A Roman holiday
Italy is becoming more and more the favourite choice of large international bodies which organise meetings and conventions. The number of international conferences in Italy increases every year, demonstrating Italy's reliability and credibility and supplying an important indicator of the improved competitiveness of Italian conference facilities. The growth in Italian conference centres is, however, not only in the quantities, represented by the increase in the number of conferences organised, but we have also seen a noticeable improvement in the quality of what is offered: the average number of participants at each individual event has gone up considerably, and the average length of conferences has also increased.However, the great advantage that Italy offers is the variety of the locations and the possibility of offering conference-goers leisure itineraries and activities, the like of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It is obvious that the growth in the Italian conference business is linked above all to the growth in competitiveness of the tourist resorts, where the number of conference-goers is constantly increasing, equalling the market-share of the towns and cities that are traditionally the leaders in the Italian conference market. To those who have to organise a conference, produce a large company convention, or create an event, Italy can offer you more: highly modern structures, efficient services, air, road and rail connections, but above all, its coastline, its mountains and its cities of art, representing added value for a sector which aims more and more to play a leading role in Europe and the world. The North-west of Italy is just a short distance away from the rest of the Europe. It used to be called the "industrial triangle" - a definition that is perhaps no longer meaningful today and that should be brought up to date to take account of the way this area has developed, not simply as the headquarters of large industrial concerns, but more strongly inclined towards the tertiary sector, to commerce and the service industries, and therefore to large-scale assemblies, conventions and conferences. This readiness to stage meetings to debate problems, find solutions, make firm business contacts and float new ideas has been helped over recent years by the opening of several conference centres. This is the North-west of Italy: Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, with their unmistakable mix of aristocracy, in the noble house of Savoy, and of European modernity. Then there's Lombardy, a crossroads of traffic and commerce, the capital of dynamism and enterprise: Liguria, a strong but gentle land, rich in colour contrasts. This part of Italy is just a moment away from the rest of the world. Its airports, motorways and railways make connections easy and convenient. The Alps, with their immaculate mountain peaks and green wooded valleys crown the area, where the broad, well-watered plain is thickly covered with farmland and urban settlements that leave a mark on the landscape, and the view over the sea stretches far into infinity. In the setting of this geographical landscape, three large metropolises stand out: Turin, the birthplace of Italian radio, cinema and telephone, cradle of the automobile industry, the first capital of unified Italy; Milan, a cosmopolitan city, always trendy, the vibrant pulse of the Italian economy and the headquarters of large companies as well as the most prestigious world names; Genoa, a sea port of primary importance and a fascinating city of labyrinthine streets, squeezed in between the mountains and the sea. Besides the big cities, though, North-west Italy offers sights of great interest, both from the natural and from the historical and artistic point of view. First of all, there are the mountains, with the large skiing areas in the Alps near Turin (which will be host to the Winter Olympics in 2006), the Aosta Valley, the Ossola valley and the valleys of Lombardy. And lastly, in this part of Italy, you can become acquainted with a culture of good food that has roots in the poverty and wretchedness of the countryside and the mountains, and which offers exciting flavours like the welcoming wines of the Piedmont hills.