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Hang around here enough and you know full well how I, as an Italian-American who used to live there, am 1000% biased toward Italy. That said it should be no surprise that one our our first Salt & Wind trips headed to Italy.
IA group of all ladies joined me in one of my favorite regions of Italy right now, Lombardy. Why you ask am I so partial? It's not only home to Milan (which is having a serious moment) but also where you can find Italy's lesser-known sparkling wine region of Franciacorta.
But enough talk from me, here are 10 of my favorite parts of the Salt & Wind Italy trips with lots and lots of gorgeous photos. Just a reminder, we'll be heading there three times in 2018 so sign up if you want to join!
It's easy to head to Milan and only see the historic city center because, well, it's gorgeous and easy to get around. But just seeing the Duomo and Parco Sempione is like going to New York and only seeing Times Square: really just part of the story. On our trip we went from classic neighborhoods to more boho areas and everything in between and really got an idea of what the city is like.
Ever since I hosted Foodcrafters I've been a fan of the small, indie makers. From handmade tabletop wares to artisan food, if it's in the world of food and beverage, I want to know about it. The thing about Milan is there is a rich history of makers in everything from fresco work to home decor and, of course, fashion, but it's easy to miss it. The main shopping drags house all the mega multi-national brands and, though I love me some &OtherStories like the next gal, visiting the local Milanese makers is when you really get a feel for the city's creativity.
Okay, yes, Italy doesn't have the cocktail culture of the United States, but then it's the size of California so that comparison is kinda apples to oranges. While you may not have hipster mixologist after mixologist competing for the latest cocktail creation spotlight (though, to be fair, there is some of that), they have a history of cocktails that runs deep.
Take, for example, Campari that was created by Gaspare Campari in Milan back in the 1860s. It has such a foothold in Milan (along with Aperol), that it's hard to go to aperitivo without crossing a glass or ten. That said we did a cocktail class devoted to Campari and twists on classic Italian cocktails and even I, a self-proclaimed Campari obsessive, learned a ton!
MILAN STREET FOOD CRAWL
Rome, Venice, and Naples are the cities you likely think of when you think of Italian street food, but Milan can definitely hold its own. From local pastries to gelato and fried pizzas, we crisscrossed the town to search out the best bites in Milan.
DAY TRIP TO LAKE COMO
Okay, yes, anywhere George Clooney hangs is good by me, but, truth be told, I fell in love with Lake Como long before he set up camp there. That's why we spent a whole day on the chicest lake in Italy (according to me) and racing around on a classic speed boat as we visited villas, idyllic villages, and botanical gardens that were so gorgeous we lingered there for hours.
TOURING BRESCIA'S HISTORIC CENTER
What I love about Italy is that it's a country of small to medium businesses and small to medium towns. That means that even if you've been to the big 5 -- Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples -- there is still plenty to see. And each town has its own charm, like Brescia where you can find some of the best Roman ruins (and local pastries) in Northern Italy.
VISITING SLOW FOOD PRODUCERS
Slow Food was created in Italy so you've got to pay your respects when you're in the country. We spent a whole day learning about local olive oil (some of the only olive oil produced north of Tuscany!) and other local products from the Lombardy area. It's amazing to see that some of these food traditions are kept going by literally a handful of people.
HANDS-ON COOKING CLASS
I'm a cook first and foremost so any chance I can get in the kitchen I'm game. On each Salt & Wind trip we cook with a local chef (though I'm there to assist) and every time I learn something new, different, and interesting.
LOCAL WINE TASTING
Though Tuscany, Piedmont, and the Veneto are better known, one of my favorite wine regions in Italy is right in Lombardy. IMO the sparkling wines in Franciacorta are on par with the best of Champagne but it's virtually unknown outside Italy.
Even though I've lived there and spent literally years of my life in the country, I'll be honest, I never get tired of the eye candy in Italy. From picteuresque towns to grand villa and jawdropping cliffs to rolling hillsides, Italy brings it when it comes to beauty. But, if I had to choose, I'd say my favorite views on this trip were from the lakes as we'd jet from one shore to the other in search of adventure.
We're going back to Italy a few times in 2018 so head to travel.saltandwind.com for all in the info!
Did you know we lead boutique group trips for food lovers to Italy? Come join our next Salt & Wind trip!
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Photos by Christine Davis