Corporate events in Italy: Interview with Laura Notarbartolo, Founder – Italian Special Occasions DMC

Laura Notarbartolo founded Italian Special Occasions DMC because she wanted to create unique, authentic and creative events for Corporate Meeting and Incentive Travel clients coming to Italy from all over the world.

After over 10 years of work experience traveling across Europe and studying different realities around the world, she felt that she was ready to undertake a personal challenge. Her dream was to create a company based on her experiences and her knowledge of Italy, supported by great local network. Most of all, she wanted a team of people who believe that Italy is not just Rome, Florence or Venice, but so much more than that: hidden gems, ancient traditions, art and seasonal activities. There is so little knowledge of what this country can offer, and her challenge is to spread the possibilities to organise events in the most unknown places in Italy, coordinating and supporting local suppliers. For Laura, creating memorable experiences in a country with such rich history and iconic venues, is very fulfilling.

After three years of traveling around Italy, selecting places, experiences, suppliers, brainstorming, research, creativity and a lot of passion – Italian Special Occasions DMC was established!

Laura Notarbartolo

What would you recommend to someone planning an event in Italy for the first time?

Choose the location wisely and not based on what the mass market offers, go behind the surface of Italy. There are many venues and areas that can accommodate congresses, product launches and meetings, but when trying to identify the best option for your specific type of event, it is important to consider following two factors:

Firstly, the largest conference spaces are usually located in big cities, so if your corporate event involves many participants, you might have to focus your attention on metropolitan areas, such as popular Rome, Florence and Milan – but also fun alternatives like Turin, Palermo and Naples. If the number of delegates is not among the critical aspects of your event, you can also consider innovative locations in the countryside or off the beaten path.

Secondly, if possible, rely on the knowledge of local experts such as Italian Special Occasions DMC to help you identify the venues that provide the best quality-price combination for your specific type of event. Based on their past experiences and thanks to their network of connections, they have bargaining power for better rates, they know the traffic patterns and validity of local infrastructure; and they play a role in risk management and mitigation.

Corporate events in Italy - Italian Special Occasions DMC

How do you incorporate local culture and heritage into the event planning process and delivery?

We conceive the theme of the corporate event by being inspired by the local culture of the destination where the special occasion takes place. We then match the objectives of the Client with something that links the nature of the company with the local heritage. Let me clarify with one example. One of our uniquely themed corporate events was for a software company that wanted to gather all its worldwide partners and customers in a large conference in Rome, the Eternal City.

To create the link between local Roman heritage and the company’s objective, we chose the Sampietrini, or the famous stones that were used to build the roads of the majestic Roman Empire. Just like Sampietrini connected the ancient world with roads, during the event the stone was a symbol of the software company’s ability to connect the world thanks to its services. The entire event, including entertainment and gadgets, was based on the following theme: “Ancient Roman Technology meets 21st-century Technology”. Even the teambuilding experience took participants across the most unknown corners of Rome, in line with our philosophy of exploring hidden gems even in a popular destination like the Italian capital.

Italian Special Occasions DMC

Why it’s important incorporating sensorial experiences in the event and how do you engage the five senses?

It is quite important to incorporate the Five Senses in Incentive Travel and Team Building, because to be successful the Company must capture the attention and stimulate the minds and souls of the participants. How? Some of our ideas for sensorial activities include:

Sight: participants meet with a local artist and learn to look at things from new perspectives.

Sound: a day out fishing, listening to the “silence” of nature, away from the hustle and bustle, but also appreciating the “sounds” of Mother Earth.

Taste: rediscovering the flavours of the past as participants join a cooking lesson about medieval cuisine with a historian chef.

Some activities embrace more senses at one time, such as those involving wine, a world that also allow you to discover the history of a territory. One example is a sensory game that challenges participants to use their sense of smell to recognise the plants used in the wines; or to taste four samples of wine and identify how many are actually different wines! The games are led by an expert wine guide who illustrates how the terroir of the vineyard is reflected in the wines, and who shares anecdotes about local wine history.

