It all started with a vision - to offer curated concierge-level destination vacations along with COPE-approved continuing education. Our Florence conference was a success! The weather was beautiful, the conference location was incredible and the conference attendees were so much fun! We have all made life-long friends and I can't wait to get together again next year in Edinburgh and Paris.
We had 15 hours of CE spread out over 3 mornings, so we got the hours under our belts, but could go out and explore Florence at a comfortable pace for lunch and during the evenings. Our speaker, Dr. John McGreal was engaging and inspiring and those mornings really flew by. Dr. McGreal will join us again in Paris 2020 and London 2021, so, make sure you book soon to get your spot in those conferences. We will sell out!
OK, let's get to the good stuff...
We planned both group activities and custom activities - it was up to each conference attendee as to their preference. If you'd like to see an example of one of our custom itineraries and our conference agenda, go to this link for our past conferences page: www.internationaleye.net/past-conferences
Sunday morning's group tour of the Duomo, Accademia and the Uffizi Galleries by Chiara from Custom Florence Tours was a fantastic introduction of the layout of the city of Florence, the art of the Renaissance and Florentine history. The tour provided an opportunity for guests to get a head-start getting to know each other!
We kicked off on Sunday evening with our Meet & Greet Cocktails in the Hotel Brunelleschi Salon. We had a HUGE spread of heavy hors d'oeuvres with a private open bar. We enjoyed meeting everyone and hearing about where each live and work, their family, which optometry schools were attended and how they heard about International Eye and our Florence conference.
Monday morning, we started at 7:00 - with 3 CE lectures. Again, the morning flew by - we just love Dr. McGreal!
Right after our Monday morning lectures, it was time to go to Tuscany and taste wine!
Our private vans took us to Tenuta Torciano vineyard in San Gimignano - about 40 minutes from Florence. [NOTE: I have a running joke about group tours - it's always super quiet going to the destination - but on the way home, it's anything but quiet! Lots a great stories flowing!]
Tenuta Torciano and our wine educator, Lillo, were fantastic hosts and explained their winemaking process, Tuscany's famous Sangiovese grape and how the volcanic ash soil develops the perfect robust and earthy wine, and when opened and enjoyed at home, literally smells like Italy (Ahhhhh!). We enjoyed a traditional Tuscan meal along with their big selections of wines. We were even able to taste their $400 Super Tuscan reserved only for VIPs! After, we were whisked off to San Gimignano, known for their tall towers on top of the hill. In San Gimignano's heyday in the 1300's they had over 90 towers, now only 13 stand. We took a pleasant hour stroll through the medieval main town merchant streets and piazzas, ate their world-famous award-winning gelato and made just a few purchases... :)
Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons allowed attendees to explore on their own, or go on custom tours we set up for them, and try out great restaurants for both lunch and dinner. Several restaurants are difficult to get into, but luckily, I'm a bit of a local and I was able to make reservations even at the last minute.
For Thursday, we planned a private day trip to Cinque Terre, and wouldn't you know it, it was the one day it rained. However, the beauty of having a private driver is that we can make changes to our trip along the way. Our driver suggested going to Pisa and then to a Tuscan vineyard for another wine tasting. Of course, we all loved that idea! And although we didn't get to see Cinque Terre, we'll plan another trip for our Florence trip in October 2021.
Even though it was rainy, Pisa is such a gem, it didn't matter! We all enjoyed getting our fun photos of the leaning tower of Pisa and not believing how tall the tower actually is. 10 stories tall - unbelievable that it is still standing!
On our final full day, we booked a Pasta from Scratch Cooking Class - and boy, was it fun, educational and tasty!! Chef Vary introduced us to rustic pasta recipes and we made 2 shapes of pasta from our various pasta doughs - semolina and wheat fettuccini with arribiata (spicy) tomato sauce, wheat and chestnut flour ravioli stuffed with ricotta and potato and a spinach gnudi (pronounced "nude-ey" LOL - we had fun with that one!). Chef Vary was just as engaging as she was knowledgable and we all left with the confidence that we could recreate these 3 dishes back home. AND....I have. Plus, many more experimental recipes! Fresh pasta is the best!
Leaving Florence is always hard but planning the return is always exciting and fun. I can't wait to return and host again on October 2-9, 2021.
Our next CE conference is in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 13-19, 2020 with CE on the mornings of June 15-17. We are planning distillery visits, a Loch Ness expedition, private tours of the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Castle (Queen Elizabeth's Edinburgh home), underground Edinburgh (St. Mary's Close) haunted history tour, some Harry Potter experiences and golf! Just let me know what you want to do and I can book for you. We'll have both group tours available as well as private tours.
So, what are you waiting for? Book Edinburgh and lock in your spot! I have a feeling this conference will sell out.
Jill Williams, Host