I had the pleasure of visiting Pisa for 2 days with Italian Hospitality Collection hotels represented by BVS London and flights via Chris Klinker at Eton Travel. Plus Nicola Del Bono our represented DMC i2travel organised the fabulous ground programme.
Well, what can I say about Pisa and its conference / incentive options?! After a 2 hour flight we touched down in Pisa for a brief glimpse of the city.
We stayed at the Hotel Bagni di Pisa Palace & Spa a beautiful property with a typically Italian decor. We were very fortunate to have access to the Spa Thermal Pools and Thermal Cave, perfect for high-end incentive groups! There’s even a rooftop area which you could utilise for sundowners, with its own thermal pool! We all had a bit of a giggle at each other’s expense when we were each made to don a stripy swimming cap, which made us look like a bunch of bowling balls! A funny occurrence, but one that brought us together and broke the ice somewhat!
In the evening we enjoyed a welcome aperitif and canapés at Sala Shelley, with connections to Mary and Percy Shelley which I feel can only be described as a museum / art gallery / drawing room, our show-round of the hotel’s meeting spaces consisted of the following: The Grand Dukes Theatre, the aforementioned Shelley Room, Byron Room and Gioco Room and afterwards we enjoyed a typically Italian dinner at the hotel’s Ristorante dei Lorena, which is also perfect for large functions.
On the Friday it was our chance to explore Tuscany; and the views across the Tuscan hills were breathtaking! Our first stop was Hotel il Ciocco, which had some amazing views across a medieval town called Barga. Whilst here, we participated in a cooking class, a great team building activity.
The Hotel il Ciocco has 180 bedrooms; half double and half as twins; plus 7 suites and 1 penthouse room. The hotel’s event space comprises of 11 meeting rooms and an auditorium for 900 people and the hotel restaurant can accommodate up to 250 people, which makes it a great location for very large events, such as car launches. In addition, the hotel may be used on an exclusive basis.
In the afternoon we visited Lucca town for taking in the beautiful architecture and ending of course with the obligatory stop at a café for some Italian coffee. After we went to a beautiful winery called Badia di Morrone Estate for a visit, which featured wine tasting and dinner.
There is so much to see and do at this huge estate set within the countryside, consisting of a huge wine cellar (more like the size of a factory) and olive mill and restaurant, plus monastery. We sampled some lovely wines in their private boardroom which is suitable for small wine tasting events, plus dinner can be arranged in the barrel room.
The estate brands what they offer to their clients as ‘Agriturism’. There are many villas spread across the estate, some consisting of multiple apartments with shared pools. There is even a pool located within gardens near to the monastery that would be ideal for pool parties / sundowners.
We departed the wine cellar by mini bus as the estate is spread across acres of land. This means that the estate would be a welcome ‘retreat’ for groups wishing to have a bit more privacy (hiring just parts of it), but without having to go down the route of costly entire exclusivity. The estate (while attracting high-end clients) has a very ‘back-to-nature’ appeal to it, with its rustic and simple décor and typical cuisine at the estate’s restaurant; where the food was home cooked and wholesome.
One particular villa that could work well for a small incentive programme could be San Luigi which has 10 bedrooms and a private pool. Generally most private groups would choose to self cater (the estate can even arrange for artisan market sellers to come via the villas with bread and cheese etc); but for groups needing to be catered for (and especially MICE groups wanting the wow factor) chefs can of course be brought in. The cost to hire this particular villa (for example) is 88 Euros per person per night if you cater for 10 pax; or 44 Euros per night if you decide to fill it with 20 pax (if you operate a spouse programme for example), which makes it very reasonable.
On the last day we visited the Giusti Family property – Grotta Giusti (represented by BVS and located in Tuscany) for a site inspection and visit to the Thermal Grotto. There is an actual cave under the hotel that you can visit for a truly unique experience. In 1852 the owners created the spa and hotel, building it into and on top of the cave. There are 3 options of where to visit in the cave: notably purgatory, hell and paradise. Don’t be fooled by the Paradise one though – you still end up sweating it out in each room; just the levels of perspiration change! Lastly, you can do scuba diving in the caves, which could make it a really unique thrill seeking activity for the more daredevil MICE programme!
At the hotel, bedroom-wise you either get a park or a hill view. Personally I preferred the park view. The general mix of bedrooms comprises of standard rooms and juniors suite. To add an even more special element, you get hot spring water in the baths in your rooms! Wow factor central!
After our visit to Grotta Giusti, we then proceeded for lunch in the centre of Pisa at a restaurant called Da Bruno, which is a real firm favourite with groups. The private area in which we dined was clearly perfect for groups and the restaurant felt so homely with all its nooks and crannies and home cooked, delicious food; plus the best soup and the best steak I’ve had in a long time! From here, it is of course a must to take a stroll around the city centre. Da Bruno is arguably the best restaurant from which to do this, as it is so close to Piazza dei Miracoli, the Leaning Tower and other monuments.
So, all in all, our visit to Pisa was a great one! Italy is a year-round destination, but the end of 0ctober weather proved to be lovely and warm, which was great for our trip! If it’s hotels you need, then BVS are who you need to make that a possibility. Their knowledge of Hotel Bagni di Pisa Palace & Spa and Grotta Giusti was impeccable; and they have some quality offerings within their portfolio, including a property in Sardinia.
Ground programme-wise, it’s i2travel you need for the added value and wow factor. They showcased the Tuscan ‘Hotel il Ciocco’ to us as well as the ‘Da Bruno’ Restaurant in Pisa; and Nick from i2travel explained to us how easy it is to access Tuscany and Florence from Pisa, making it a great destination for groups that require twin-centre for their events.
This visit was brought to you by our Italian DMC, i2Travel