A Wedding in the Fair City of Verona
Getting married for the second time, the last thing I wanted was a big, expensive wedding, but I still wanted to share a special and memorable experience with my beautiful wife-to-be so where better to get married then the fair city of Verona in Italy. Keeping the invites to a manageable twenty, I liaised with my friendly Italian supplier, Giovanni, who was superbly attentive to every detail.
We arranged for the group to stay at the Best Western Oliveto Hotel in Desenzano on the shores of the divinely beautiful Lake Garda. The hotel is an excellent 4-star rated property far enough away from the town to allow for some relaxing sunbathing around the pool, yet just a fifteen minute walk from the busy town centre, which is abundant with elegant shops and plenty of restaurants and not forgetting the Irish bar where I spent my last night of ‘freedom’.
The only hiccup we had was caused by a miscommunication with our local registrar which led to last minute panic and an urgent trip to the British Consulate Office in Venice to collect the required Nulla Osta – which is the Italian version of the Certificate of No Impediment and must be issued by the local British consulate but this can normally be arranged easily by post.
Once the paperwork was presented to the Mayor of Verona’s office 48 hours prior to the wedding day we were all set for the big day and some relaxation – or so I thought. Where to find 'buttonholes’ and cuff-links, which I’d forgotten to pack with my dress shirt? The buttonholes were easy enough – whilst not something traditionally worn at an Italian wedding, the local florist in Desenzano provided just what was needed. Finding cufflinks was quite another matter. The first issue we had was trying to explain to shop-owners what we were looking for with little knowledge of the language but once we discovered that the Italian word we wanted was ‘gemello’ or ‘gemelli’ to use the proper plural translation we finally discovered what we wanted in a local boutique.
The owner of a local sweet shop in Desenzano also helped out by preparing some sugar almond favours for the dinner table. All in all I was impressed with the helpfulness and patience of the locals and I couldn’t help thinking that an Italian looking for cuff-links in a small resort town in the UK would not get the same level of assistance.
The wedding ceremony was to be held in the Guarienti Hall (Sala Guarienti) which is located in the cloister of the former monastery of the Friars Minor. Built in 1230 the hall features frescoes painted by Paolo Farinati which date back to the 16th century. The monastery’s crypt is supposedly the final resting place of Juliet which added a romantic backdrop to the elegance and grandeur of the wedding room. The entrance to the monastery is adorned by a ‘wishing tree’ where wishes and hopes are written on paper leaves and tied to the tree. A tree-lined paved avenue from the gate to the main building provided excellent photo-opportunities and helped build the romantic atmosphere. A courtyard between the main-building and crypt is full of Romanesque statues, columns and a charming picture-book wishing-well.
The hall holds approximately 40 people and is set out like a renaissance palace. A musical trio enhanced the historical resonance and the ceremony was performed by the Mayor of Verona, in full regalia, in Italian - the language of ‘amore’ - with an English translation.
Once the ceremony had been completed – the group retired to the courtyard and crypt for photos. A local photographer performed the honours and provided a CD containing all the images from the day.
In true Italian style the crypt walls were full of lover’s ‘graffiti’ and there was a temptation to add our own addition to the walls but in true reserved British style we concluded that it was best not to!
The party returned by coach to the hotel where a wedding lunch was provided with a wonderful 7-course meal and delicious Italian style wedding-cake which was provided by the hotel.
Having already fallen in love with Lake Garda and Italy generally some years early, I took great delight in introducing a number of the party to Italy for the first time, and the unanimous declaration from all was that it wouldn’t be their last time visiting this beautiful, romantic and passionate country.
A final tip for anyone taking a flight overseas for a wedding! Ensure that everything you need for the big day is packed in your hand baggage. Box the wedding-dress up and take it on board the aircraft – if it is too large then ensure that you insure it separately!
Top Three Attractions
Juliet's House –a must see attraction for all newbies to Verona. The courtyard is again festooned with the graffiti of lovers which adds rather than detracts from the aura of the place. Touching the right breast of Juliet’s statue is a must for all red-blooded males and no visit would be complete without the required balcony photo-shot. Located in the main shopping thoroughfare, Juliet’s house is easily discovered on the briefest of visits.
Opera in the Arena – there are few more magical sights than watching a monumental operatic performance against the backdrop of a Roman amphitheatre and a star-filled night. The Verona opera season runs from mid-June to the beginning of September annually and tickets start as low as £20.00.
Liston (Piazza Bra) – located on the north side of the Arena in the Piazza Bra, the Liston is a wide pavement area lined with restaurants and bars. This is the place to enjoy a pre-Opera cocktail or meal as you watch the locals promenade around the piazza.
Verona and Lake Garda are easily accessible from a number of airports in the UK. There is a direct flight from London Gatwick to Verona with British Airways, and Ryanair serve Bergamo (approx two-hour drive) from a number of UK airports and Venice(approx 180 minute drive) is also served well from the UK. There is also a train service from Milan and Venice to Desenzano and Verona.
There are numerous resorts around the shores of Lake Garda offering a range of hotels offering something for every budget.
Rough price guideline:-
Ceremony - Civil in the Guarienti Hall €1200
Officiant (mayor or representative) to perform the ceremony
Local Italian Witnesses
Permission to Marry Arrangements and Paperwork Requirements
Event Manager in attendance
Other approximate costs:
Accommodation in 4 and 5 star hotels - from €140 per person per night
Photography - from €700
Music - classical trio from €600
Flowers - medium size arrangement from €600
Hairdressing - from €150
Lunch /dinner after the ceremony - from €120 per person
Transportation – Coach for day – approx €600