There are few countries in the world that tantalize the senses quite like Italy, with its world-renowned art and architecture, ancient ruins, rolling hills dotted by winding vineyards, breathtaking coastlines, and people who exude passione and pride like no other. Of course, this “New COVID Normal” presents its challenges and restrictions, but Italy’s treasure trove is still there to inspire planners looking to book future conferences, meetings and incentives….when it’s safe to do so.
Genoa: Unconventional Event
With its ancient fishermen villages, secluded beaches and seductive cliffs, groups visiting the port city of Genoa, aptly known as ‘La Suberba’ (the Superb), will find themselves taking a few steps back in time. A great historic center, Genoa is rich in cultural attractions and Mediterranean delicacies. Utterly unique as a MICE destination, Genoa offers a major international airport situated just 15 minutes outside the city-center, efficient railway connections and motorway links that connect with the most important Italian and European cities. All conference venues (with capacities ranging from 20 to 5,000 seats) are situated in strategic locations near the city-center, combining the exclusive features of a meeting by the sea or in historical buildings with the most updated technical equipment; the excellent hotel accommodation system offers 200 five-star rooms, more than 1,800 four-star rooms and over 1,000 three-star rooms. The Convention Bureau Genova works in close synergy with the municipality of the City to promote the destination worldwide.
Matera: Italy’s Best-Kept Secret
Located on a rocky outcrop in the region of Basilicata in southern Italy, Matera remains one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. Its slow pace of life and rustic, authentic ambiance all conspire to create an utterly unforgettable ”Italian experience,” with treasures from ancient cave dwellings and fortified ruins to Greek temples and beautiful frescos lying undiscovered by mass tourism in the region’s remote hilltop towns and villages. Here, groups can wander around the Sassi districts, where cave dwellings topple one over another, and narrow streets lead to lost alleys, forgotten courtyards, silent stairways and timeless squares. Sasso Barisano, to the northwest, is largely made up of palaces and traditional houses, while the Sasso Caveoso, to the south, is where one finds cave houses. For groups looking for a taste of regional cuisine and wine, this ‘city of stone’ offers up the famed Matera bread, exceptional cheeses, and Crapiata, a traditional mixed legume soup. After WWII, the critical importance of Basilicata became widely recognized, most notably when the Sassi of Matera became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993 and then later, when Matera was named the European Capital of Culture 2019.
Rome: Eternal Beauty
As one of the oldest cities in the world, Rome literally explodes with must-see UNESCO World Heritage sites. From the Colosseum, to the port of Ostia Antica, to Vatican City, this is a destination that mesmerizes at every turn. It is also one of the most popular meeting destinations in Europe, per the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). It has all the elements a meeting, conference or incentive needs. Plus, it is extremely accessible, directly connected to more than 200 destinations all over the world. Even the airport is an attraction as its tax-free shopping features the best brands in high fashion. There are more than 1,000 hotels in Rome and 35 Congress Hubs, all with the latest in high-tech equipment. Its iconic meeting venue is Auditorium Parco della Musica, which can accommodate up to 5,000 people. Renzo Piano’s architectural masterpiece blends the Etruscan finds of the Aristaios collection with the Stradivari of the Museum of Musical Instruments. Within walking distance is MAXXI – Museum of XXI Century Art; a hub of culture, it is also a popular event venue.
Venice, Where Secret Gardens Abound
Most visitors to Venice don’t think of visiting gardens as de rigeur, but a bucolic delight awaits for those groups who go exploring. All located within important museums and cultural institutions, one such treasure can be found at the Palazzetto Bru Zane, a small jewel of late 17th-century Venetian architecture. Or, head to Ca’ Rezzonico, an ancient noble palace that now houses the Museum of 18th-century Venice, redesigned in 2002 by the architect Giorgio Bellavitis, who used typical elements of a “Venetian palace garden.” Hidden inside an internal courtyard of the 16th-century Querini Stampalia Palace is a magnificent garden designed by Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa. Before entering Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Peggy Guggenheim’s former home and today one of the most important museums of European and American art of the 20th century in Italy, you will cross the sculpture garden, a natural setting for the breathtaking works of art exhibited here. And on the group’s last garden stroll, don’t miss The Borges Labyrinth and the wooded garden on San Giorgio Maggiore Island.
Bologna is one of Italy’s most unique cities. The medieval capital of Emilia-Romagna, it is famous for its gastronomy, its ancient university and the red-toned hue of many buildings in its enchanting historical center. Although it was an underrated hidden gem, this is now changing. As a true European crossroad, it’s possible to experience the authentic Italian art of living well just a short train ride away from Florence (35 minutes), Milan (one hour), Venice (90 minutes) and Rome (90 minutes). The city is also one of the best destinations to combine business and leisure. Here, it’s all about the roar of the engines, as Bologna is located in the very heart of the Motor Valley. Top Italian car companies like Lamborghini and Ducati are based in the area. Plunge your group into this exciting birthplace of Italian sports car legends and arrange for them to discover the most famous factories, museums and private collections. They can extend their stay to visit Museum Ferruccio Lamborghini, located in Argelato, a town not far from Bologna’s city-center. The Mudetec Museum should also not be missed. It offers an interactive experience, with a driving simulator that amplifies the thrills and the discovery of the vehicles on display. After a visit to the museum, it’s possible to tour the production line in a unique journey to witness the birth of the Lamborghini sports car.