Salt & Wind Travel October 9-15, 2017 Northern Italy Info Sheet
Benvenuti to the Fall 2017 Italy trip — we can't wait to share this corner of the globe with you. Maybe you've already dug into a few books and started daydreaming. Or maybe you just booked your flight. Either way we wanted to provide you a little background and answer some FAQs:
BACKGROUND ON LOMBARDY
One thing is for sure: Lombardy is 100% Northern Italian with geography covering everything from the Alps and some of the country's greatest lakes in the north to the Po Valley in the south. It's also one of the country's wealthiest and most populous regions — home to about 1/6th of the country's residents and responsible for nearly 1/5 of the country's GDP. We love it because it covers the spectrum of Northern Italy: global cities like Milan aside historic towns like Mantua and Brescia; modern cuisine in the city and world-class wineries in the countryside; and Alpine ski resorts as well as lakeside retreats.
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 Isola, the canal neighborhood of Darsena was redeveloped, new museums and restaurants opened. The gist? If you haven’t been 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).
Located just an hour east of Milan, Franciacorta is a lesser-known wine region that's home to uber-high quality sparkling wines. Set along the shores of the smaller of the Italian Lake District's lakes, Franciacorta serves as a weekend getaway for the chicest Milanese with lots to do from biking to hiking to wine tasting and spa time. We’ve been waiting to blow the top off on this best-kept-secret of Italy and we’re finally ready to share the region and its wines with Salt & Wind travelers.
When it comes to Italian food: there is no "one" Italian food but rather tens of regional styles that come together as "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.
Here's what you should know now: Lombardy's proximity to the Po River means it is part of Italy's "rice bowl," so 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.
The region's most famous recipes are saffron-tinged Risotto Milanese, cotoletta (aka veal Milanese), carpaccio di Bresaola, polenta, panettone (a Christmastime cake), and Amaretti cookies. Today Milan is very much a global city so it's not all risotto and polenta. These days, you'll see trendy vegan cafes, juice bars, and ethnic restaurants, alongside traditional regional spots.
Read Before You Go
Need some additional intel? Read these articles for a deeper dive into this part of Italy:
One Perfect Day: 24 Hours In Milan - Salt & Wind
Italy's Unexpected Cultural & Artistic Hub - National Geographic
Cook Before You Go
Want to try a bit of Italy before we get there? Here are a few of our favorite recipes inspired by the region:
Classic Negroni Sbagliato Cocktail - Salt & Wind
Classic Risotto Milanese - Salt & Wind
Franciacorta Risotto with Pears and Crisp Speck - Salt & Wind
Host An Italian-Inspired Polenta Party - Salt & Wind
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 are occasional rainstorms in the Fall. Here is the current forecast for our trip.
What To Pack
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. Be sure to bring at least 1 jacket, 1 coat, 1 sweater, a raincoat, an umbrella, and a scarf.
Italians live by the concept of "la bella figura," which basically means to always present yourself (through everything from your manners to your clothing) in the best light possible. That said you don't need to dress trendy or stylish but locals will appreciate if you put in the effort to look your personal best.
Add to that Milan is the fashion and banking capital of the country, so you'll see most people well dressed, from men on the metro in custom-made suits to women biking in designer heels. All that said, 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. For our trip, no formal wear is required at any time, but feel free to bring along two nicer outfits as we'll have a couple more formal dinners.
Oh, and be sure to pack comfortable shoes! We will be walking a lot in Milan so please 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 leave your stilettos at home!
Jewelry and Other Valuables
In general, we always leave the high-end jewelry at home when we travel for fear of losing it. There are safes in our hotels; however, we recommend you leave the really good stuff behind.
We love light packers! We've allotted for each guest to bring (1) one medium to large roller suitcase or duffle 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 to fit a few gifts you may get (hint, hint)!
You'll want to bring along money and credit cards for any purchases (say, souvenirs, extra taxis, or extra meals) above and beyond our itinerary. Remember to call your credit card before traveling abroad in order to notify them of your travel plans. We recommend you pull out Euro at ATMs once you land in Europe as opposed to using a currency exchange service.
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!
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!
Voltages and frequencies are different in Europe (220 volts instead of 110), so, if you want to use US electrical devices in Italy, you'll need a three-prong plug adapter. Please be sure to pack adapters for your personal use.
Do's and Dont's
So long as you conduct yourself as you do stateside, you should be fine. That said, here are some specific Do's and Dont's:
- Learn a few words of Italian. Locals really appreciate the effort!
- Greet people. Say "Buongiorno" (or "Buonasera" in the afternoon and evening).
- Thank shop owners and waiters. Saying "Grazie" on the way out of a business is considered great manners.
- Wander the city and explore. Milan is a city that is best understood through exploration.
- Walk when possible. But also know you can use Uber, taxis (have a hotel call you one or get them at taxi stands), the metro, or tram to get around Milan too.
- 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.
- Be a jerk. Drugs. Fights. Drunkenness. Peeing in public. Jumping in fountains. Climbing on monuments. You get it.
- Sit at a "bar." 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 sometimes. 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!
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!
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 trip 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:
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
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 pockets and bags when we’re in more crowded areas.
As with any trip abroad, you may also register with the STEP program to make the government aware of your travels.
We will have a First Aid kit with us but please be sure to pack any specific medications (prescription or OTC) you may need.
Please let us know of any food allergies or dietary restrictions you may have so we can do our best to accommodate them.
If you have any additional questions, please visit our FAQs or go ahead and contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org