As many of you that have followed my blog for awhile know, one of the aspects of my professional life that I cherish, is the ‘task’ that I have acquired in the last couple of years of making a trek abroad to Florence, Italy. Yes, what a place to have to work! (I’m kidding, of course, it’s divine, how lucky am I?!) Yes, it’s that time of year, the month of May, one of the two times per year that we make the trip, May and October, taking MyRedGlasses international as we explore the city of Florence and surrounding Tuscan towns to shop till we drop, taking many wine and/or espresso breaks along the way. It’s actually exciting to find unique, luscious Italian fineries from luxurious cashmere, to fine leathers, linens, Italian glassware, great jewelry! However, it’s not just about shopping…..our trips include visits to the finest, boutique wineries of Tuscany, cultural visits to many of the sight of Florence where the Renaissance was born and a delightful all-day cooking school where we learn to make many of our favorite Italian delcasies, the authentic Italian way!
So much to tell and share about this wonderful experience but enough from me (you can check out some of my former blog posts recapping previous BPP tour trips by clicking here). I have asked M.A. Shute, founder and owner of BPP Tours to share with us, in her own words, just how this easy, fun, ‘untour’ came to be……
From M.A. Shute, Director of Fun, BPPTours…….
For many years, my husband and I traveled. Six of those years were on a sailboat. We never considered traveling on a “tour”. In fact, we were quite the opposite, a tour was anathema to us. A tour conjured up visions of traveling on big buses with strangers and being herded like sheep. Instead, I spent hours perusing guide books, then later the internet, searching for hotels, restaurants and “must-see/do” activities. We always hired local guides, whether to see the sights of the city, tour wineries or to easily access museums and the attractions with long lines. The process of doing this on my own became more and more all-consuming of my time……
So, I had an idea….How can I share my network of professionals I had met in the business world over the years? In todays’ busy world are there people who would like to travel but do not have the time to research everything? Would people like to just show up at the airport with their passports and have all of the details taken care of? Would they like to have experts go behind the scenes and introduce them to the cultural activities, wines of the regions, best shopping venues, and great food and wine? And would they like the trip to be all-inclusive with no hidden fees? Would they enjoy traveling with a small group? After market research, focus groups and discussions with friends….the UnTour was born!
Five years ago I founded BPP Tours which is short for Brunello, Pasta and Prada, exclusive tours (or untours) of Tuscany. Our team of experts (who can be found at www.BPPtours.com)includes Monica Ruiz, a licensed tour guide, Lawrence D’Almeida, a wine expert who, among other things, selects all of the wines for the luxury cruise line Silversea, a fabulous chef at Good Tastes of Tuscany, (food classes always are a favorite among the travelers); and last but not least, our very own shopping expert, Roz Pactor of My Red Glasses. Roz has utilized her contacts in the international world of fashion to develop a list of Italian artisans in Florence and the surrounding areas. She will travel with you to the Prada outlet and other luxury brand stores such as Gucci, Fendi, Armani, Dolce & Gabanna and many others, where you can find beautiful items and significant savings. But it’s not all about Prada. Dive into the art and history of Florence. Travel to Chianti and Montalcino, the home of Brunello Wines. Sample wines not easily found in the U.S. Restock your wine cellar. Eat wonderful food and enjoy unlimited wine with your meals. Visit the hillside villages of San Gimagnano and Siena. And travel with only 8 other people. The UnTour is about traveling with a group of friends in a relaxing way without having to worry about the details.
To find out more about BPP Tours or to reach out to M.A. if you are interested in joining us….it’s not too late as a few spots are still available for May 20-29 and for October 7-16 trips, please let us hear from you at www.bpptours.com
The following are a few highlights from past BPP untours…..
M.A. with Chef Luciano’s cooking classes; tasting Italy’s finest award winning gelato in charming Tuscan town of San Gimignano
Lawrence d’Almeida educating group on selecting and tasting Tuscan wines; shopping some of the many fine stores on the Via Tornabuoni in Florence
Touring Farmacia Santa Maria Novella, Italy’s oldest pharmacy created by the Medici family and selling their fine quality products today; home from a day of outlet shopping (note lots of bags….we made a killing!)
Italian designer Jennifer Tattanelli, whose quality leather goods boutique is a must stop on our shopping trips, comes from a rich heritage of leather goods from her family and through marriage to a former Botega Veneta and Gucci executive whose experience together have created a fab shopping experience and delightful cafe next door; WOW!.…we could not pass up this spectacular street art that was so descriptive of how we all felt about our experience in this blessed city!