Imagine, being immersed in the festivities of an Italian wedding in Italy, surrounded by wine, food, family, friends, and love….all the while not knowing a single person other than the groom, and not knowing the Italian language.
This was the primary reason for my 3rd visit to Italy. I traveled a distance of approximately 7,180km to attend my friend Andrea’s wedding. The wedding took place in a part of Italy that I had not yet been to, along the western coast of northern Italy in the Ligurian region (right beside the infamous Cinque Terre). The ceremony was held in La Spezia, the capital of La Spezia province, and the reception was in the colourful, medieval fishing village of Portovenere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The months leading up to my departure date (in May) were full of excitement and anticipation. I was a bit anxious, because prior to the wedding, I only knew the groom (Andrea) and a handful of Italian key words (vino, pasta, pizza, fromaggio….no, just kidding! I knew more than this!) And the beautiful bride, Svetlana, is Russian, and her Russian-speaking family would be there as well, and I don’t know Russian, other than “spasiba” (thank you). (Svetlana also speaks Italian and English). I’m a Virgo, and that means I’m a planner. Not knowing anyone, or what the “plan” was, in terms of when and where the events were taking place and how I was going to get there, that caused a bit of anxiety for me.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry,” Andrea reassured me (on a number of occasions) before I came to Italy, “everything will be taken care of.” I’ve often been told I worry too much…so I tried my best to just let it be and trust my friend. And just as Andrea promised, everything worked out. The feeling of being a foreigner quickly disappeared after meeting the family and close friends the night before the wedding. It was my first time meeting them and I felt as though I had known them for years. Fortunately for me, most people spoke some English as well. I know it’s about time that I start putting to use my growing collection of Italian language CDs/DVDs/books that have been sitting on the bookshelf for a few years.
The wedding ceremony was held in La Spezia at Pieve di San Venerio, a charming Parish church that dates back to the 11th century (although recent excavations reveal much earlier origins). While some guests were seated in the church, with Andrea and family waiting at the altar, there were several other guests who waited outside of the church for Svetlana’s arrival (and I was one of them). This was quite different for me, as I’m used to everyone being seated until the bride’s arrival. This gave me the opportunity to see things from a new perspective.
So there I was, outside of the church, photographing the bride’s arrival in a blue 1961 Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Svetlana’s grand entrance through the church door. I am especially proud of this one image, where you can see Andrea at the far back waiting for his future wife to join him, and the guests peeking from behind the door, trying to get a glimpse of the bride. I soon followed the procession, walking down the aisle and found a seat with a perfect view in the 2nd row, right behind Svetlana’s family. (How did I manage that, when I was one of the last ones to walk into the church?!)
Click below to view a video clip from the wedding ceremony.
Following the ceremony, the reception (an afternoon lunch) was held 20 minutes away in the nearby fishing village of Portovenere, at a waterfront seafood restaurant called “Da Iseo.” (Note: If you ever go this way, be prepared for the windy road…it can bring about a case of nausea very easily – I write from experience!) There were 120 guests at the reception, some seated inside and some outside. Throughout the afternoon, waiters served several courses of local seafood, pasta, salad, and of course vino (white, red and sparkling) – most of which was from the Arrigoni family’s wine estates.
Click below to view a video clip from the wedding reception.
Quiet Night) in the early morning hours, I was taken aback by the graciousness of Andrea’s parents, Milena and Riccardo, who insisted on leaving their party to give me a ride.
I left with wonderful memories, new friends, and so much to look forward to for upcoming my year of travels in 2015-2016 – a good chunk of which I intend to be in bella Italia, visiting new and old friends, exploring new parts of the country, and immersing myself more and more in the Italian way of life…. La Dolce Vita.
I traveled over 7000km, to attend a friend’s wedding, where I knew no one else other than the groom, I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know the area. I trusted Andrea that everything would be fine and I remained open. The warmth and love that I felt from being surrounded by the family and their friends, and having been included and immersed in such an intimate celebration, was telling proof that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone, or don’t know their mother tongue…we are all human, social beings, and if you open yourself up, this may very well pave the way for what might become some of the most authentic and enriching experiences of your life.
Grazie mille Andrea and Svetlana! I look forward to seeing you in 2015!
Andrea Arrigoni’s family has been producing quality wines for four generations. They have properties in Liguria and Tuscany; with wine tours and accommodation rentals available. In 2011, I visited Andrea at their Pietraserena estate in San Gimignano (Tuscany); see photos below. The views and the property can be summed up in one word, BREATHTAKING. If you’re ever in the area, I’d highly encourage a visit to this special place. Visit the Arrigoni Wine Family for more information about their products and properties.
**NOTE: Please feel free to comment on this post (and any other), or share any authentic travel experiences of your own. I always appreciate hearing from readers. Just scroll to the bottom. Grazie, Spasiba, Thank you!