Wed 10 Oct 2012
It’s been a little over a week-and-a-half since our wedding, but the planning for the big day and surrounding events have been in the works since our engagement in February. Looking back, 7 months isn’t really that long to plan a wedding in Italy. But when it comes to organising, Mountaineering Man and I are both total planning nerds!
We also chose to have a much smaller wedding than the norm, with only 28 guests, which helped. And on Thursday, the 27th of September, we all arrived to the Villa Vistarenni in Tuscany (via a private coach from Bologna airport; we didn’t realise under after booking our venue that there are no direct flights from Dublin to Florence, the closest airport to Tuscany!). The villa has enough rooms to accommodate all our guests, and so we booked it for four days for a nice, long weekend. Considering some were travelling from the United States, we wanted to give people a real holiday – not just a wedding vacation!
Villa Vistarenni is a truly magical place with a rich history and beautifully preserved features. Built in the 17th century, it was owned by the family of Prince Feridnando Strozzi originally, and then by the family of Baron Giorgio Sonnino. It is now owned by a woman named Elisabetta, who rents it out for weddings and other events, and runs it as a B&B when the Villa is not being rented out by one party. The Villa sits atop a hill, from which you can see the tiny village of Radda. Villa Vistarenni produces its own wine, a beautiful and very drinkable Chianti – appropriate, considering it sits in the middle of the Chianti region.
Because the Villa has numerous kitchens, we asked Elisabetta if she could stock each one with plenty of food so our guests could cook breakfasts and lunches and save a trip into town every time they needed a meal. When we arrived, we found every kitchen filled with bread, eggs, coffee, tea, chocolates, cheeses, Mortadella, vegetables, fresh fruit, biscuits and lots more. She also stocked the beverage refrigerators with beer, Prosecco and white wine in case guests preferred something other than the house Chianti. Each person contributed €30 for the food and wine/beer. It proved more than enough – when we left on Sunday, we had plenty of leftovers (well, except the alcohol of course!).
As I’m a major foodie, and MM is a budding one, we wanted our guests to experience the best of Tuscan cuisine. For the welcome meal on Thursday evening, we asked my friend and Tuscan local Stefan, who helps run the De Gustibus Network, an association that supports and promotes small agricultural farmers, traditional Italian food products and the “culture of eating well.” Before we’d arrived, Stefan and his assistant were in the main Villa kitchen, chopping and prepping our dinner.
After freshening up and dropping suitcases off into the rooms, we sat down to a 3-hour-long feast of local cuisine, all prepared by Stefan and his assistant. To start, we had platters of locally-made cured salamis and prosciuttos, along with pickled garlic cloves (SO addictive!), olives, cheeses and two kinds of bruschetta. For our pasta course, Stefan prepared hearty whole wheat pasta in a “summer pesto,” which consisted of fresh, hand-crushed tomato, garlic and basil. And for the main course, he grilled sausages and the famed Bistecca Fiorentina, which are massive, medium-rare T-bone steaks well-known in the region. Along with grilled vegetables, he prepared a special dish for our two vegetarian guests.
Each course was paired with a local wine; the first two with rose and white, and the meat course with a bold red. For dessert, we ate beautiful biscuits made by Stefan’s baker friend, which we ate with Vin Santo, a popular Italian dessert wine. Stefan explained each course and gave a bit of background on the producers and growers behind the food, which was a real treat for all of us.
It was nearly midnight before our welcome dinner was finished, and many stayed up well past that hour to enjoy more wine. But MM and I retired relatively early; we knew we had to be fresh for the next day.
I want to note that I’m sharing information on some of the vendors we worked with for our wedding because we had such wonderful experiences with them and want to help anyone who is thinking of planning a wedding in Tuscany. We are paying customers like anyone else; we received no special comps or promotions.
Some pics by my sis, Anne Alderete!