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Wedding In Lucca Idea

The Ice Breaker

Seventeen blessed years ago, I organized my first destination wedding and it happened to be my own. My husband, Michel, is French and I’m American. An unlikely combination, I know, but somehow, it worked. I had the task of bringing his family and friends over from France, and as the journey was long, we decided to make our wedding celebration longer than the typical American 3 PM to 11 PM one day affair. Instead we rented a large house on the New Jersey shore, packed our family and friends into it, and then proceeded to hold informal get togethers on different days that allowed us all to come together and form a new, larger family.

The experience for me was touching and memorable. It was beautiful to see all of the people I loved, and who loved me, meet and begin to appreciate all of the fantastic people that made up my husband’s family and friends. To witness these two groups unite in their support of our new adventure as husband and wife was truly moving. Beyond this, what I really appreciated, was the ability to take our time, and have everyone get to know each other over a period of several days, in a relaxed and fun setting. When, I thought, would there be in my lifetime, another occasion of this scale, where all the people we both loved, were united and enjoying each other’s company. I felt truly blessed for those beautiful days and I look back on them with great affection.

Fast forward to today. I’m a destination wedding planner in Tuscany in a rather similar situation. Two families, two sets of friends, many of whom will be meeting each other for the first time. Many of these guests will be curious about the other family. Many would love the chance to spark a conversation. It’s my job to provide them with the right circumstances so that getting to know each other is not awkward and fraught with formality, but rather, easy, fun, and filled with good will and mutual appreciation.

Here is where the idea of a communal grape harvest and wine tasting really hit me. I have a small house in the Tuscan country side where I maintain a few grape vines and an olive grove. I’ve always loved getting out into the country with friends, getting my hands dirty, and then finishing with a big meal and lots of wine after a fun day outdoors in nature. Wouldn’t it be a blast, I thought, if this could be somehow recreated for an entire wedding party? So I rang up a few select organic wineries in the area and asked who was harvesting and when. Most have several varieties of grapes, so the harvest occurs over the span of several weeks in late August and throughout most of September. Much of this depends on the weather, phases of the moon, etc….but in the end, I found the right winery, the right time and the right group, and the results are these lovely photos you see here.

We started late in the day, when the sun was lower and less intense, took a tractor into the grape vines, strapped grape baskets to our backs and began picking. The squeals of laughter, big smiles and lovely chatter I heard that day were priceless. People really were breaking the ice in this shared experience.

When our baskets were full, the owner of the vineyard took us on a tour of his cellars and described in great detail the entire vinification process, making sure to point out how every stage was unique and required great care. He was charming and very knowledgeable. No question was too silly or too nerdy for him. His passion for the wine, the land and its history really came through and we found ourselves happy and lucky to be learning so much from this charming Italian gentleman farmer.

After harvesting and sorting the grapes, we kicked back under the shady grape arbor with long views of the vineyard, and enjoyed chilled white wines with farm fresh vegetables dipped in extra virgin olive oil made at the vineyard. Selfie moments abounded as people switched tables, mingling and drinking as the sun went down. Plates of steaming pasta were served with rich, full bodied reds. The owner described to us each bottle and what it paired well with. We finished off our meal with big dollops of pastry cream on aromatic Lucchese raisin and anise bread, all washed down with an amber colored aged dessert wine. It was perfection.

Since that day, I’ve done several wine harvests/ice breakers for families coming together from all over the world. The interesting thing is that no matter where you are from, everyone loves a day in the sun, good food, good wine, and a yummy Italian meal.

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posted by gina, 2017-03-09

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Ice Breaker] [Wine Tasting] [Lucca Day Excursion] [Grape Harvest] []


Hen Party Idea

Many of my brides have trouble organizing their hen parties back home as often their friends and family are spread all around the world. If this is your case, I have a suggestion. Why not organize the hen party just prior to your Tuscan wedding? In this way, you have all of your family and friends in the same place so no need to ask them to travel twice.

Best of all, there is a place so special, so magical, I can promise you that your girlfriends will be talking about it for days to come. Located on a secluded beach on the Tuscan coast about a 40 minute drive from Lucca, Da Nicola's a cocktail bar slash restaurant, feels like Ibiza brought to Tuscany. The entire beach is lit with torches and low citronella filled candle pots. There is a charming section in the center with bamboo mats and soft cushions for picnic style relaxing as well as more secluded areas with white linen covered arbors and cozy couches for private parties. The cocktail and wine list is superb, the music fun, and the fish fry is to die for. If you'd like to have a memorable hen night in Tuscany, write to me about this location for more information.

