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Trip Report Untours - A Wonderful Experience in Montalcino, Tuscany

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My wife and I just returned from a trip to Italy in October of 2015, which included a one week "Untour" in Montalcino -- in the very heart of the Tuscan wine country. We were very pleased in all respects with Untours and wanted to write up a review so that other Fodors readers might benefit from our experience.

Basically, Untours is, as its name implies, something less than a formal tour company -- but it is also more than a landlord. Actually, it's something in between that will appeal to the experienced traveller who doesn't mind doing things independently, but who prefers to have at least something of a "net" below him in the event of an unexpected problem while abroad. Untours does several different things, but the bread and butter of their business is setting up their clients in thoroughly vetted apartments, providing an initial orientation in the destination city, having in-country representatives available by phone 24/7, and providing transportation in the form of a rental car (in rural areas) or a transportation pass (in urban centers). In many cases, Untours will also pick you up at the airport or train station upon your arrival in the city you will be staying in. In essence, you receive unlimited expert advice in planning your trip, a lovely flat or apartment (no surprises of the kind one sometimes gets when dealing with VRBO!), a very helpful orientation meeting on the day following your arrival, a car or a transportation pass, maps, brochures and other helpful information, together with the comfort of knowing that you have an expert source for help and guidance if needed during your stay. Importantly, Untours provides all of this at a very reasonable price -- we paid less than $2,400 for a week in a lovely and very well equipped two bedroom apartment overlooking the main square in Montalcino, including a rental car with unlimited mileage and a private garage for the car. There were too many other "extras" to mention here, but believe me: Untours offers a wonderful bargain for the experienced and/or adventurous traveller who wants to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Untours has a terrific website (www.untours.com) and I urge anyone who is interested to check it out, particularly the section entitled "What is an Untour?" Note that Untours operates in major cities (and many smaller ones, too) all over Europe and in Argentina, as well.

Anyhow, we have been receiving Untours' intriguing and very nicely put together brochures for many years. Frankly, it all sounded just too good to be true and I was skeptical on the whole. But, since we were planning to spend a week in Florence this fall, it seemed like a a good idea to give Untours a try by spending a week in the Tuscan countryside at the end of our stay in Florence. Wow! We are very glad that we did.

I started out by e-mailing Untours (headquartered in Media, Pennsylvania) asking for some general advice as to what might work best for us. This immediately graduated to several lengthy telephone conversations with Untours' Italy specialist, Andi, a delightful young lady from an Italian American family in Philadelphia. Andy has lived and studied in Italy, speaks Italian fluently and has made more than 20 trips there. Needless to say, Andi seems to know most everything there is to know about Italy and she was able to provide us with the guidance we needed. Untours has 10 or 12 apartments in several different small towns in central Tuscany and Andi was able to steer us in the direction of one ("Piazza") that would work best for us in the charming medieval walled city of Montalcino in the very heart of the Brunello wine country. We booked our Untour seamlessly with Andi's assistance and eagerly looked forward to our trip.

Untours arranged for us to travel from Florence to Siena, where we met Harriet, their absolutely charming resident agent in Tuscany. We picked up our rental car in Siena and then followed Harriet on the 45 minute drive to Montalcino -- where Harriet introduced us to Angela, the charming and very lovely young lady who was our landlord. (Where in the world does Untours find all of these charming people?) Anyhow, Angela spent more than an hour orienting us to the apartment, including instruction in the operation of all of the appliances (dishwasher, washer, dryer, heating system, internet, etc.). Angela had previously stocked the apartment with basic supplies so that we would be ready to go in the morning: milk, coffee, fruit, eggs, bread, butter, juice, cheese, ham, etc., etc. This all seemed to us to be way beyond the call of duty, but it's apparently standard operating procedure for Untours. The apartment was lovely and immaculately clean and well equipped. Clearly, Angela had thought about her guests and had anticipated their every need. Angela also gave us her cell phone and landline numbers so that we then had two local contacts in the event that they were needed.

We met Harriet the next day for our orientation and a lovely lunch in wonderful restaurant on the grounds of a restored medieval abbey. After lunch we were met by a guide and we all had a tour of the abbey, during the course of which we were able to listen to an afternoon None service conducted by the resident monks in Gregorian chant. Way beyond cool!

After that we were on our own for the remainder of the week -- which passed all too quickly. We were in touch with Harriet a couple of times via e-mail for her expert guidance on places to see, restaurants to try, etc. Harriet convinced us at the end of our stay that the best way to get to back to Rome was to drive and drop our rental car at the airport and then provided us with detailed directions. She was right, driving to the airport was a breeze.

All in all, our Untours adventure in Montalcino and Tuscany far exceeded our expectations in all respects. Untours is a terrific company with terrific people and a terrific product. Our experience was clearly not an accident and I have the sense that Untours is exceptionally well managed -- and I expect for this reason that their travel offerings elsewhere in Europe and Argentina are likely to be just as well done as the one we enjoyed in Montalcino. The bottom line here is that I would recommend Untours to my fellow Fodors readers without reservation or qualification of any kind whatsoever. There are definitely more Untours in our future travel plans!

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