Italian Special Occasions DMC

How do you incorporate storytelling in your events?

At Italian Special Occasions DMC, we use storytelling especially for Team Building and Incentive Travel, when we engage the participants in activities such as cooking classes and traditional arts. During these experiences, chefs and artisans share their knowledge about local traditions, arts heritage and history of the territory.

The common thread of storytelling could be the “X factor” that we identify when matching the company’s objective with the destination, as mentioned in the previous example of the Sampietrini for the corporate event in Rome. It can even be presented during the gala dinner or corporate party, as a theatrical or opera performance.

Any events company can take care of logistics, but we try to distinguish ourselves by going the extra mile, incorporating our knowledge of Italy’s arts and history in the attention to detail.

When was the last time you exceeded customers’ expectations and what was it?

We always try to exceed our customers’ expectations. One example is a Product Launch we organized for a client in the fashion industry. We conceived the Gala Dinner night to impress the participants with strong emotions and vivid memories about the client’s brand. The main theme was a journey that explored the cultural and artistic importance of the Florentine Renaissance, and how it led to a new rational and artistic identity with revisited values, ethics and spirituality. A journey that was parallel to the brand’s experience revolving around innovation, creativity and aesthetics in the past, present and future.

During the Gala Night, guests explored this theme with their Five Senses: a variety of visual and musical performances ignited the senses of sight and sound, while the dinner and a visit to the ancient wine cellars of the venue revived the senses of smell, touch and taste. The soiree ended in the venue’s amphitheatre, with performances by theatre actors, aerial acrobats and an opera singer, all of which represented the pursuit of perfection by the fashion brand. Both the client and the participants were astonished by the vivid interpretation of the product launch.

Corporate events in Italy - Italian Special Occasions DMC

How can clients save money when organising events in Italy?

With Seasonality, which is about our suggestions for the best region-season combination. Many companies choose to organize their corporate events in art cities during the peak season, when flights, venues and excursions are more expensive, and the touristic situation is more “chaotic”. Events do not have to necessarily take place in late spring or in summer: they can be just as wonderful, if not even better, in the seasons of autumn and winter!

However, I do understand that some congresses need to happen in a certain month of the year; in that case, flexibility on the location can have a huge impact on how original, authentic, cost-effective and sustainable the event can be. One simple example is that few companies take into consideration the beautiful city of Turin. I bet no one knows that in 1863 it was the first Italian city to promote a public collection of modern art. Art is still very valued here, and there are unusual venues that can host events with a unique touch.

For example, we thoroughly enjoyed to plan and organise an imperial table inside a wonderful room of the Egyptian Museum… and our Client simply loved it! Compared to other sought-after destinations for corporate events, Turin offers affordable prices, quality services and less traffic. Sensorial activities can take place nearby, in the beautiful vineyards of Langhe and Roero.

Good planning can also translate into saving money to face the unexpected. Why? Because if you organize perfectly every detail in Plan A, and dedicate the same attention to Plan B, making them interchangeable, you are guaranteed a hassle-free event. Improvisation can be costly, while having everything planned can save lots of monies in the client’s pocket.

What cultural aspects organisers should consider before planning their event in Italy?

When planning, it is important to identify if there are any important events happening in the location where the event takes place, for example public holidays, local festivals, religious gatherings (such as at the Vatican) or sports events like rugby or football tournaments. Public holidays will probably have an impact on the budget of the client. On the other hand, small local events won’t make that much of a difference in terms of money, but can spice up your corporate event by adding something extra and authentic for your clients to see and do!

In three words, why clients should choose Italy for their next event?

Art, Beauty and Food… there is no other place that has it all like Italy 🙂 !

This post is sponsored by Italian Special Occasions DMC. You can contact Italian Special Occasions DMC in the following ways:


Instagram: italianspecialoccasions

Facebook: Italian Special Occasions DMC

Twitter: @ISOeventsItaly

Contact person: Laura Notarbartolo, Founder – Italian Special Occasions DMC


Photo credit: Italian Special Occasions DMC

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