Salt & Wind Travel
September 30 - October 7, 2018
Northern Italy Trip Information


Benvenuti on the Salt & WInd 2018 Lombardy trip!

We here at Salt & Wind cannot wait to share this corner of Italy with you. Maybe you've already read a few Italian history books or perhaps you just booked your flight. Either way we wanted to provide you some background on where we’re heading and answer some FAQs.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


LOMBARDY 101

THE REGION OF LOMBARDY

One look at the varied landscape of Lombardy and it’s immediately clear: this region is 100% unique and 100% Northern Italian. Stretching from the Alps and the Lake District in the north to the Po Valley in the south, Lombardy is vast, varied, and stunning.

Lombardy is also one of Italy’s wealthiest and most populous regions — home to about 1/6th of the country's residents and the source of 1/5th of the Italian GDP. We love Lombardy because it has global cities like Milan, historic towns like Bergamo, modern cuisine and world-class wineries, Alpine ski resorts, and posh lakeside retreats. 

MILAN

As Italy's second largest city and the county’s center for both fashion and finance, Milan needs no intro. But Milan is not as popular among tourists as other Italian cities and is written off as too modern or too serious. In reality Milan is the most cutting edge city in Italy and it has a duality that makes it just as European as it is Italian. Wander Milan and you'll see classic Italy — in the food, architecture, and culture — juxtaposed with a global quality — bankers closing deals over espresso and fashionistas touting the latest trends in a variety of languages — rarely seen in other Italian cities.

The time to visit Milan is right now! Nearly 22 million people visited Milan when it hosted the World Expo in 2015 and, as a result, the city entered an era of modernization. Skyscrapers shot up in the Isola neighborhood, the canals of Darsena were redeveloped, and new museums and restaurants abound. The gist? There's a lot to see from the traditional (the Duomo and La Scala) to the modern (contemporary art, indie design, and chic boutiques).

FRANCIACORTA WINE COUNTRY

Located just an hour east of Milan, Franciacorta is a lesser-known wine region yet it’s home to some of the world’s best sparkling wines. Set along the shores of one of the smaller of the Italian Lake District lakes (Lake Iseo), Franciacorta serves as a weekend getaway for the Milanese jetset. We’ve been waiting to blow the top off on this best-kept-secret region and to share its wines with Salt & Wind travelers.

THE ITALIAN LAKES

Over the course of our trip, we’ll visit three of Lombardy’s lakes. Though they’re all at the foothills of the Alps, they each have their own personality.

At the turn of the 18th century, Lake Como became a highlight on the Grand Tour — a circuit of travel that wealthy Europeans embarked upon to experience the best of the continent — and that grandeur is apparent even today. While Lake Iseo is the smallest of the three lakes we’ll visit, it’s very much on the map because it’s the epicenter of Franciacorta wine country. As the eastern most and largest of the Italian Lake District lakes, Lake Garda (also called Benaco) is a place of superlatives that has turquoise blue water, a unique history, and some of our favorite locales.

LOMBARDY FOOD

When it comes to Italian food: there is no "one" Italian food but rather tens of regional styles that come together to be called "Italian." Over the course of the trip you'll get an idea of the food from Lombardy as we visit markets, gourmet stores, and restaurants. 

Lombardy is adjacent to the Po River and, as such, is in an area known as Italy's "rice bowl," which means you'll see risotto everywhere you turn. While the southern parts of Italy are all seafood, tomatoes, olive oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Lombardy has been historically about the land, using lots of veal, cream sauces, butter, and Grana Padano cheese.

The region's most famous recipes are saffron-tinged Risotto Milanese, the crunchy, breaded cotoletta (aka veal Milanese), the lean carpaccio di Bresaola, hearty polenta, sweet panettone (a Christmastime cake), and nutty Amaretti cookies. But, today Milan is very much a global city so you'll also see trendy vegan cafes, juice bars, and ethnic restaurants, alongside traditional regional spots.

BEFORE YOU GO

Read Before You Go

Need some additional intel? Read these articles for a deeper dive into Italy:

Milan, Italy: 24 Hour Itinerary 

Milan City Guide

Travel Tips: How Not To Be A Tourist In Italy

Travel Tips: Dining Etiquette In Italy

Food And Drink: Classic Foods To Eat In Milan

Food And Drink: All About Lombardy’s Franciacorta Wine

Food And Drink: Italian Cocktails To Try At Least Once

Cook Before You Go

Want to taste a bit of Italy before we get there? Cook these recipes inspired by Lombardy:

Classic Negroni Sbagliato Cocktail 

Classic Risotto Milanese 

Franciacorta Risotto with Pears and Crisp Speck 

Host An Italian-Inspired Polenta Party 

Films To Watch Before Our Trip

Here are a recent shows and movies about Italy:

Call Me By Your Name - 2017 - This award-winning film is shot exclusively in Lombardy!

