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Florence

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Pay for the event 
– have Florence as a bonus

A simple stroll around the city of Florence is enough to convince delegates that it is a 
well-chosen destination

There are just very few cities in the world where a first-time visitor can stroll around and suddenly become aware of places they feel they have known all their lives. Florence is one of those cities, because much of it is embedded in European history, art and literature and visitors feel it in their bones.

Part of you comes home when you go to Florence.
It follows, therefore, that whatever the event being held there, the city itself is an added bonus that isn’t a cost to the budget. It is hardly necessary to arrange leisure programmes or excursions. Just allow delegates and award winners some free time and at the end of it they will have memories to last a lifetime.
Florence is a compact city in which it is possible to walk between the top hotels and the railway station and the river and the cathedral and the Uffiizi Galleria and the Ponte Vecchio. It is a concentration of narrow streets that have retained all the flavour of the grand period of Renaissance architecture, but with layers of modern attractions, not least the boutiques offering Italian fashion for men as well as women, pasta and pizza outlets galore, ice cream parlours offering a mind-boggling range of flavours and the finest cafés, where coffee and patisseries are served as if the management were in the running for an international cuisine award.
The streets, mostly traffic-free, link piazza after piazza, some in the shade, some in bright sunlight, each with buildings that would be a renowned tourist attraction in another city that didn’t have such architectural richness.
Just leave the delegates to wander on their own. They cannot fail to see some of Europe’s major treasures and they will feel all the better for having discovered them by themselves.
Venice’s Bridge of Sighs is famous, yes, but it takes just a few moments to see it and take a picture. On the Florence city map the Ponte Vecchio is a tiny strip a few centimetres long, but it takes any visitor at least an hour to cross this bridge. It not only serves as a means of crossing the River Arno, but it houses some of Europe’s finest jewellery and fashion shopping that absorbs your interest and your time. 
The Italian language has a wonderful way of raising something to a different level. Ponte Vecchio is simply Italian for ‘Old Bridge’.

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Uffizi Galleria is just the Gallery of the ‘offices’. But this centuries-old building, a European icon, was the offices of the Grand Duke. He was able to walk unseen from his residence, the Pitti Palace, on the other side of the river by means of a corridor that still today runs along the top of the jewellery shops on the Ponte Vecchio.
If you point delegates in the direction of the Uffizi Galleria make sure they don’t have to be back by a certain time, because hurrying in the Galleria is unforgiveable. On the way to the location of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, showing the perfect young woman, born at sea, being brought to land on a shell with the help of divine breezes, visitors have to walk past paintings, by Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and Rubens.
And we haven’t yet mentioned Michelangelo’s statue of ideal male beauty, his David, in the Galleria dell’Academia. What would the timely appearance at a seminar be compared with those? Leave leisure time open-ended so your delegates make the most of their short time in Florence and don’t stroll in late for the next conference session. 
Florence is well aware that the city can only be the background to successful conferences and that top quality facilities have to be available for the business on hand. There are three main convention and exhibition centres in the town and, very conveniently for event organisers, they are all managed by the single entity Firenze Fiera.

Main conference centres

The centres are Fortezza da Basso, Palazzo dei Congressi and Palazzo degli Affari, Additional advantages common to them all are that they are near neighbours to each other, that they are convenient to the central railway station, Santa Maria Novella, they are no more than 15 minutes drive from the airport and they enjoy locations in large areas of lawn, giving delegates the sense of having air to breathe even in the centre of an ancient city.
The three centres stem from three entirely different periods of history and have distinctive characters.
Fortezza da Basso dates from the reign of the Dukes of Medici and was completed about 1535. It offers rooms of different styles and sizes, so it can accommodate events of any size right up to a convention for 15,000 delegates.
Palazzo dei Congressi was originally a villa, completed in 1914 and extended ujp to the year 1931. It has been updated and equipped with modern facilities, but still retains rooms that feature panelled ceilings, hand-carved walnut doors inlaid with marble of different colours.
Palazzo degli Affari was first opened in 1974 and offers over 4,000 sqm of flexible space. Overall it can accommodate 1,800 people for conferences and gala dinners. It has been a favourite for Italian and international fashion shows. Delegates can relax in the large well-kept park that links with the Palazzo dei Congressi.
These two centres have a reception area in common that has four plasma screens keeping delegates informed of what events are happening in the many rooms of the buildings.
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There are ten 5-star and forty-three 4-star hotels in Florence with conference facilities – and that doesn’t include the many hotels in the Tuscan hills and countryside within easy reach of the city.
With its history of grandeur and noble hospitality, suffice to say that organisers do not find any difficulty in identifying a hotel that meets their requirements in terms of number of rooms, size of meeting space, quality of service and convenience of location.
The choice ranges over large well-known international chains and exclusive boutique properties locally owned and managed in true Florentine tradition.
Corporate organisers and specialist agencies can seek guidance, free of charge, from the Florence Convention Bureau.
For full data on Florence’s MICE facilities visit www.conventionbureau.it

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