Milan, Lake Como, Lake Garda, & Franciacorta Wine Country
Food & Wine Tour
TRAVEL THROUGH ITALY’S CHICEST REGION
Our original Italy group trip is so popular that we’ll be running two trips in 2019! Join us on a scheduled group trip, a private group trip, or contact us to have us make a custom itinerary for you!
Boutique 4-star hotel accommodations with complimentary wifi in Milan
5-star hotel accommodations with complimentary wifi on Lake Garda
A meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant
All meals listed in the itinerary (plus 1 alcoholic drink at each lunch and dinner)
Hands-on cooking class with host and chef, Aida Mollenkamp
Street food tour conducted by the regional food experts
Market tours and indie boutique visits with local creatives
A group concierge to help with any extra events you may want to plan
A group photographer so you can enjoy the moment
Group transportation from the Lakes to Malpensa airport and to/from all events listed
Professionally shot 10 edited group photos daily
Gratuities for all meals, hotels, and drivers
A few gifts from some of our favorite food & travel brands
A couple surprises! (You didn’t think we’d tell you every last detail, did you?)
Any incidental expenses in Italy not listed above
Gratuities for photographer, concierge, and trip host
Required travel insurance
Any extra excursions or events you plan with our concierge
Transportation from your home to/from Milan, Italy
Ground transportation from Milan area airport to Milan hotel
Alcohol beyond the 1 alcoholic drink included at both lunch and dinner
Previously the private home of the Ranza family, this 43-room boutique hotel opened in mid 2015. With a chic design and top-notch hospitality, you could easily spend your day enjoying the curated cocktails at the bar or in the private patio. Its prime location near the famous shopping district of the "Golden Rectangle," around the corner from the Modern Art Gallery, and less than a 10 minute walk from the Duomo means you can make the most of your free time.
Set on the shore of Lake Garda, this chic boutique hotel dates back to 1888. One the western shore of Lake Garda, in the town of Gardone, the property has a fantastic location set 1.1 km from the Vittoriale degli Italiani estate and 1.5 km from the gardens of Giardino Botanico Fondazione André Heller. There are also 3 restaurants and a chic bar, as well as a spa, 2 pools, a gym and saunas.
Why do you travel to Lombardy?
As Italy's second largest city and its fashion and finance capital, Milan needs no intro. Yet the city is not nearly as popular among tourists who often write it off as too modern or too serious. But, to us, Milan is fascinating because of its duality: it's a metropolis that's just as European as it is Italian. Wander the city and you'll see Italian influences in food, architecture, and culture, but you’ll also hear a mish-mash of languages as bankers close deals over espresso and designers stroll local boutiques.
And the time to visit Milan is right now. Hosting the 2015 World Expo — during which nearly 22 million visitors descended on the region — ushered in an era of modernization in Milan . Skyscrapers shot up in the Isola neighborhood, the canal area of Darsena was redeveloped, new museums and restaurants opened. The gist? If you haven’t traveled to Milan recently there's a lot to see from the traditional (the Duomo and La Scala) to the modern (unique architecture, indie design, and chic boutiques).
I've never heard of the Franciacorta wine region. What's that all about?
Here’s the deal with Franciacorta: it’s that perfectly quaint Italian wine region you’ve dreamt of but never heard of. Our founder discovered this sleepy wine region and couldn’t stop raving about its glorious vineyards and it’s beautiful Alpine lake backdrop.
Among Franciacorta’s high points? It is one of the only regions in Italy making sparkling wine in the traditional (aka Champenoise) method, it’s a getaway for the chicest of Milan residents, it's set against a glacial Alpine lake, and there's a lot to do from biking tours to hiking trips to wine tours and cooking classes. We’ve been waiting patiently to blow the top off on this best-kept-secret of Italy, and we’re finally ready to share this little slice of heaven exclusively on our Salt and Wind group travel experiences.
What sort of traveler would enjoy the Italy group trip?
Our Northern Italy group trip is curated for the easy going food lover who enjoys the cross-section of high and low tourism. We’ll be mixing the two often to create an authentically Italian experience for our travelers, meaning one day will be lunching on a pizza in the streets of Milan and the next will be doing dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. The days are packed with oodles of activities, and some surprises are in store, so high energy, get-up-and-go attitudes are encouraged. An open-minded traveler who is sympathetic to the changing environment of a foreign country will have the best time.
How many guests are there total? Who else is going on this trip?
We cap our group travel experiences at 12 guests and then there are 3 to 5 staff with us at any given time (that's counting the driver, the photographer, concierge, tour guides, and our founder/host, Aida Mollenkamp). This makes for a big enough group to keep it lively but small enough you don't feel like you're actually part of a group.
We encourage you to bring a friend, significant other, or family member, because we price our trips for double occupancy rooms and we think it's always more fun to have a roomie you know. That said we love adventures solo travelers and welcome them with open arms!