I Am Love - 2013 - This movie starring Tilda Swinton is set in Milan’s gorgeous Villa Necchi Campiglio

1992 - 2015 - A Sky series chronicling the 1992 political scandal known as “Bribesville.”

The Great Beauty - 2013 - This Academy award-winning film gives a look into modern day Italy.


STAYING IN TOUCH

Introduction To Fellow Trip Goers

Some of you may be traveling on the same plane or train. If you are okay with it, we can introduce you to your fellow travelers ahead of time!

Facebook Messenger

We use a Facebook Messenger group as a means to stay in touch while we’re abroad. Please download it to your phone if you don’t have it already and we'll invite you all before departure. If you do not want to be included in this group, let us know and we will arrange an alternate form of contact.


TRAVEL FORMS & DOCUMENTS

Waivers & Emergency Contact

Just a heads up that we have a general liability waiver, a photography waiver, and an Emergency Contact form that we will send you before the trip. These forms need to be signed and returned to us before we can travel together.

Required Travel Insurance

Please note that we require you to purchase travel insurance and need you to provide us with proof of insurance before we depart. There are generally five main categories of travel insurance: trip cancellation and interruption, medical, evacuation, baggage, and flight insurance. Additional policies can be added to cover specifics, like identity theft or political evacuation.

These five main types are often sold in some combination as a package. We merely require you have travel insurance but don't ask for a specific type. However, we recommend "comprehensive insurance" which usually includes the five main types (and often covers things like expenses if your trip is delayed, if you miss your flight, or if your tour company changes your itinerary).

Now that most major credit cards provide basic travel insurance on travel-related purchases so we suggest you first contact your credit card company to inquire about specifics. Otherwise, you can get insurance at various places online. Here are a few places to start: 

Passport

Your passport must be valid for 6 months after our travel dates and, of course, make sure to bring it along! Also, you may want to keep a copy of your passport on your phone (just for the trip length) or a physical photocopy in case you lose your passport and because Italian law requires that you have a form of I.D. on you at all times. 


HEALTH & SAFETY

Food Allergies

Please let us know of any food allergies or dietary restrictions you may have so we can do our best to accommodate them.

Medications

We will have a First Aid kit with us but please be sure to pack any specific medications (prescription or OTC) you may need.

Safety

This region of Italy should be thought of like Boston or New York: safe so long as you stay aware and don’t seek out trouble. As you would in any big city, do your best to stay aware of your wallets, cell phones, pockets, and bags when we’re in more crowded areas. 

Additional Questions

If you have any additional questions, please visit our FAQs or go ahead and contact us directly at travel@saltandwind.com

FAQs (A to Z)

ACCOMODATIONS
Our hotels for this itinerary have been carefully chosen to bring you an authentic Italian experience that melds the best of old-world charm and modern
comfort based on a combination of amenities, character and location. Because the properties we stay in are often centuries-old buildings that have been renovated and turned into hotels, it is common for the rooms to vary in size and style. If you request a double bed, please keep in mind that European double beds are often two twin beds adjacent to each other. All rooms have private baths. Single room availability is limited.

APPS
Here are a few of our go-to apps when we travel:

Google Maps -using the “offline” function makes it easy to use a map without using data

Google Translate - just download the languages you want to go between and you’re all set!

MyTaxi

Uber (we prefer Lyft but Uber is more prevalent in Europe)

XE Currency Converter

ATMs

Most of your major expenses on this trip will be covered by Salt & Wind; however, you may want to have Euros on hand for an occasional snack or some impromptu shopping.

We recommend you pull out Euro at ATMs once you land in Europe as opposed to using a currency exchange service at the airport. Keep in mind your bank will most likely charge you a fee each time you use the ATM so it’s best to pull out the max amount each time you visit an ATM. However, you can use credit cards most places so you shouldn’t need more than 50 Euro of cash at any given time.

BUSINESS HOURS

Shops and supermarkets are generally open from 9 or 10 AM until 1 PM. and from 3:30 PM until 7:30 PM, Monday through Saturday.

Most banks are open 8:30 AM.– 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM –4 PM, Monday through Friday. Post offices are generally open 8:30 AM–4:30 PM during the week; weekdays, main branch post offices stay open until 6 PM.

