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Trip Report: An Italian Wedding

June 2007
by Jan Gordon

We were driven first to an impossible-to-find apartment-hotel resort, Corsignano, about 5 km into the countryside outside of Poppi, where the wedding party was staying. With views of the Tuscan hillsides and farm fields clinging to the slopes, Corsignano’s bougainvillea-laden walls contained a cluster of stone buildings with terra cotta rooftops, hidden stairways, and lush landscaping where about 40 of the visiting guests, including bride, groom, wedding party, family, and foreign visitors had been staying since Thursday. Sleeping quarters were grouped in 3 and 4 bedroom apartments where common areas had kitchens, wood fireplaces, and covered terraces. A landscaped lower garden held a pool, barbecue, and thatched covered terrace where impromptu barbecues and late night skinny dipping parties had been going on for the wedding party and friends each night. Guests from all over the globe had already become fast friends, and the attractive under-35 younger generation was already causing gossip and intrigue for a bemused parental generation who didn’t have the stamina to keep up with the international young set. I could tell this was going to be fun!

When we arrived we immediately ran into our favorite bridesmaid, our New York daughter, looking tanned, casual in shorts and flip flops, and relaxed. Jeff and I were all dolled up and ready for the wedding, but everyone else was just taking their time and lolling around. No bridezillas here…..Miranda was in her apartment getting her hair dried by a beautician on house-call. The only evidence of an impending ceremony was a hanging bridal gown, a veil on a bedpost, a recently-used iron. Groomsmen were just coming up the stone stairway from the pool in their bathing suits; even the bride’s mother was outside sunning. I felt ridiculous in high heels, cocktail dress, and my time-management mentality. Everything just felt too laid-back and tranquil for wedding-minus-one-hour.

Jeff and I walked around Corsignano and finally began to see signs of twitter. Some British couples came downstairs with the obligatory brimmed hats on the women (those Brits really do hats with flair), and a European half-bus arrived in the courtyard to take the “first group” to the church. We hopped on board for the 10 minute drive to Poppi. Up and up the hillside the bus climbed, grinding its gears, until it stopped outside the ramparts of the Castello di Poppi, an imposing 11th century castle overlooking the whole Casentino region of Eastern Tuscany. The bus doors opened and suddenly we were told to get out...the bus wouldn’t fit into the castle walls, so we had to walk the remaining way to the church through the castle’s narrow, cobblestone (ugh, the stiletto heels!) alleyways and steep streets. Wandering through this medieval walled village, under covered walkways and around winding corners, seemed to evoke the 14th century when Dante was a guest of its rulers.

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After meandering the Castello streets a bit we finally came to Badia San Fedele, a 12th century chapel. After days of absorbing ornate Renaissance religious art in Florence, the simplicity of this medieval stone chapel with its rough hewn beams, primitive Madonnas painted in oil on stone slabs in the nave, time-worn uneven granite floors, and central marble alter clothed in wedding brocades and graced with peonies, was nothing short of perfect for our lovely blond American bride and her Italian groom. Guests gathered in the bright afternoon sun on a terrace outside the main church doors and bathed in the gorgeous views across the Tuscan countryside far below.

After three bridesmaids led Lohengrin’s Here Comes the Bride march, a veiled Miranda in lace and trailing formal train was led down this ancient aisle by her smiling brother. A full Catholic Eucharist followed with a robed priest in sandals giving Italian and broken English blessings to the couple. Upon leaving the church, the couple were pelted with rose petals and rice thrown by the already-exited guests while 12th century bells pealed continuously to announce their marriage. The Poppi townspeople convened in the alleyways and side streets also to welcome and cheer the new marriage. The history, the views, the beautiful crowd, the joyful couple, the emotions, the pealing bells—it was as magical as it was authentically Italian.

I ditched the stiletto shoes and ran barefoot back to the bus as now rain-soaked cobblestone streets challenged high heeled balance. After a quick bus ride back to Corsignano, we were treated to a full Italian three hour, multi-course banquet followed by a fantastic DJ and late night dancing. Francesco, our driver, reappeared at the assigned time, but we kept telling him “arrivederci,” come back later. Finally, late at night, we agreed to say “buona sera” to Miranda and Luigi and our new Italian friends to drive the spaghetti roads back to Florence. What could possibly top this? Perhaps the next day’s visit to Michangelo’s David!

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