Thi is the Florentine complex which organises congresses, meetings and exhibitions in the city of Florence. The structures which house the various national and international events are the Fortezza da Basso, the Palazzo dei Congressi and the Palazzo degli Affari. They are positioned side by side and are in the area of the historic centre beside the Santa Maria Novella railway station.
The Fortezza da Basso is one of the very first Italian citadels commissioned by the Medici family and constructed by Sangallo. This colossal work and pearl of Renaissance architecture is a five sided building. The castle, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was built in one year, between 1533 and 1534 AD. It is a paradox that throughout its long history, starting from the commission entrusted to Sangallo, this impregnable fortress has never been attacked and has remained intact down to the present day. The Fortress is now connected to the Palazzo dei Congressi by means of Piazza Bambine e Bambini di Beslan and is composed of several pavilions. As the seat of the Florentine Trade Fair Centre, it has been subjected to lengthy restoration and adaptation works (not yet completed) which have involved the demolition of service structures built when the Fortress was used as a barracks. Today, therefore, it houses the most prestigious exhibitions of the City of Florence, from the Florence Gift Mart to EuroCamper, from Pitti Immagine to the Congress Tourism Exchange, from the International Crafts and Trades Market-Exhibition to Prato Expo. For the Firenze Expo event, two new exhibition pavilions have been constructed, named by the planners as respectively the Padiglione Spadolini (Spadolini Pavilion) and the Padiglione Cavaniglia (Cavaniglia Pavilion).
The Spadolini exhibition pavilion covers about 13,000 sq. m. of the more than nine hectares enclosed by the ancient military Medici structure. It was designed by Ennio Ghellini Sargenti of the Ufficio Tecnico della IPI (The Institute for Industrial Promotion), apparently with the advisory services of the well known architect Pierluigi Spadolini, and was built between 1974 and 1976. It is a rectangular two-storey building: the lower floor is larger and entirely underground; the total area of both the basement and the ground floor amounts to about 21,000 square metres. The pavilions are among the few examples of contemporary architecture in the centre of Florence, and are structures of considerable interest. The nearby Villa Contini Bonacossi has been adapted to become the Florence Palazzo dei Congressi (Congress Hall); this nineteenth century building was constructed by the Strozzi-Ridolfi family and was later acquired by the Contini-Bonacossi family. Just a few yards from the historic centre, it is surrounded by a park which also contains an Auditorium which can seat up to 1,000 people. Palazzo degli Affari (the Business Centre) is also a part of the Trade Fair Centre; the modern structure in Piazza Adua, designed by the architect Spadolini, was inaugurated in 1974. It has a total capacity of 1,600 people and it is suitable for conventions and exhibitions, and it has press rooms and rooms for haute couture shows, as well as for business lunches and gala evenings. From the penthouse, which connects the elements of the structure, the Florence panorama can be admired, as well as the large park with centuries-old trees.
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