A note from the planners
“In June 2017, Smart Group launched their agency incentive programme, Smart Friends, designed as not only a please but also a thank you to all agents who have worked with Smart over the past 25 years and supported their growth and success.”
Sun, sea and friends
On Friday 8th June 2018, 35 agents arrived in the first Smart Friends destination, the Island of Ischia, Italy. Accompanied by Angela Hartnett, the Smart Group Michelin Star Creative Ambassador, they ate and drank like kings and queens. Smart Friends created a weekend of magical memories… one that will be hard to top next year.
A 6am flight is never easy, but after touching down in Naples, guests were whisked over to a private harbour to board three speed boats named after the drinks served on each: Aperol Spritz, Peach Bellini and Prosecco Royale. As they cruised over to the lunch spot, the beautiful Giardino d’Eden restaurant, guests sipped on cocktails and enjoyed the beautiful views.
Giardino d’Eden set the precedent for the remainder of the trip: tasty, traditional food with the perfect drinks to match, enjoyed amidst a stunning setting with great company and a relaxed atmosphere. Guests were welcomed with a glass of prosecco before enjoying traditional breads, salads and barbecued mussels as well as Gerardo di Nola spaghetti with anchovies, breadcrumbs, Pantelleria capers and lemon peel for main.
Delicious fruit platters were then served, rounding off a perfect meal as everyone relaxed on the jetty or took a refreshing dip in the sea.
After a long lunch and a quick refresh at the hotel, the guests arrived at San Montano to enjoy a drinks reception on the upper terrace. Here a guitarist played soothing music.
“…guests then made their way through to the tranquil lower terrace via the picturesque lemon tree gardens.”
The group took their seats at 10 intimate tables of four, with crisp white table cloths dressed with fresh lemon table centres and individually named pizza cutters. Following a tuna niçoise salad to start, they were invited up to the pizzeria, an impressive outdoor pizza oven, to select their own toppings and watch the chefs create the pizzas from scratch.
A jazz trio provided tranquil entertainment throughout the meal, which was rounded off with a selection of homemade Neapolitan patisseries and a shot of limoncello (the tradition for every meal). DJ Benny Blanco, who also joined the trip, then took to the decks as everyone enjoyed cocktails and had a little boogie surrounded by the stunning sights of Ischia at night.
The next morning was naturally a slow and relaxed start with a traditional breakfast at the hotel. Everyone boarded the boats again, stopping at a secluded location to take a leisurely dip in the sea, before heading to another gorgeous lunch spot, Costa del Capitano. After arriving at the restaurant guests were amazed as they admired the beautiful blue skies and sea (perhaps the best view of the trip!) After sipping on drinks in the sun, they took their seats and enjoyed yet another long and leisurely lunch, the highlight being some fresh grilled swordfish and crisp delicious white.
Once full, they then returned to the hotel for ‘down-time’ to glam up ready for the gala dinner that evening, hosted by Angela Hartnett herself.
Monte Corvo, a family-run restaurant and hidden gem was hired exclusively for the night.
“It was the perfect location for dinner and quite literally blew all guests away.”
We arrived to a warm welcome from Greg, Smart Group’s CEO, whilst a talented pianist played in the background and delicious canapés and drinks were circulated.
Whilst Angela and the Monte Corvo family were cooking up a storm in the kitchen, the group eagerly took their seats at a long, stunningly dressed table with gold sprayed stones in place of name cards and luxury, dark purple menus with intricate gold foiling. Then began the exquisite five-course meal, introduced by Angela herself, with a true highlight being the rabbit pappardelle, cooked to perfection.
Whilst food was no doubt the main event for this night and indeed the whole trip, the local Ischian wine was beautiful and the setting was perfect. As guests finished their desserts, Benny Blanco took to the decks and gathered everyone inside to round off a perfect evening with cocktails and dancing. It is always a true testimony to a great evening when every single person in the restaurant is dancing, including the Monte Corvo family, the waiters and even Angela Hartnett herself.
The final morning on the island was bittersweet. As Bloody Mary’s were served alongside a long delicious brunch of everything you could possibly imagine, guests reflected on the weekend and felt sad to be returning home away from paradise. After two days of cruising around on yachts and eating and drinking their way through the very best of the island, everyone felt truly relaxed.
The stunning and untouched location of Ischia felt a fitting place to kick off the programme.
Smart Friends is open to all event agencies, production agencies, venue bookers and venue finders across the globe who buy Smart Group products and services on behalf of their clients. Find out more, including how to qualify, at www.smartfriends.co.uk.
Don’t be the one to miss out!
“Everything was so seamless and nobody from Smart stopped smiling at any point – to me it seems a miracle.”
“How did you manage to pack so much in? Great venue, great food, great wine and great company. No stone was left unturned.”
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