Conferences Aren’t Great Fodder For Travel Blogs

I’ve decided to post one long post for the conference days. These were long days that stretched from 7:30 until 6, almost entirely in talks, so there isn’t necessarily much about which to write. I’ve been in this situation before.

May 29

The conference began today. This is what has brought me to Italy in the first place, a biennial conference that in the past has compelled me not just to come here, but also to Berlin, Sorrento, and Salzburg. I’ve been to this conference center before, so I walked confidently to the gates only to find them locked and a cryptic sign pointing to the right. I headed in that direction, turning around the corner, hoping to find another gate open. Alas, I circled half of the conference center and still no open entrance was to be found.

That’s when I found another group, speaking English, walking in the opposite direction. They, too, were in town for the conference and were similarly confused, although less so than I. Naturally, I joined the group of lost visitors, as it is better to be lost in a crowd than lost alone. They had received an email detailing the venue change, and soon we were all checking in to the conference and taking our seats.

My most important revelation today was that all conferences should have banks of espresso machines.

For dinner I initially chose a restaurant that I had enjoyed at lunch on a prior visit. This visit was not so successful, however as the service was nonexistent, and I eventually left (something I’ve only ever done once before) and went to another restaurant down the street. I did ultimately have dinner: an incredible meal of spinach gnudi and pork with honey and walnuts.

May 30

More conference today. Some of the talks are just incredible, but occasionally there is a real stinker. These latter talks are often given by people who are very knowledgable and passionate about their specialties, but they are overwhelming the talks with lists of facts and failing to paint a big picture of relevance. This is such a missed opportunity.

Jane and Phil from Cincinnati are here. I worked with Jane quite often during my fellowship and it is fantastic to see them again. I haven’t seen them in four years, when they were in Berlin for the same conference.

Tonight I broke a personal rule and went to the same restaurant as last night. I have a general rule of not repeating restaurants during the same trip, with the exception of final meals, but over the years I have had some unexpectedly disappointing meals here in Florence. As a result, having found a decent restaurant I decided to stick with it.

This restaurant is known for their small plates, essentially Italian tapas, so I decided to go this route rather than the more traditional courses I had last night. On the recommendation of the waiter I had fried artichokes as well as pecorino and prosciutto balls.

To be honest I don’t know that the small plates are their strength. Both came with the same rather bland dipping sauce. I would come back, but would stick with the more standard parts of the menu.

May 31

After another day at the conference, I met Jane and Phil for dinner tonight. We went to a small casual restaurant near the conference center. It was a convenient location.

I loved having the chance to sit down and catch up with them. It sounds like they have been doing well in Cincinnati, and the conversation has reminded me that I have been gone from there 16 years now, and perhaps it is time to pay a visit.

The food itself was just OK. Typical of what I’ve come to expect here. But the company more than made up for it.

After dinner we parted ways and I wandered around the Duomo, eating gelato. Gelato fixes everything.

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