Bittersweet Memories

“An Italian Wedding” was originally published in 2011 and is one of my favorite blogs about the G family, our cousins who live in the Piemonte Region of Northern Italian. The following year the bride and groom and his parents visited us in America. In 2014 when Hubby D and I returned to Italy, we spent part of our trip with the parents E and L. Our wonderful hosts wined and dined us and introduced us to more family. L, who never stopped smiling, took us shopping. E taught us how to make cheese and helped me research my novel, Regrets To Die For. Before we left, E gave D a copper polenta pot, one he’d crafted by hand. What sweet memories!

And now for the bitter side. Several days ago we received word that E had passed away. Our hearts go out to the G family. Rest in peace, dear E.

“An Italian Wedding”

2011. Last winter a charming cousin D and I met seven years before called from the Piemonte Region of Northern Italy, inviting us to his wedding scheduled for June of this year.

“Impossibile,” we told AG, citing the lousy economy and horrific rate of exchange between the Euro and our U.S. dollar. Still, the conversation ended with a promise that we’d think about attending.

Months later when Daughter was planning her own vacation to Italy, a first for Husband B and two daughters, she made a similar request to D and me. “I know you’ve already seen Rome and Florence a number of times, but how about meeting us in Piemonte for the last leg of our trip? I’d like B and the girls to meet the relatives. Plus there are those you’ve met that I haven’t. This may be our only chance …yada …yada … yada.”

Who could refuse such a request? Certainly not us, her pushover parents, that’s for sure.

After all, Only Daughter had traveled to Italy before either D or me, and later on the Adult Kids trip when she introduced us to relatives she already knew.

So in June while Daughter and family prepared to do their thing in Rome and the Tuscany Region, D and I flew into Milan, taking with us daughter-in-law A and D’s sister. With D behind the wheel of a stick-shift rented Peugeot, we four drove northwest to the Piemonte Region, eventually into the foothills of the Alps, circling seventeen hairpin curves of the Valle Sacre before reaching Santa Elisabetta where our pensione was located—Minichin, our home away from home for the next two weeks (more on this in an upcoming blog). But since I’ve already titled this one, “An Italian Wedding,” let’s fast-forward to the Saturday of AG’s marriage to his lovely bride, M.

“Come to our house at 2 o’clock,” E, the groom’s father, told us. He and D definitely share the same gene pool, however diluted it may have become through the generations. Think boisterous and competitive mixed with a certain bawdiness. Although the wedding wasn’t scheduled to start for another two and a half hours, relatives and special guests gathered under the family’s covered patio for a little something to tide us over: sausages, fruit, cheese, finger-size tidbits, trays of miniature dolce (sweets), wine—rosé, bianco, and sparkling. AG, the groom, wore black and white shoes to compliment his black suit, white shirt, and black vest. Since we last met, he’d added a trim mustache and beard to his movie-star face and couldn’t stop smiling. Neither could his mother, the delightful, fun-loving L who welcomed me with open arms and a series of three kisses to both cheeks, just as she does each time we meet.

Their village of Chiesanuova (new church) has about 200 inhabitants and what we Americans would consider an old church around the corner from the family home. However, the bride and groom raised the bar to a new level: they wanted their marriage performed in a distant church located high above Chiesanuova.

“Follow my brother R,” E told D. So we piled into the Peugeot and embarked on a new series of hairpin curves, climbing higher and higher, the air getting thinner and thinner with each circle until we reached an ancient chapel surrounded by more wedding guests than could ever fit inside the tiny structure. Nor did they expect to, I soon found out. We four Americans, however, were special guests, and took up one pew with little room to spare, while those in the know reveled outside, amidst the cool breezes of late afternoon. The bride could’ve stepped from the pages of Vogue; her attendants too. And most of the guests, when it comes to style, the Italians spare no expense. The wedding started twenty minutes late, without her mother and grandmother, who eventually arrived ten minutes later.

After the ceremony and Mass ended, we followed the party outside. That’s when E hurried over to the wedding car, a forty-year-old restored yellow Fiat now wrapped in toilet paper which he immediately ripped off and then popped the multiple balloons stuffed inside the car. Another hour consisted of photographs, videos, socializing, and taking in the breathtaking view below: a zigzag of medieval villages leading to the main village of Cuorgnè and Locana Valle, its Orco River flowing from the distant Gran Paradiso National Park

“Follow R,” E told us again, this time we thought to the reception in Cuorgnè. But when we’d gone as far as Chiesanuova, the caravan of cars slowed down to a road jam road of cheering people holding up glasses of wine or entire bottles of overflowing bubbly.

“There must be another wedding,” I told D. Nope, these were the guests of A and M, some I recognized from the church, others hadn’t bothered to make the upward journey. D parked the car, and we joined the celebration—more wine, canapés, prosciutto wrapped around a stick, fresh fruit, cheese, pizza—not one repeat from the earlier spread E and L had hosted.

“Don’t eat too much,” E told D an hour later. “We still have the dinner in Cuorgnè.” Er, right … more food, more wine.

Another hour passed before we traveled down the hill to La Primavera, a sit-down affair as elaborate as any I’d attended at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis. First stop, the bar—wine, sparkling wine, beer, and more canapés—don’t even think about refusing. No lists of table designations before entering the dining room, instead an array of wine bottles, magnums with the guest names listed on them. We found our names on the Barolo, matched it the Barolo sitting on a table we would share with the bride and groom’s parents. Yes, we felt special. And yes, the menu exceeded our expectations. I won’t bother with the Italian names but here they are in English, each dish served as a separate course although the first three are considered the antipasti.

  1. Veal crude (tartar) with balsamic vinegar. Delicious—ate half, passed the rest to D.
  2. Cured meat with shredded lettuce.
  3. Thin slices of veal, arugula, and arugula pesto—yum!
  4. Risotto—rich and creamy but only took a bite or two.
  5. Lobster ravioli—ate two, could’ve eaten more but was pacing myself.
  6. Lamb with potatoes, zucchini, eggplant—help, can barely manage a bite or two.
  7. Raspberry sorbet to clean the palate. Not mine, I don’t eat raspberries. Pass to D.
  8. Dolce vino, cookies. Skipped the sweet wine, ate one cookie I didn’t need.
  9. Fancy torte. Again, one bite—passed the rest.
  10. Coffee or espresso—laced with grappa. Limoncello? genepe? For me, espresso and Limoncello.

Phew! Even with a bite of this and a bite of that, I was too pooped to pop. But that didn’t stop D from dancing to the DJ music—mostly American. Hello … YMCA with all the right moves. He finally wore down around 12:45 in the morning but still had enough energy to tackle those seventeen hairpin curves back to Minichin, arriving a mere eleven hours after we’d left to attend our first wedding in Italy, an unforgettable affair, if ever there was.



About Loretta Giacoletto

Loretta Giacoletto is an American writer of family sagas, mysteries, and contemporary fiction, all of which contain elements of crime. She divides her time between the St. Louis Metropolitan area and Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks where she writes fiction, essays, and her bi-monthly blog, Loretta on Life, while her husband Dominic cruises the waters for bass and crappie. Their five children have left the once chaotic nest but occasionally return for her to-die-for ravioli and roasted peppers topped with garlic-laden bagna càuda. An avid traveler, she has visited numerous countries in Europe and Asia but Italy remains her favorite, especially the area from where her family originates: the Piedmont region near the Italian Alps. - See more at:
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