When my fiancé and I began to address the question of where to get married, it seemed fitting, after getting engaged on foreign soil, to continue the theme. We purposefully didn’t tell people immediately after getting engaged, to give us time to discuss the kind of wedding we wanted, before family started to suggest well intentioned ideas.
I can’t quite remember how we settled on Tuscany. I remember agreeing that favours, speeches, gifts, flowers, colour schemes, invitation designs and fluffy detail just weren’t important to us. What was important was having the right people there, having great food and drink, and that the whole thing should be chilled and unstressed. I suppose the last two probably made us think of Italy, and Tuscany in particular. Prosecco and pasta. Old buildings, nice weather, laid back, not having to worry about details. That seemed to fit.
After some googling, I found Lisa. Lisa runs Hitched In Italy, and was one of a handful of wedding planners I emailed who all specialised in Tuscan weddings, but none of whom really got where I was coming from. Lisa got it. Lisa specialises in chilled out. She got that I didn’t care about colours of flowers but did care about having enough great wine for everyone; that I wasn’t going to worry about seat covers because we would all sit on benches and eat our homemade pasta.
So Tuscany it was. And Lisa introduced me to Bagni di Lucca, an hour’s drive from Pisa, and an agriturismo called Pian di Fiume that made its own oil and grappa, and collected its own mushrooms from the woods to make risotto. A reclaimed hamlet from medieval ages. With little stone buildings, an amphitheatre in the centre, goats wandering around, and a view over the valley. After a visit in February and a near disaster with a Fiat Punto, a steep gravel road and two inches of snow, we were hooked. It was exactly what we wanted.
Bagni di Lucca (literally “the baths of Lucca”) is a lovely spa town in the Tuscan hills with a river through its centre. It’s really a collection of different villages, and I learned a lot about it from a great blog: www.bellabagnidilucca.com. Quiet in the winter, obviously, and not massively unquiet in the summer, it’s a laid back place, with authentic bars and little restaurants serving great pasta and pizza. You can do some activities if you want: wine tasting was a favourite with my family, and horse trekking, quad biking, hiking and rafting are all available. But we stuck with food and wine as activities during the week we were there, and at a euro for a glass of wine, you can probably see why.
We’d decide to get married at a respectable 3pm, so the morning was spent getting hair ups and make-upping (did it myself) and trying not to drink too much fizz during it. Following some outdoor drinks at Pian Di Fiume, we journeyed down the village below – rather amusingly in a battered black range rover – the only vehicle that can do the steep gravel path at speed, and the owner Daniella took great delight in taking me in my white dress and a handful of people down the precarious road to the waiting minibus.
The party of 36 headed to a bar (Bar Italia) overlooking the river in town for drinks and nibbles (put on by the bar) before the ceremony, and it was a perfect way to relax before some Italian formality. When we were ready, we all headed over together to the Casino Antico : a 15th century building, famous for being the first place Franz Liszt played (that fact was mentioned in the ceremony!).
The ceremony was in Italian, as you might expect. Massimo, the Mayor of Bagni di Lucca conducted it, and it was translated into English by Isabella. Italian is a gorgeous language anyway, but even the translated vows were lovely; no honouring and obeying, but all about sharing life’s stresses, workloads, and family harmony. Which I admit surprised me. I’d always thought of Italy as a patriarchal society, but in terms of martial promises, the focus is every much on equal rights. I was impressed and admittedly surprised. There are three articles in particular that are read out:
Reciprocal rights and duties of the spousesWith this wedding, the husband and wife acquire the same rights and accept the same obligations. From marriage derive the reciprocal duty to be faithful, provide moral and material assistance, to collaborate in the interest of the family.
Both spouses pledge each in relation to their proper circumstances and their capacity relative to their profession to contribute to the needs of the family.
Article of family life and residence of the family
The spouses agree together on the address where they will establish their family life and fix the residence according to the needs of both and the pre-eminent needs of the family. The course of familiar life must be chosen by mutual consent
Dueties towards children
The wedding imposes on both spouses the obligation to maintain, instruct and educate their children keeping in mind their capacities and natural inclinations and aspirations.
The casino in Bagni has a lovely wide terrace overlooking the river, and we filed out to proseco, gelato, photos and sunshine.
After obligatory photos (only friends, we didn’t bother with a professional – too much faff, and would eat into our precious antipasti time) we jumped on a hired bus and headed back to our hamlet on the hill, Pian di Fiume, to start the drinking and eating.
Mangiare e bevere
The spread was phenomenal. Starting with traditional antipasti, we had pecorino wth honey; speck; gorgeous home made balsamic jelly; parma ham; and of course plenty of prosecco and beer. We went for silly brass band music on an iPod, and there’s a table football table at Pian Di Fiume, so the groom had a few games of that – we really went for chilled out!
As the sun set, guests hung out and chatted, drank, ate, drank some more, and we got some more lovely photos. I think the best thing about that time was that our guests pretty much just chilled. Some disappeared for a walk around the hamlet, some admired the views, some enjoyed the food some more but the whole thing just felt relaxed. I wasn’t stressed about photographs, or the table decorations or seat covers. We sat on benches, I did my own make up and I wore flip flops – what on earth was I going to stress about!? To me, this was exactly what we wanted.
As the sun set we got even more gorgeous photos, more chilling , and then retired into the restaurant area. The area is covered but has one open side which opens to a beautiful view of the hills opposite over the river. We didn’t have table settings or centre pieces; everyone sat where they wanted, on benches. The food was cooked in the kitchen in the adjourning room and Daniella brought out various courses (that we’d only chosen the day before – again no stress, it was always going to be great food regardless!)
First we had a mushroom risotto course, followed by Daniela’s speciality pasta course – wild boar tagliatelle. Only then did we get to the main course! Pork (from the farm’s own pig) and beef with potatoes. I still to this day can’t believe we managed to eat as much as we did. But that’s the thing with Italian home made food. It’s simple, fresh and mouthwateringly gorgeous. And stress free. (You get my theme?)
Afterwards, and perhaps to work off a bit of the massive amounts of food, we stuck some classic tunes on the big speakers and cleared some tables for a dance floor. Again it was all on our own iPod – no expensive dj, just music we loved. And more beer and prosecco. And grappa. Daniela’s grandfather’s home made grappa. Wow. That was a bad idea.
The night wore on, may people chilled outside in the cool air, others dances with us on our makeshift dancer floor. Taxis came during the night to ferry some people back to hotels in Bagni, while those staying in Pian Di Fiume rolled into bed eventually.
Finally, when everyone had left, new husband and I sat for a few minutes, enjoying the cooler air, the stunningly starry skies and a perfect, stress free and awesomely Tuscan wedding.