It was December 2010, I woke up in the morning and looked outside my hotel window, it was pure gorgeous mediterranean sunshine. I could see the sea coast and the infinite deep blue sky, a vineyard and surrounded by my sides were those little and colourful villa type houses.
I could only be in one place, Italy!
Two weeks before that I was in hot and colourful India, days before that in the snowy winter land of Yorkshire and now I was here in Italy. With such swings in weather and culture in the space of two weeks I was feeling a bit disoriented. The last time I was in Italy was in 1989, and that was in Rome so it is safe to say that this was in fact my first conscious visit to Italy. This time I was in a plane with lots of Sri Lankans heading to the tiny town of Chieti, near Pescara. This town is basically on the other side of Rome. What was I doing here though? I was here as a wedding guest of two friends. A mixed wedding nonetheless.
Trattorias and Food, food, food
Well I was attending a wedding so food was going to play a big part here. I quickly realised (within my first meal in fact) that the Italians take their food pretty seriously. And man the food was good, it was rich and full of juicy, natural flavour. Our meal on the night before the wedding was at a small Trattoria, a family owned restaurant which had a intimate feel and it was also the first meeting point for the bride’s Sri Lankan guests with the Italian ones from the groom.
During the time I got to know the groom, I knew him as a flatmate for 2 years and as a fellow PhD friend at Imperial as well. In that time I got to meet several of his friends from his hometown who came to visit him from time to time. So at this Trattoria it was great to meet so many familiar faces after so long and all at one place.
Three weddings in one day
While most folks are content with one wedding, we got to see the equivalent of 3 weddings, all packed into one day..and different religious styles too (and no doubt tiring/exciting for the couple!) Wedding 1 was the really colourful Hindu wedding held in the daytime in a hall. They had a priest, a little fire, sweets, flowers, all the ladies dressed in Sarees (including the groom’s Italian cousins) and there was lots and lots of smoke. The bride and groom looked great, the groom might have seemed confused but that’s part of his look anyway (sorry man this was too tempting!).
The second wedding was the civil ceremony at a town hall. A lady draped in the Italian flag colours conducted the ceremony and blessed the couple. It was quite a congregation and was the first place where most of the Italian side of the family saw the Sri Lankan side in full. It was also quite a contrast from the Hindu wedding earlier, this time everyone was dressed a lot more monochrome relative to all the red earlier. The bridge and groom looked great and the full part.
The third wedding wasn’t a wedding per se, it was actually the catholic blessing conducted by a super cool priest. The church was packed, there must’ve been about 400 people there and it was good to see such a strong family and church culture in that little town, pretty much every one knew each other. In may ways this has the same parallels as asian cultures where extended families regularly meet up.
The priest conducted the whole blessing in Italian and both bride and groom read something out in Italian as well. I was standing next to a friend who translated the important bits. The priest talked about the importance of English in the new world and the importance of travel and the world that is beyond Chieti and indeed Sri Lanka. He also went through the effort of researching the meaning of the bride’s name (Lotus) and talking about it, which I thought was a very nice gesture on his part. I visited the priest later on as well and got a blessing myself which was nice.
I was only in Italy for 2 days and that too mostly for the wedding but I did try and absorb and understand as much of the local culture as I could and the current scene. I met a few South Americans there as well, showing that migration between South America and Italy is pretty common, understandably so because of similar catholic and latin roots.
Going back to food, the Italians are pretty meticulous and passionate about how it is served, you could see this from the level of care by the waiters at the wedding, they weren’t just doing a job but they were taking good pride in it. There are some food and drink items you don’t mix, and wines are chosen to match the food pretty carefully.
And lastly one of my Italian friends mentioned the concept of “opinion TV” in Italy. Everyone has an opinion (well, we all know that!) but there it seems to have gone into popular media in a pretty big way as well and there are lots of opinion related TV programmes. Hard to tell if that is more so the case there or here in the UK, but I was assured by my Italian friend that it is a favourite pastime in Italy. Well they do have more glamour in their politics lets face it, Mr. Italian Prime Minister and his affairs with young ladies, that’s bound to make for some good telly. And for good reason too. So well, what can I say? My opinion right now is that this blog post has gone out of control and I should really conclude it now. So there!