How much driving is involved?
We’re exploring two completely different sides of Italy on our group trip, getting an inside look at one of its largest cities, and uncovering the local’s best-kept-secret that is the Franciacorta wine region.
The entire itinerary takes place within the region of Lombardy (about 100 mile radius) so there’s never too much car time. And, we do our best to break it up so you never have to be in the car for more than 2 hours at one time. Of course, unforeseen circumstances or traffic could cause delays but we’ll do our best to keep it under control.
How much walking is involved?
To us, the best way to get to know a city is by walking it. That said, while we're in Milan, we'll plan on walking anywhere from 1 to e miles daily, weather permitting. We go at a leisurely pace and it's all flat so it's never too overwhelming; however, we can always call a cab or Uber if you're tired! When we're in the countryside, the best way to get around is by car so you'll only be walking to get around wineries or around the town where we're staying.
Can I bring a friend or significant other with me?
Please do! Rooms for the Northern Italy are priced for double occupancy to make it super simple. Just indicate when you book that you would like to room together so we can arrange it for you!
Are food and drinks covered?
For the most part, yes! All wine tastings and meals listed in the Italy itinerary are included (including 1 alcoholic drink at each lunch and dinner). Our seated meals will be served either family-style, as a fixed menu, or as tasting menus, which allows our restaurant partners to service our large group in a consistent manner. Please inform us in advance of any food allergies or dietary restrictions.
What kind of food and drink will there be?
Regional Italian Food
When it comes to Italian food: there is no "one" Italian food but rather tens of regional styles that come together as the food we call "Italian." Over the course of our Italy trip you'll get to know the food from Lombardy as we visit markets, do street food tours, shop at gourmet stores, and dine at various Italian restaurants.
Here's the lowdown on Lombardy: the region's proximity to the Po River means it smackdab in the middle of Italy's "rice bowl," so you'll see risotto (almost) everywhere you turn. While southern Italian food ingredients are largely seafood, tomatoes, olive oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, the food of Lombardy has historically about the land, so the main ingredients are lots of beef, veal, cream, grains, butter, and Grana Padano.
Milan is known first and foremost for the iconic local dishes Veal Milanese and Risotto Milanese, but there are a ton of regional dishes you’ll see throughout our trip from the local casonsei pasta, the addictive sbrisilona almond cake, carpaccio di Bresaola, various type of polenta, panettone (a Christmastime cake), and amaretti cookies. In addition, the region of Lombardy has a ton of local ingredients from the better known — Grana Padano and other cheeses and local cattle — to the more hyper regional — including a salumi only made on the island of Lake Iseo and a Slow Food-protected salt-cured fish.
When we're traveling to Northern Italy in the Fall, expect a lot of seasonal flavors - we’re talking squash, chestnuts, mushrooms, truffles, and game – in the more classic restaurants. The more modern restaurants aren’t quite as rigid about seasonality and flavors so you’ll still see light appetizers and fish well into the Fall.
Regardless of the season, our Northern Italy itinerary has a mix of meals so that by the end of the week you’ll have a mix of classic and modern and richer and lighter meals. We do our best to balance it all so you never have one day where you’re too hungry or too full.
Types Of Alcohol
Milan is ground zero of Italian aperitivo (or happy hour) culture, which means cocktail hour is taken seriously. From classic liquors (Aperol, Campari, Zucca, Carpano, Ramazzotti) and classic cocktails invented in Northern Italy (like the Negroni, Americano, and Spritz, to name just a few) to seasonal modern cocktails, there is a lot to sip.
Lombardy is also home to or nearby some really amazing wine regions home to wines like Barolo, Asti, Amarone, and, of course, Franciacorta so you’ll have many wines to choose from on almost any wine list. The Franciacorta wine region specializes in premium sparkling wine so we’ll mostly drink that during wine tastings in wine country. However, there are also locally-produced still wines if you want to mix it up!
Will I need extra spending money? Should it be Euros?
If you would like to shop for yourself, there will be a few opportunities to do so. Anything you shop for is to be paid by you, separately. We will make various ATM stops so you can pull out some euros. Oh, and be sure to your bank know your leaving the country.
I don’t speak Italian, is this a problem?
Absolutely not! All of our partners speak Italian and our host, Aida, is a highly proficient at Italian.
There’s a lot here — how busy will I be?
We want you to really get to know the areas we’re traveling; however, we know that you’re on vacation and will want downtime. That said most days will have a few hours of activities, but, to keep it doable, we don’t usually start until around 10AM and we try to pepper in a fair amount of free time in the afternoon. All activities are optional though there are no refunds for activities you opt to not attend.
What is the weather like? What should I pack?