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posted by gina, 2014-11-13

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Hen Party] []


Montecarlo

The town of Montecarlo, a wine growing region just 15 minutes drive from Lucca, has just added 4 new venues to it's quickly growing list of places where a legally valid civil ceremony can be performed. To promote the new venues as well as the old ones Montecarlo holds periodic open houses at the venues, dressing them up as if there were a real wedding taking place so that brides and grooms can visit, ask the owners questions, and see how the venues could potentially be decorated. I attended one of these open houses this past April and was pleasantly surprised to see many local wedding service providers participate in the event as well. Local florists, cake shops, caterers, hair stylists, and make-up artists as well as vintage car rental companies were all present and each had their own stand that displayed their work.

If you would like to visit Montecarlo to view one of their many picture post-card venues, please write to me for more information about future open house days.

Happy Venue Hunting!

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posted by gina, 2014-05-11

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Site] []


Large Civil Ceremonies

I just finished my first year collaborating with the city of Pisa and I have to say, I'm impressed. The people of Pisa City Hall have been incredibly welcoming in opening up their city to foreigners wishing to hold a civil ceremony. For the past few years, I've always had a hard time finding the right venue for people who have large groups of 60 or more and yet want a civil ceremony with a solid plan B. Then I was lucky enough to meet the Registrar at Pisa City Hall. She introduced me to a fabulous 12th century Romanesque church just inside the city walls. This church was de-consacrated and taken over by the city of Pisa. They now use it to hold art exhibits and occasionally, they also hold civil ceremonies there. The church is all stone, spacious and bright with clean, simple lines. It has 14 pews seating 70-80 people, depending on how close you seat them. Better still, if you have say 100- 120 people, the city will rent you extra chairs at a reasonable fee and bring them in for you on the day, to accommodate your guests. At the moment, they only do weddings the second Saturday and Sunday of every month, but I'm hoping that they start to increase the frequency.

If you are a bride with a large wedding party, searching for the perfect rain-proof ceremony space to hold your wedding, write to me about this special venue.

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posted by gina, 2013-01-18

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Site] []


Wisterias In bloom!

Planning a wedding in Lucca and thinking about timing it with the flowering of a favorite flower? Well, for those that love the Spring, mid-April to mid-May is usually the period when all of the lovely wisteria come into bloom. This year, they seem to have come early. I first noticed the blooms on the sunny olive growing side of Lucca on April 5th. We've had unseasonably warm weather lately and this must have prompted an early bloom.

If you're planning for a wedding next year and hoping to get this dramatic flower in your wedding photos, try planning a wedding for the third or fourth week in April. You should have a pretty good chance of finding them in bloom. Many of the historic villas in the area have giant wisteria that are 200 years old or more.

One well known villa that is worth booking for its wisteria is Villa Nicoletta. Located in the heart of Lucca's wine country, they have a giant pergola completely covered in Wisteria under which a legally binding civil ceremony can be performed. The sweet perfumed scent of the wisteria in bloom alone is enough to make your wedding one to remember.

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posted by gina, 2011-04-13

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Wedding Site] []


March Weddings in Lucca: Something different to do

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Antique Camellias Festival in Pieve di Compito and Sant Andrea di Compito, two small villages about a 15 minute drive from down town Lucca. If you happen to be marrying in Lucca this March and you and your guests have an extra day free, I would highly recommend a visit to this most unusual festival.

For three consecutive weekends from March 14-15 to March 28-29 you can take a shuttle bus from the Centro Culturale Compitese that will bring you to these not so easy to reach villages. There, you will receive a map of the suggested routes to follow that allow you to view the most and best camellias. The villages are closed down to traffic for the event, so you can bring small children without having to worry about traffic. Also, the fact that there are no cars, makes the festival quite pleasant, as there is a kind of precious silence that you don't get to appreciate much theses days.

I don't know much about the flower, but what I've gleaned from previous visits is that there are many different varieties and the actual plant can be several hundred years old if well looked after. The villages of Santa Andrea di Compito and Pieve di Compito, because of the relative shade they receive throughout the year and their fairly damp (for Tuscany) climate, apparently proved to be the perfect place to grow camellias, and as a result, we now find some of the oldest camellia plants in Italy here. They are truly impressive flowers, and even though I've been covered in rain on several of my visits, I never fail to walk away from the festival feeling strangely uplifted.

