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Cooking the conference#2 - Antonia Caola

cooking the conference portrait #ecsite2015

This is our second interview in the “cooking the conference” series – monthly portraits giving readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of preparation work for the 2015 Ecsite Annual Conference (11-13 June, Trento, Italy) This month we peer over the shoulder of Antonia Caola, General Coordinator at the MUSE, host museum in Trento.

  What is your role in organising the Ecsite Annual Conference? As General Coordinator, I’m the main contact person here at MUSE. As the host, we are in charge of a lot of the conference’s aspects: venue of course, but also social events, communications materials, welcome and wayfinding, catering… This sounded a little daunting at first – but luckily we can learn from years of experience, preciously recorded and handed down by the Ecsite Executive Office. Until recently there were two of us actively planning the conference – now we are a team of four, and we are expecting it to become an everyday job from January onwards for a 10-people team. The whole staff is looking forward to welcoming the Ecsite crowds: that’s about 300 people, out of which 100 volunteers.

  Why did Muse decide to apply for hosting the Ecsite Annual Conference? When we put in the application two years ago we had the “skeleton” of a building and still plenty to do before we could open our doors to the public. Applying to host an event gathering 1,000 people seemed a little crazy – but at MUSE we love a good challenge… When we received the formal approval, we were very pleased to see that Ecsite had dared to give this opportunity to a yet to open museum – in a small city like Trento. In two years, we’ve met an incredible success. We received more than half a million visitors on our first year (exceeding all visitor number targets) and have recently been ranked “Best Museum in Italy” ex-aequo with the MAXXI Museum in Rome by the prestigious Giornale dell’Arte.

  You attended last year’s conference in The Hague and worked closely with the Museon team (the 2014 host) – what lessons did you learn? I particularly remember the nice spirit that animated the event, which made us feel almost at home. This is something I would definitely like our attendees to share. More practically, I was also pleasantly impressed with the smooth organisation: easy registration, efficient wayfinding and overall attention to detail at each venue all ensured a great experience.

  What are you up to at the moment? I’m currently selecting the major suppliers and launching the tender for the catering of the conference. We made sure that quality criteria prevailed over price. We should get to taste samples, which I’m looking forward to! We’re lucky to have an expert on our team: our Finance Manager is also a chef in her free time and is very active in the local slow food movement. Another hot topic right now is technology: we’re exploring how we can technically connect the two main conference venues, located in a few hundred meters away from each other.

  Which challenges are you meeting? A challenge for MUSE and for Trento is to prove that we can do as well as bigger cities. Thankfully, we can count on a very active municipality and we are used to hosting large events: the Trento Festival of Economics, which gathers thousands of participants, takes place just one week before the Ecsite Annual Conference. Our city is also home to the oldest international film festival dedicated to mountains, adventure and exploration: the Trento Film Festival (63rd edition this year).

  What does the “Food for curious minds” conference theme mean to you? I love it! Food, both literally and metaphorically, can take on so many meanings… It invites us to reflect on health, world economics, tastes, diversity… I’ve had the chance to work with so many interesting people since I joined the science centres and museums community! They have nourished and enriched me, widened my horizons… I think that curiosity is a core value in our sector and I like the idea of the conference as a time to fuel this curiosity.

  What will you be particularly proud to show us when we’re around in Trento in June? The heart of Trento is architecturally very beautiful. The new museum and more generally the locations where we’ll gather socially are also worth a little tour. Since our city is rather small, why not take advantage of the extra time and go outside the city, to Lake Caldonazzo for example? One of the most picturesque mountain trails awaits just 30 minutes away from the city, too. I’m also very excited about the farewell party location. I don’t want to spoil your surprise too much, but I have one clue for you: ‘tunnel’…

  And finally … could you share your favourite recipe with us? Here’s a traditional recipe from Trentino and a favourite in my family called “Canederli al formaggio”. It’s a no-waste recipe, one of the many delicious leftover dishes of Italian cuisine…


  • 4 large pieces of dry white bread (should be hard)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 onion
  • 200g of soft-tasting cheese like Edam – or whatever is left in your fridge
  • 20g of butter
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 2-3 leaves of sage
  • A few chunks of parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

  Preparation: Cut the bread into small pieces and soak them in milk for at least one or two hours. Gently cook the onion in butter to give it a sweet flavour. Add the entire egg, the flour, the cheese cut in small pieces, the onion, salt and pepper to the bread and milk mix. Mix and make balls out of this dough (you can choose the size). Roll them in a little extra flour and plunge them into boiling water. They’re done when they come back to the surface, after about 10 minutes. Melt a little butter with sage (that’s my personal touch) on the side, pour this sauce over the canederli and add a little parmesan on top. Enjoy!

  Tried at the Ecsite Office – prepared by Communications Manager Julie Becker


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MUSE - Museo delle Scienze

Located in Trento (NE Italy), the Museum of Science MUSE is a public insitution devoted to people's science engagement. It is dedicated to research the natural environment & intepret the landscape, in particular of the mountain areas, to promote sustainable development and innovation.


2015 Ecsite Conference

The 2015 Ecsite Conference took place in Trento, Italy, on 11-13 June. It gathered 1,101 participants from 52 different countries, breaking an attendance record. Look back on the appetizing “Food for curious minds” edition cooked up by conference host MUSE.