All post offices close on Sundays and at noon on the last day of the month. (You can also buy stamps at just about any newsstand or tobacco vendor.)

Most museums are closed one day of the week, usually Monday or Tuesday. For specific museum hours—as well as entrance fees, free days, special events and more—refer to the museum’s website or check at the local tourist information office.

CELL PHONES

Many US cell phones can operate internationally. Check with your service provider before leaving home for information about international calling and data plans, and on making and receiving international calls. If your cell phone is unlocked and operates using a SIM card, you may want to consider purchasing a SIM card from a local cell phone company. These should be readily available at airports and convenience stores, and typically come loaded with prepaid credit which can be used for domestic and international calls and data service. Rates will vary.

Most major U.S. carriers have plans that will work in Italy, but you'll want to contact your carrier to clarify the details of international coverage. Data and roaming charges may apply and can be an expensive unexpected surprise so plan ahead!

CONCLUSION OF THE TRIP

On the last day of the trip, Salt & Wind provides private transportation to Milan, arriving at or around 1:30 PM. From here you can take an afternoon
train to Rome, Milan or other destinations. Please do not book a train departing before 3:00 PM.

If you’re flying out of Milan, book your departure flight for after 3 PM.

CONTACT SALT & WIND

The easiest way to contact us is to email us at travel@saltandwind.com or to call our Trips Concierge at +1 (323) 539-8081

CREDIT CARDS

Just a reminder to let your credit cards know that you will be abroad before you travel. Also, keep in mind that many places in Europe will not accept American Express so it is best to always have another type of credit card (ie Visa or Mastercard) in addition to American Express.

Keep in mind that chip credit cards (which you dip instead of swipe) are the norm in Europe so it’ll be quicker for you to pay if you use a credit card with a chip.  

DIALING INSTRUCTIONS
The international phone numbers in this Travel Planner are listed using the following format: +39-###-######

39 is Italy's country code, followed by an area code and local number. The number of digits in the area code and local number may vary.

To place an international call to Italy, dial + or the international access code of the country from which you're calling (e.g. 011 from the US) - 39 - area code - local number.

To place an international call from Italy, dial + or 00 (Italy's international access code) - country code of the country to which you're calling (e.g. 1 for the US) - area code - local number. For example, to call the US, dial 00 -1 - area code - local number.

To place a call within Italy, drop the country code 39 and dial area code - local number. The area code is always used when placing calls within Italy. For additional information on placing international phone calls, visit www.countrycallingcodes.com.

DOs AND DONTs

So long as you conduct yourself as you do stateside, you should be fine. That said, here are some specific tips:

Do's

  • Learn a few words of Italian. Locals really appreciate the effort!

  • Greet people. Say "Buongiorno"  (or "Buonasera" in the evening).

  • Thank shop owners and waiters. Saying "Grazie"when leaving is considered great manners.

  • Wander the city and explore. All these cities are  best understood through exploration.

  • Be street smart (keep your cell phone and purse close) as you would in any large city.

  • Keep a form of I.D. on you (a photo of your passport is adequate) at all times. It's the law in Italy.

  • Be careful when crossing the street as crosswalks and lights are often ignored by motorists.

  • Use your inside voice. Americans are known for being loud!

Dont's

  • Be a jerk. Do drugs. Start fights. Display public drunkenness. Urinate in public. Jump in fountains. Climbing on monuments. You get it.

  • Sit at a "bar" in Italy. When you go to a "bar" (whether it serves coffee or alcohol), you will pay 2 to 3 times as much the minute you sit. Instead, stand at the bar like the locals do and save a few Euro!

  • Tip. Okay, well do tip just not a ton.. Tipping isn't mandatory in Italy but is appreciated for good service. At a bar, you can leave small change, at a hotel, tip 2 Euro for your porter, and, if service isn't included at a restaurant, leave 10%.

  • Don’t buy anything from illegal street vendors. It's illegal and, if caught, you'll be hit with a fine.

  • Use a selfie stick. As of 2017, they’re illegal in all of Milan!

DELAYED ARRIVAL

If you have a delay or emergency on the day your trip starts and need to contact Salt & Wind, please email your hosts at travel@saltandwind.com or call the Salt & Wind office at +1 (323) 539-8081. If you’re unable to meet the group the first night, feel free to head to Hotel Senato on your own. A taxi ride from the Milan airport takes around 1 hour and costs about $100.

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

Dial 112 in case of any general emergency, 115 for fires, and 118 for health emergencies.

EXTRA BATTERIES

We recommend you travel with an extra battery — be it an Anker, Mophie, or some other brand — so that you can keep your phone charged at all times.

