I’m just back from a wonderful, busy, eventful weekend in Tuscany for an Italian wedding. The fantastic thing (among many….. or some……) about having a boyfriend in academia is that it is very international – so since this time last year we have been to weddings in Romania, Greece, and now Italy. Always a good excuse for a weekend away!
This particular wedding was near Siena, so the plan was to fly into Rome, rent a car and drive from there. James and I would be sharing the car with James’ friend, Goreti, and so challenge number one was to find flights to Rome from London, Madrid and Portugal (Goreti is Portuguese) that would all arrive at the same airport and as near as possible to the same time. That would mean me leaving work at 4pm (when 7pm is my normal “earliest finish”) but I cleared it with those above me and we all managed to arrive within half an hour of each other! Challenge number two was finding the hire car- Rome Ciampini airport is the budget one and, to be honest, it’s a bit crap. The hire cars were about five minutes walk from the terminal with no signs whatsoever pointing you the right way.
Anyway, eventually we found the car and started driving towards Siena. We had a good trip – it was meant to be just over 2 hours long and at about the hour mark I swapped with Goreti so she drove the rest of the way. Perfect timing as my tummy was starting to cramp and I really didn’t want to be driving at that point! We drove up to Modanella, the hotel we were staying at, shortly after midnight.
The hotel is a castle set in a huge expanse of grounds. There is the main castle building and then several other beautiful old stone buildings dotted around with the hotel rooms. Pinned to the main gate of the castle was an envelope with our names on it – it had our key and a map to our exact building and room. The third challenge we faced, then, was the fact that the map was an aerial picture of the area in daylight with arrows drawn along it – very hard to work out what was what in the dark! We got pretty lost for a while, driving up and down dirt roads in our poor hire car.
Eventually we found the right road, only to be faced with a pretty steep hill up to the top. Goreti almost made it up before the car started to struggle…we started to roll backwards…. We were in the ditch. This makes it sound much more serious than it was – really we were just too far to the side of the road. But the problem here was that the road surface was even worse and try as we did we couldn’t get traction on the wheels to keep driving up the steep hill. We tried and tried and eventually gave up, leaving the car at the side of the road and trudging up the hill by the light of the almost-full moon.
The next morning started with a bit of excitement as we called reception at Modanella and asked someone to help us. They turned up with a tractor and a “it would have been fine if you knew how to drive”!!!
By the time we arrived, it was 3pm with the ceremony due to start at 4pm, so we just had a quick lunch at a restaurant on the main square, knowing that this was something that is ALWAYS a bad idea, but wanting to keep an eye on the town hall in case our wedding party arrived!
The bride was beautiful, her dress was stunning, and the town hall itself was incredible, built in the late 13th century and decorated with murals and frescos all over the walls and ceilings. It was quite something and we got to have a little explore afterwards while photos were being taken before heading back to Modanella for the reception.
Then, as it got dark, we moved through the gates of the castle into its inner courtyard, where white tables were set up and lit with candles. And there started the dinner – about seven or so courses with copious amounts of wine, all absolutely delicious.
With an Italian bride and a French groom, we were the English-speaking table, comprised of four English people (one living in France, another – me – living in Madrid), our Portuguese friend, a Brazilian, a Canadian, a Swedish guy and two Italians – very international! Conversation and wine flowed all evening until we collapsed into bed, exhausted, around 3am.
The next morning was slow, with a lovely simple buffet breakfast available in the castle grounds, people coming and going and making their way down to the pool. We chatted away and then packed up for the drive back to Rome.
Due to worries about the traffic on the last Sunday in August, we’d decided to get closer to the airport as soon as possible, leaving enough time to go into Rome for a late lunch and a little wander around, rather than spend more time in the countryside and in Siena. This was a shame but was probably a good idea!
We had a lovely lunch of bruschetta and fresh pasta and then went for a wander through the cobbled streets of Rome. Sadly the Trevi fountain was closed for repairs which was a little disappointing, but we went in to some beautiful churches to see amazing frescoes and sculptures like the Ecstasy of St Teresa.
Then it was just time for a delicious gelato before catching the plane back to Madrid!! It was a beautiful weekend – that’s really the word to describe it – and it has made me really keen to go back to Italy for a bit longer now! James and I had a weekend in Venice a few years ago, and I had a few days in Capri with my dad three years ago, but other than that I haven’t been since I was still at school. About time to go again I think!