Pontignano cloister

The Pontignano Conference is one of the most important annual events in the UK-Italy bilateral relationship, each year aiming to bring together a select group of influential delegates from the worlds of Education and Academia, Technology and Innovation, Culture and Society, Business and Finance, Politics, Foreign and Security Policy, Government and the Media. 

The Pontignano conference was founded by the British Council and St Antony’s College Oxford in 1993. It brings together current and future leaders from the UK and Italy to address common challenges and develop networks and close relationships. Organised by the British Embassy in Italy, the British Council and Siena University, the conference has developed a network that includes ministers, prime ministers, presidents and leaders from the business and academic.

The 2020 Pontignano Conference took place on 1 - 3 October

The conference is designed in such a way as to provide a structured yet informal opportunity for conversation, debate and relationship-building, over the course of two days, in the quiet and beautiful setting of an old monastery outside of Siena. Most of the proceedings take place under Chatham House Rules – in other words, individuals cannot be quoted outside the framework of the conference.

A core part of what we do are the workshop sessions on Day 2, which are moderated by leading Italian and British figures in each field and which are highly participative, round-table occasions. A select number of speeches in plenary, including a Keynote speech before the opening dinner and a session for Ministerial speeches followed by Q&A, took also place.

The Pontignano Co-Chairs take an active role in the planning and the delivery of the event and we are delighted that Lord David Willetts, who has been involved ever since the first Pontignano 25 years ago, was joined by Italy’s former Minister for Economic Development, Mr Carlo Calenda.

2020 Pontignano Conference: concept note


The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly challenged the prosperity and security of all the world’s nations. The UK and Italy, as the closest of allies, must work together to address the impact of the crisis, both in the short and the long term, and to lay the foundations for a prosperous, secure and sustainable future for generations to come. Our partnership on COP26, the G7 and G20 Presidencies in 2021 and the ongoing UK/Italy Partners for Culture initiative present huge opportunities for us to collaborate to shape global action both on this and on the other great challenges of the 21st Century and to demonstrate our shared determination to act together as a force for good in the world. How can we make the best use of these opportunities, as we develop new forms of cooperation following the UK’s departure from the EU?

Concept note, Pontignano Conference 2020