ABOUT FLORENCE

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Florence ("Firenze") is a living museum, a gem set in the verdant Tuscan countryside, where fine wines, palatial accommodation and museums housing some of the world's most important art treasures are all within walking distance. Even the most famous attractions, like the Duomo, the Uffizi (the complex of museums housing The Birth of Venus and other treasures) and the Accademia, home to Michelangelo's David, are all within walking distance of one another, making them an organizer's dream and cutting down considerably on in-city transportation (but watch those Vespas!). Meeting venues in Florence reflect the golden age of this Renaissance city.

Attendees may fly into Florence (or Amerigo Vespucci) Airport, but are just as likely to take Eurostar or another one of Italy's high-speed trains. Coaches from Rome, with a refreshment stop along the way, are also doable.

Congresses and large conferences in Florence are held in what the city calls its "Congress Citadel," a triumvirate of facilities that include the Fortezza da Basso, a 16th-century fort that offers 490,000 square feet of space; the Palazzo degli Affari, offering 45,000 square feet of conference space; and the Palazzo dei Congressi, a Renaissance-style building with 39,000 square feet of conference space and an auditorium seating 1,000.

Within the city itself, historic venues like Starwood's Excelsior Hotel and the St. Regis Grand, across the square from each other, offer the proverbial "room with a view" of the Arno that E.M. Forster's novel and the film of the same name made so famous. The heartbeat of history and some of the world's most stunning hotels and private venues entwine inexorably in Italy's most cherished city of art.

Beyond the city center are nearby conference venues in Fiesole, the hilltop town with stunning views of the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo. Fiesole has always been an attraction for the well-heeled who flock to palatial hotels and palazzos here and in the nearby area. Many of these, like the Villa San Michele, an Orient Express hotel and former convent whose facade was carved by Michelangelo, can be rented out in their entirety by large groups. At the Villa San Michele, for instance, groups can dine on the expansive lawn on foods they've helped prepare at the Villa's internationally known school of Tuscan cookery. Similarly, tastings or special cooking classes can be booked as day trips in the Tuscan wineries near Florence. Florence's DMCs have best access to these and other special venues like the Mugello Racetrack and the Stazione Leopolda, a vintage railway station from the days when Florence was the most important stop on the Grand Tour.