HOST GRATUITIES
Gratuities for almost all are services during your trip are included in the price. While we've thought about including Host tips as part of the overall trip cost, we acknowledge that gratuities are customary in the industry as a way to recognize excellent service on a more personal level. We offer specific Host tip recommendations because our guests have consistently asked for them. The exact amount is up to you, but our recommended gratuity for this trip is US$190 per guest. This amount can be covered via cash (preferred) or PayPal. To learn more about PayPal and how to sign up, visit www.paypal.com.

ITINERARY
Here is a link to the most updated itinerary for the trip.

ITINERARY CHANGES

If unforeseen circumstances require a change in the trip itinerary, Backroads will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality and to keep the activity modifications minimal.

JEWELRY AND VALUABLES

In general, we always leave the high-end jewelry at home when we travel for fear of losing it. There are safes in most of your hotels; however, we recommend you leave the really good stuff behind.

LOST LUGGAGE
When taking any flight, there is the possibility of lost luggage. Salt & Wind believes that it's a great idea to take a small carry-on bag with enough clothing and supplies to last a day or two. Also be sure to bring with you any personal gear you deem indispensable on the trip. This way, in the event of lost luggage you won't have to spend time replacing essential items and miss activities while you wait for your bags to catch up. Please note that Salt & Wind does not assume responsibility

LUGGAGE LIMITS

Be sure to check the luggage weight limit and the rules/weight for cabin luggage with the airline as it can vary from carrier to carrier.

We love light packers! We've allotted for each guest to bring (1) one medium to large roller suitcase and (1) one carry-on. Please reach out to us if you need to bring more luggage or any oversized bags and we’ll do our best to accommodate. Oh, and make sure to leave a little room in your luggage to fit a few gifts you may get (hint, hint)!

MEALS
Our dinners feature specialties that highlight Lombardy’s specialties like risotto, egg pastas and world-famous wines ranging from lush reds to bright mineral whites. Fresh, local Slow Food is a way of life here, so although food may take longer to be made—and therefore take longer to be served—it's absolutely worth the wait.

All breakfasts, four lunches and dinners are included in the trip price. Because dining is an event unto itself in Europe, our restaurants encourage you to slow down and enjoy a leisurely paced meal. Be aware that speciality diet meals (ie vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free and lowcarb) dishes are not always available. If you have special dietary requirements, please indicate them upon arrival. 1 alcoholic beverages in included at both lunch and dinner, unless otherwise noted.

MILAN TRANSPORT TIPS

Train Station To Hotel

  • The easiest way to/from the train station via taxi and it should take ~15 min depending on traffic.

Around City

  • Milan is very walkable but you can also use the metro, buses, streetcars, Ubers, or taxi.

  • Most things are closed in the city on Mondays so you shouldn’t have any issues during your trip.

MONEY

The standard unit of currency in Italy is the euro (EUR). At the time of writing this, 0.84 EUR = 1 USD. For the most up-to-date exchange rate, visit www.xe.com (Universal Currency Converter).You'll want to bring along money and credit cards for any extra purchases on your trip (we don’t rec using traveler’s checks as they’re pretty obsolete these days). Please see advice about ATMs and credit cards above.

OUTLETS

Voltages and frequencies are different in Europe (220 volts instead of 110), so, if you want to use US electrical devices in Europe, you'll need a three-prong plug adapter.

PASSPORT

Your passport must be valid for 6 months after our travel dates and, of course, make sure to bring it along! Also, you may want to keep a copy of your passport on your phone (just for the trip length) or a physical photocopy in case you lose your passport and because Italian law requires that you have a form of I.D. on you at all times.  

SECURITY
When traveling, there is always a possibility of theft. While you're enjoying the sights, remember to stay alert and always be aware of your immediate surroundings, especially in crowded locations and tourist areas. The best rule of thumb is to carry only the cash you need for the day, along with a copy of your passport on your phone (leave your hard copy passport at the hotel!), and leave the rest in a locked safe in your room. For more safety tips, refer to the Country Specific Information page on the US State Department's website at travel.state.gov

SPA TREATMENTS
Spa treatments are not included in the trip price; however, our concierge can help you book treatments as desired. Advance reservations are recommended. Also, be sure to review the spa's cancellation policy to avoid any unexpected charges on your credit card.

STEP
As with any trip abroad, you may want to register with the U.S. government’s STEP program. This ensures the US government knows your travel plans, which is usefully in case of emergency.

