, 2008, Powen Shiah said…
That's great! Looking forward to reading about your Alsace Untour when you find it.
At 4:56pm on June 21, 2008, Mary Lou Grier said…
Hope you get in touch if you come back to Boerne! I'm also outside of town, on the Sisterdale Road. Do get out of those piney woods and come to the hill country! South
Tuscany was wonderful as always - the first two weeks with 5 friends from San Antonio
(and Lufkin!) at Poggio Rose 1, and the 2nd two weeks with 3 friends from San Antonio
at Ada Teresa. I'm planning to do a short blog on the latest news about Brunello wine
(did a more indepth one about last August) and will also start a discussion with photo on
the Tuscany Destination page - so check them out.
Mary Lou
At 7:21pm on June 14, 2009, Ed Jose said…
Hi Will and Becky.....Your triplog about South Tuscany almost made me cry. It is such a wonderful place and you described it so well. Thanks for bringing back many memories of Italy.
Thank you and go back soon
Ed Jose
At 12:44pm on June 15, 2009, Ed Jose said…
I am over 80 and have a couple of medical issues and don't want to drive any more and my wife doesn't either. So we have stopped traveling to Europe for good. I miss it. My wife's family comes from a little town near Lucca and we have visited it many times. Thanks again for the memories and get your bodies back there soon.
Ed Jose
At 8:01pm on June 15, 2009, Ed Jose said…
You have made me ashamed of myself. I must re-assess my travel plans and give this note to my wife who is "only" 79 and very healthy. There is no reason that we cannot drive again in Italy. Thanks for the heads up and the encouragement. An Untours would be just the thing, wouldn't it? Perhaps a Swiss heartland with a side trip to Lucca and a flight home from Milan.
Best regards,
Ed
At 5:25pm on September 5, 2009, Donna Broberg said…
i have just read your notes from your trip to Tuscany and it makes me more excited than ever that we will be there in only 5 weeks. So much to see and do and yet we want to just "be" and take in all the scenery, wine, cuisine, ets.
Do you have some specific do's and don'ts for us during this week? Your observation/suggestion list was very helpful. We will have just spent a week in Florence and will then spend a 3rd week in Almalfi. With our youngest just off to college, this is the beginning of our travel. Would love to hear anything you have for us? Can't wait. thanks, Donna PS--We are from Austin :)
At 5:26pm on September 5, 2009, Donna Broberg said…
PS--we are also with Untours and appreciated your high recommendation and experiences with them. It has made us very hopeful of the same. thanks, Donna

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