This conference was a last minute call as the poor organisers had been trying to run the event since 2020 and finally got the go ahead once the covid numbers had dropped. This set us in a panic as we had to quickly get vaccinated in order to travel overseas. And just when we thought that was a big issue, try getting a visa during covid when you are staying in a “red” listed country. This was a tough trip to organise and I had to get outside help from Sarah from SW Travel and from Visa Box and if it wasn’t for the two of them pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, we would not have got our visas on time. We tried to get an exemption from the Italian Ministry of Health from 10 days of isolation but they simply asked “why do you want it?” Duh, because you put it in place and we want to spend 7 days in the country and not 5. They never replied after that so it was a case of arriving the night before the conference and then leaving the day after in order to stick to their 5 days or less rule to avoid isolation.

Next came the actual travel, which is never fun at the best of times. We left our homes and after numerous flights and stop overs we arrived in Milan 29 hours later. And 99% of that time was with a mask on. I kept getting told by the air hostess to “sir, pull your mask up” as I have a tendency to let it slip down under my nose. I struggle with the confined space in an aircraft in normal conditions never mind with a mask cutting your air flow off even further.

The rest of the trip was a blur as we walked 9-13kms per day at the conference which is actually about half the normal amount since the event was half the size this year due to all the travel restrictions in place. Once again we were super excited to be back covering this event and happy to meet up with old friends and colleagues. Someone had the perfect quote “it felt like a high school reunion”. I think everyone was just so keen to get things going again. The venues were superb and the event a huge success. It took a huge amount of courage and determination from the routes team to pull this off so we were happy for them that it was such a memorable event.

Matt and I managed a few brief moments at the end of the first day and last day to see a few sights and enjoy some unbelievably delicious pizzas and local beer. The buildings are super impressive and the cobbled roads so special. We even took a few trips on some really old trams with their old wooden seats making them feel like we had stepped back in time. If you are ever in Milan you must visit the Duomo Cathedral, no pics or websites can do it justice. The most incredible building I have ever seen. Of course you have to visit some of their small and quaint coffee shops with their beautiful settings, fine coffee and exceptionally fresh pastries.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay longer in Milan. Italy has such an amazing culture that I really enjoy and could quite easily get used to but although the visit was brief we at least had the opportunity to travel and experience this famous city and hopefully one day we will be back. Now for the 35 hour trip home. Joy!