Northern Italy's weather is similar to the East Coast of the United States. We head there in the Spring and Fall when the temperatures ranges from the high 40s at night to the low 70s during the day and it does rain every so often. We recommend packing lots of layers, some rain gear, and a few scarves and hats.
We have partnered with hotels that meet the Salt & Wind standards of service.
Double occupancy pricing is the price for (1) person to stay in a shared (i.e. double) room. In other words, each person staying in that room will pay the posted double occupancy rate. If you're a couple or friends traveling together, please know that you'll each pay the double occupancy rate. Please indicate if you want two separate beds or one bed so we can plan accordingly.
Need some alone time? We hear you. That's why we offer single occupancy rooms. The single occupancy rate is what you will pay to have the room all to yourself.
If you do not have a travel partner, you can purchase single occupancy and have the room all to yourself. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.
How many Americans will I run into?
The fact that Milan and Northern Italy is a lesser-visited corner of Italy by Americans? That means it’s not (yet) as touristy as better known towns like Venice, Rome, and Florence. Of course, in the summertime there will be more tourists overall than in the colder months.
What is the best airport to fly into?
The main airports that service Milan are Malpensa and Linate though you could even fly into Bergamo or Turin. Here's a little more info on each airport:
More of a business traveler and commuter airport, this is a smaller airport that we find to be the most manageable of all the area airports. We always try to fly in and out of Linate airport because it is just about 20 minutes from central Milan. However, when flying from the United States you will always need to layover somewhere in order to fly to Linate.
This is the major airport serving Milan and has the most direct flight options from the United States. Keep in mind that most direct flights from the US into Malpensa are from the East Coast. So, if you're flying from the somewhere else in the US (like us), you're going to likely have to layover to get to Malpensa. That's when we'd recommend you then compare flight options into Linate since you'll land just minutes from central Milan.
Note that there is a flat rate of 95 Euro for taxis from Malpensa to central Milan and that it takes anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 hours to get there depending on traffic and where you're heading.
You can usually find really good flight deals into Bergamo. The big disadvantage is that it takes more time (by train, rental car, or taxi) and money to get to Milan from Bergamo. We recommend this option if you are extending your trip beyond the Salt & Wind dates and want to rent a car to then explore the Italian Alps.
Like Bergamo, this is farther from Milan but often more affordable to fly into. And, like Bergamo, we don't recommend flying into here unless you plan on exploring Turin and Piedmont before or after the Salt & Wind trip.
Have more questions or need more help? Reach out to us at email@example.com and we can answer your questions or put you in touch with our travel agent to help you with bookings.
Do I have to get to and from the airport by myself?
Upon arrival in Italy, you are responsible to get FROM the airport to Milan; however, included in your trip fee is car service back to the airport or Milan on the last day. If you decide to extend your trip or fly out of an airport that is not in the Milan area (ie Malpensa or Linate), that is not included in the trip price.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org once you have your flights and we can help arrange car service on the front end of the trip if you so desire.
I don’t live close by. Can you book my flight?
The trip price does not cover airfare from your hometown to Milan, Italy, but we can help! Just ask and we'll connect you with our Salt & Wind travel agent who can assist you with flight and other travel details.
I need more time off! Can I add additional days on to the trip?
Great! We plan to add on day trips or trip extensions to the trips in the near future. For now, you can use our concierge (for an additional fee) to arrange additional tours, restaurants, or hotel nights. And, if you want to stay longer in Italy or Europe, we can help you get preferred rates with our hotel partners.
I gotta ask...is it safe?
Our team members have all spent an extensive amount of time traveling, drinking, eating, shopping and hanging out in all of the locations we will visit. We would not be running trips there if we didn’t think it was safe, but we urge you to check the U.S. State Department website to make your own determinations. You can also enroll in the STEP program for travel warnings and updates.
As with any unfamiliar location, we urge you to take precautions against pickpockets and to minimize traveling with unnecessary valuable goods, like high-end jewelry. All of the hotels we partner with have their own security and safes.
Not to be a downer but what happens in case of a medical emergency?
This area of Italy has a long history of U.S. tourists so the quality of care is excellent. You can also look into buying a MedeVac such as AirMed if you want to be taken somewhere else for medical care.
Do you recommend trip insurance?
Yes, we actually require travel insurance for each and every traveler. There are a variety of services for providing trip insurance and note that many credit cards (such as Chase Sapphire and American Express) include the service as part of a trip purchase. Please check with your credit card to confirm.
Does Global Entry help with expediting customs?
If you travel a lot, you'll want to look into the CBP Global Entry program, which allow you to have expedited customs experience. Global Entry is used anytime travelers return to the U.S. from an international trip and it help expedite customs and border patrol, so you'll be able to use it above and beyond the Salt & Wind trip too! Also, FYI, Global Entry enrollment includes TSA Pre Check so you'll get both when you apply.