A summer wedding in a castle in Tuscany. Now that’s my style, says Darrel Bristow-Bovey of a trip he couldn’t miss and will never forget.
“We have to go to this wedding,” I said.
“But you hate weddings,” said my partner.
“But I want to go to this one.”
“We don’t even really know these people.”
“I know! But it’s in a castle! In Tuscany!”
All my life I’ve wanted to go to a wedding in Tuscany. Oh, how glamorous and sophisticated it would be – the rolling hills and white mountain villages and lines of dark cypress and me in a linen suit on the ramparts of a castle, sipping a Chianti and wearing dark glasses and eating crostini and fried zucchini flowers and saying “Ciao!” and “Bella!” And what better way to say goodbye to lockdown than a summer wedding in Tuscany? We had to go.
It’s quite a long way to Tuscany, and the connecting flights aren’t very convenient, and the first thing I noticed in the rental car – besides that it was the size of a microwave oven – is that the air-conditioning didn’t work.
“It’s too hot!” I yelled.
“Take that suit jacket off then,” said my partner.
“Never! A man must dress elegantly in Tuscany! I must present la bella figura!”
One thing they don’t tell you about linen suits when you see them in the movies is they crease quite easily. By the time we arrived at the castle, I looked like a Kleenex that someone had used, scrunched up then stuffed down the back of a sofa.
“That suit wasn’t two-tone before, was it?” said my partner.
Another thing they don’t tell you about linen suits is that when you sweat through them you make large unsightly patterns like a rumpled Holstein cow.
Oh man, it was hot. It felt like someone was hitting me with a heavy stick made of rolled-up sun.
We checked in with a bored-looking woman, and then carried our luggage up four flights of stairs to our room.
“It’s authentic,” said my partner. “They didn’t have elevators in medieval castles.”
I tell you what else they didn’t have – rooms with en suite bathrooms. Also, rooms big enough to accommodate two people and their luggage at the same time. We struggled and sweated until finally I just put my suitcase out in the corridor. Tuscan castles look good from the outside, but you can understand why princesses in fairy tales want to be rescued from them.
We wandered down for the rehearsal dinner. The bridal couple were American, from the great state of New Jersey. We were surrounded by a cast of extras from The Sopranos. Women with big hair and men with ill-fitting suits kept shouting and jostling over the meatballs.
It was good so many people were smoking, because it helped keep off the mosquitoes. At 3am we were still awake in our tiny beds, sweating and staring at the very low ceiling, listening to drunken mafiosi trying to sing Sinatra down in the courtyard.
“Ah, Tuscany,” said my partner, slapping at a mosquito but somehow hitting me instead. “The glamour.”
The next day we stumbled exhausted to our car and drove into the countryside. We didn’t know where we were going, we just drove. We found a shady pine tree and lay down to nap for an hour before we had to go back to the castle, and those people, and that tiny room, and get ready for the wedding.
We woke in the cooling purple dusk. Swallows wheeled and dipped. It was quiet and lovely and the air smelt of lavender. My partner checked her watch. “The wedding ceremony ended about two hours ago,” she said, and sighed in relief.
“I told you we’d have a good time,” I said.