TAXIS

Always tell the driver if you’re going to pay by credit card and ask for a fare estimate when you get in a cab. There are often flat rates between the airport and the city center (It’s ~ 95 Euro from Malpensa to Milan, FYI) and everything else pretty much runs on meter. By  asking for an estimate, you’ll be prepared if a cab is pricier.

Note: To you use a taxi in Italy, you can have the hotel or restaurant call one for you. Otherwise, we highly recommend you download MyTaxi app, which is useful in a ton of countries, by the way. REgardless of how the taxi is book, you should be given you a taxi “name” (usually something like an Italian city + a number, say, Roma65 or Torino40) for the taxi you are assigned. To identify your taxi, so look on the side of the taxi to ensure you’re in the right one.

TIME ZONE

From the last Sunday in March through the last Sunday in October, Italy is 6 hours ahead of Eastern time and 9 hours ahead of Pacific time.

In Europe, the 24-hour clock is used. Times are the same as what you’re used to in the United States up until noon. From then on, just keep going: 1 PM becomes 13:00, 2 PM becomes 14:00 and so forth. To convert these times into “PM” times, simply subtract 12 and add p.m. (19:00 minus 12 is 7 PM).

TIPPING

In general in Italy, it is not necessary to tip but always appreciated. We tend to tip between 5 and 10% in Italy and give 15% for exceptional service. And, despite what you may hear, it is never considered rude to tip!

Here are some guidelines: 

CAFES

It is most common to just round up whatever your bill is to the nearest Euro. So, if you order a €0.90 espresso, you can just leave the extra €0.10. 

HOTELS

As you would in the United States, it is common to tip the porter if they have helped with your luggage. We recommend €1 per bag and a max of €10. 

RESTAURANTS

Note that Italian restaurant bills may include charges for coperto or pane neither both of which are common and neither of which is a service charge/tip.

However, for larger groups (usually 8 or more), you’ll find a line item for servizio and this is in fact a tip. If you do not see servizio listed, it is common to leave €1 per person or to round the bill up at more casual spots. We tend to leave 5 to 10% at very high end restaurants. However, if you have bad service, it is perfectly fine to leave no tip at all!

TAXIS

Tipping is never really done for taxi drivers. However, it it makes it easier to make change, you can round the fare up!

UBER

You can use Uber throughout Milan though it tends to be pricier than taxis.

WEATHER

As of right now the forecast is for perfect Fall weather during our trip with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 70°F.

Lombardy's location at the base of the Alps, makes for warm to hot days and cooler nights. The climate is similar to New England so early October is usually crisp and sunny with temperatures ranging from the low 50s to low 70s. The nights can get cool and there can be occasional rainstorms in the Fall.

WHAT TO PACK

For The Weather
We planned our Italy trip during the months when the weather is typically mild so you'll likely be able to wear light layers during the day. However, it will be cooler on the lakes in the mornings than in Milan and there is a chance of rain. Pack similar to how you would for the East Coast this same time of year: lots of  layers, a few Fall jackets, scarves, and maybe a set of gloves or hats, as well as an umbrella or raincoat. Be sure to bring at least 1 lightweight jacket, 1 Fall coat, 1 sweater, a raincoat, an umbrella, and a scarf and gloves.

For The Style

Italians live by the concept of "la bella figura," which means to present yourself (through everything from your manners to your clothing) in the best possible light. While you don't need to dress trendy, locals will appreciate if you try to look your personal best. 

It’s worth noting that Italy has embraced a more casual style as of late, so you can wear jeans, walkable flats (preferably not running shoes), and a nice top almost everywhere. "Sophisticated-casual" attire is appropriate at the restaurants on this trip. For men we recommend collared shirts and slacks. For women we suggest dresses, skirts or dressy pants. Nice jeans are fine, but please do not wear shorts or sneakers to dinner.

Shoes

Please be sure to pack comfortable shoes! We will be walking a few miles each day in Milan so plan accordingly. And, though we will be driven between the events in Lake Como and wine country, each tour will require a few blocks worth of walking and a bit of standing so comfort is key. Keep in mind that in both the city and the countryside the ground can sometimes be uneven or unpaved so please leave your stilettos at home!

Formal vs Informal

Finally, note that Northern Italy more formal than most of the United States. (That goes for not only clothing but also manners, by the way.) We liken dressing in Northern Italy to how you would dress in Boston and New England. So, while you can wear hoodies and sneakers during daytime sightseeing, you’ll want to dress slightly nicer at night (unless you’re just going to a quick cafe for a bite in which case you can stay casual).

WIFI

All the hotels we'll stay in will have free wifi and we will travel with a few hotspot devices on us at all times so that you can use wifi instead of roaming on the local cell network!