Conference & Meetings World Issue 91 - Page 62

City Report This is a destination to feed the soul The real little Italy Liz Agostini on tour around Lake Lugano, finds a gem to feed the MICE soul at Campione d’Italia ith Como 28kms behind us and having definitively crossed the Swiss border, confusion is reigning supreme and tempers fraying between navigator and driver: ‘How the *%@+! can our hotel be in Italy, for goodness’ sake, just give me that sat nav!’ Mystery solved and equanimity restored as we arrive to the very warm welcome extended by Luca Barion and his team at the Melia Campione, Campione d’Italia (the clue being in the name), and soon to be sipping our crisp Prosecco overlooking the stunning early evening vista of Lake Lugano. So Italy or Switzerland? For the history buffs among you, the answer stems back to 777 AD when Toto of Campione, a local Lombard Lord bequeathed this tiny little municipality to the archbishopric of Milan. Fast forward to Italian unification and the heady combination of Italian national pride and refusal to concede territory and Campione’s ‘Italian-ness’ was rubber stamped by Benito Mussolini in the 1930’s with the addition of ‘d’Italia’ to its name and the construction of a huge symbolic ornamental gate to the city. As a conference or incentive destination, Campione has much to commend it. Trip Advisor trolls who speak of ‘little to do’ are missing the point, this is a destination to feed the soul. Waking up to the views of the lake from one of the Melia’s 40 luxuriously appointed bedrooms, a stroll along the 62 / Conference & Meetings World Above: Warm and welcoming Campione D’Italia / ISS U E 91 ‘lungolago’ to one of the little lakeside trattorie and you feel as though you’ve been transported to the set of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a heady combination of quaint, warm, welcoming, class and exclusivity which perfectly embodies the Swiss/Italian fusion. Impossible to ignore is the gargantuan casino which towers over Campione in a huge statement form – the main statement being that the income from the casino is sufficient for the operation of Campione without the need to impose taxes on its residents. Happy days for the Campionese, then, but also for event planners, as this statement of an edifice not only provides leisure activity in the form of the obvious, but, with 55,000sqm of floorspace, the scope to deliver events which currently span fashion shows, concerts, cinematography and literary festivals, as well as international congresses. Returning to the restless, if all that tranquillity and beauty really does get too much, you are only 9km from Lugano by road, or 15 minutes across the lake by boat. But, if I were you, I’d sit back and enjoy and heed the words of Luca Barion who was director of sales and marketing at Melia Milano for nine years before de-camping to Campione. “It’s a whole different way of life” - Viva la differenza!