In March 2001 I attended an IT conference in Florence run by the Gartner Group. The conference was held in the Fortezza de Basso, a 16th-century fortress with gigantic, thick walls. At first it might sound like an unlikely venue for an IT conference, but it was actually quite fitting since the dot coms went belly-up, the techies have been feeling a bit defensive. The conference was very good, and better still, it ended on Friday evening, which left an entire weekend for touring around in Florence.

Florence is a huge museum. It's full or medieval and renaissance buildings, and anywhere you go you're likely to bump into people you've heard of Dante, Michelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli to name a few. At the same time, Florence is the Amsterdam of southern Europe, minus the vice. Young people come for the atmosphere. They'll crowd around the David statue at the Accademia, because that's what you do, though their main interest is in shops like Armani and Benetton, which have ultra-stylish interiors inside 500-year-old buildings. Old meets new, and the "me" generation goes medieval. Florence is also the place for leather goods, and you should consider your stay a miserable failure if you don't walk away with at least a belt.

This was my first time in Italy. I had always said that Italy was the most interesting country in Europe, but one small, little problem was that I had never been there. My ambition is to cover Italy with a fine-toothed comb. The history is amazing, the people are great, and the food is very nice. In the time I was there I didn't get to see even half of Florence. What a great inducement to go to next year's conference! I'll be there.