Florence, July 2014

Until just a few years ago, I was often asked "How come nearly all PCOs are women?". And just as often, my answer was vague, because it was common belief that it depended on "their charm, the fact that women are used to dealing with multiple issues at home, and also because essentially all those things like gala dinners, concerts, fashion shows are women's stuff". The women, on the other hand, believed that this weird profession had a lot to do with pure femininity, with the audacity of testing themselves against a man's world, and sometimes neglecting some non-fundamental women's jobs. Actually, it was women who - before the men - realized that congress-organizing is a business that could offer personal gratification, respect, prestige, and money. Organizing congresses was definitely not a "ladies' pastime", but a business in a world that still didn't quite know what it was. And when the men realized it ... they joined in!
This little introduction was a lead-in to talk about another "women's thing" that I organized: the first AIWA (Arab Italian Women Association) women's soccer tournament held in Florence in May, with the final match played by Bahrain and the Italian team trained by Antonio Cabrini. The secretary general of the association, Randa Eid was greatly in favor of holding the tournament that expressed very symbolic values, and gave more than one meaning to the participation of the Arab team. The very superficial question of whether these Arab women would come onto the pitch in traditional soccer uniforms was answered during the conference "Sport 4 Dialogue", held in Palazzo Vecchio, that offered opportunities for thought and opened the way for the return tournament to beheld in Bahrain next year.
Staying on the topic of soccer - and this is the year of the World Cup - we worked on organizing the Memorial Niccolò Galli that for thirteen years has been bringing the best Italian youth teams to the foundation of the same name. Great champions from yesterday and today are always there and receive acknowledgement of their support; this year's awards went to Gabriel Batistuta, Antognoni, Materazzi and Massimo Moratti.

"Ville e Giardini Medicei in Toscana" was the convention for the UNESCO celebrations which from 9 to 11 May reminded all of us (Florentines included...) that over the years, the Medici family built 14 villas crowning the city. Hunting villas, pleasure villas, holiday villas - all enchanted places with exquisite architecture and marvelous gardens. Even today, many are used for gala dinners or concerts during congresses, and offer tours of flowering gardens or the magnificent limonaie - citrus houses which, like the one at the Villa di Castello houses 500 citrus plants during winter, including some very old specimens.

Forte di Belvedere offers the most beautiful view of Florence anyone can imagine. Most people don't even know about it, and opt for the more famous Piazzale Michelangelo. The way up to the Forte is as difficult as it is fascinating either via steep and narrow old streets, or through a gate at the boundary with the Boboli Gardens. So, it does take some effort to go up there and admire so much beauty - so much effort that a few years ago someone thought of building a cableway from the Boboli Gardens up to Belvedere ... nothing came of it. And Ermanno Scervino did indeed put a lot of effort into staging his event for the 60th anniversary of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana. The project was beset with difficulties but "in this case, I'm only worried about the weather", said Stefano Gabrielli because when faced with a challenge such as this, the adrenalin flows in rivers and the entire staff is totally dedicated. The Forte was opened recently for the Hollywood-style wedding, held with maximum security for the "just" 200 guests, when Kim Kardashian and Kanye West tied the knot (Kanye was also at the Scervino party - and Ermanno had been the first to show him how beautiful the Forte is). Scervino did have more guests, generously inviting clients, fashion and film celebrities, and dignitaries who celebrated this star of the international fashion system far into the night. "The White Renaissance" was the theme for the evening that also featured a very special DJ, Boy George.

This year, Barcelona is expecting us for the FICPI (Fédération Internationale des Conseils en Propriété Intellectuelle), in the first week of November. Each time it is held, this long and intense congress seizes the opportunity to discover or rediscover a city's monumental sites or its peculiarities. It was no problem filling a long week with social and accompanying persons' events in Barcelona, but we are particularly proud to be able to offer an exceptional tour of the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi's immense, unfinished masterpiece. And, we will be guided on this private tour by the sculptor Etsuro Sotoo who has been working on completing the basilica since 1978. The Palau de la Musica Catalana, Barcelona's jewel of Art Nouveau architecture, will be the setting for an evening of sardanas, traditional Catalan music played on period instruments. And no trip to Barcelona would be complete without soccer, so we will be going to Camp Neu to learn about the history and secrets of the legendary Barça - and round things up with a taste of Spain's sparkling wines at the San Sadurnì cellars during a general excursion at the end of the congress.

In Florence, from 17 to 19 December, we will be busy with the International Electric Vehicle Conference, that will discuss a very hot topic - electric vehicles for traffic in the city and beyond. Workshops, test drives, and demonstrations will round out the congress sessions. The world's major automobile manufacturers - McLaren, Porsche, Tesla and many others will be there with their electric and hybrid vehicles. The City of Florence that has been working on these issues for years was very enthusiastic about the event that was brought here thanks to the Convention Bureau and Professor Giuseppe Tomasso Chief of the Industrial Automation Lab University of Cassino.

In July, we will be in Paris for the International Congress of Applied Psychology to present the 14th European Congress of Psychology that we will be organizing in Milan in 2015. We expect about 3,000 participants who will discuss topics such as how psychology helps understand, prevent and resolve human problems, with special emphasis on the psychology of food and nutrition, which is related to the main theme of EXPO 2015 "Nutrire il Pianeta, Energia per la vita" (feeding the planet, energy for life).

The entire governance of the Firenze Convention Bureau has been "renewed", with Giacomo Billi as president. Maria Cristina Dalla Villa is on the Board of Directors, "I am very happy to be back on this board, nearly twenty years since the establishment of the CB of which I was one of the founders. I am offering my experience to this institution which is so important for promoting the congress industry here in Florence".