So, If you are having a wedding in Lucca this month and are looking for something unique to do with your guests, I'd highly recommend checking out this unique festival. In addition to the flower gazing, the municipality of Capannori has arranged for tea ceremony demonstrations of both the Japanese and Chinese tea ceremony, as well as tea tastings of various Japanese, Chinese and European teas. You can taste freshly pressed olive oil at the local mill, participate in a wine tasting, view local crafts and art at small stands that line the route, and enjoy menus featuring local cuisine and products at the village restaurants. A full list of events for the entire festival can be found on: www.camelielucchesia.it or www.comune.capannori.lu.it

As of today, I could find zero information in English about this year's calendar of events, (although I found plenty from previous years) so I've done my best to translate the highlights for you here:

Saturday 14 March
10 am to 6 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Opening of Camellia Exhibition, market and gardens
10 am-6 pmVilla Orsi, Japanese Tea Room sponsored by the Japan Tea Exporters Association
Sunday 15 March
10 am-6 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Opening of Camellia Exhibition, market and gardens
10 am-6 pmVilla Orsi, Japanese Tea Room sponsored by the Japan Tea Exporters Association
11 am-6 pmOld Olive Mill at Capo di Vico, the “Piazzetta del Gusto”, offers a host of local products, including the famous Lucchese Olive Oil, free to taste and enjoy.
3 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Puppet show based on local children's stories
4 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Quartet of Accordions playing a piece entitled, “Ance Libere”
Saturday, 21 March
10 am-6 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Opening of Camellia Exhibition, market and gardens
10 am-6 pmVilla Orsi, all day free tasting of Japanese, Chinese and Indian teas as well as sale of rare and precious teas.
11:30 amVilla Orsi, Presentation of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha) (also held on the 22, 28th and 29th, same time).
1:30 pm Antica Chiusa Borrini, Tea planting: a guided visit of the experimental cultivation of tea by G. Cattolica in S. Andrea di Compito
2:30 pm Villa Orsi, Demonstration of Chinese calligraphy given by master Ip Wing-chigi
3:00 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Demonstration of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana sponsored by "Artikebana".
3:30 pm Villa Orsi, Presentation of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha)
4:30 pmVilla Orsi, Afternoon tea: Two types of tea accompanied by delicious tea snacks that follow the classic British tradition of tea time ( a reservation and contribution of 4 euro is required to participate. Email: info@camelielucchesia.it
Sunday, 22 March
10 am-6 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Opening of Camellia Exhibition, market and gardens
10 am-6 pmVilla Orsi, all day free tasting of Japanese, Chinese and Indian teas as well as sale of rare and precious teas.
10:30 amConference Room of Centro Culturale Compitiese, The long voyange of Tea. Presentation on the history of tea from its origins to the present day.
11:00 amCentro Culturale Compitese, Demonstration of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana sponsored by "Artikebana".
11 am-4 pm"In the Hamlet of the Camellias, a quest to discover local flavors": Tastings of local products brought to you by Slow Food Compitese and Gardens of Lucca.
(Please Note, participation in this event requires the purchase of a voucher which is not included in the price of the entrance pass. Please inquire when purchasing your entrance ticket.)
11:30 am Villa Orsi, Presentation/Demonstration of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha)
1:30-3:30 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Creative workshop entitled "Regards from....." with support from the Associazione Culturale Manidoro
1:30 pmAntica Chiusa Borrini, Tea planting: a guided visit of the experimental cultivation of tea by G. Cattolica in S. Andrea di Compito
2:00 pmThe Fantomatik Orchestra, Playing throughout the hamlet
2:30 pmVilla Orsi, Demonstration of Chinese calligraphy given by master Ip Wing-chigi
3:30 pmVilla Orsi, Presentation/Demonstration of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha)
3:30 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Concert of a choir with instrumental accompaniment
4:30 pmVilla Orsi, Afternoon tea: Two types of tea accompanied by delicious tea snacks that follow the classic British tradition of tea time ( a reservation and contribution of 4 euro is required to participate. Email: info@camelielucchesia.it)
Saturday, 28 March
10 am-6 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Opening of Camellia Exhibition, market and gardens
10 am-6 pmVilla Orsi, all day free tasting of Japanese, Chinese and Indian teas as well as sale of rare and precious teas.
11:30 am Villa Orsi, Presentation/Demonstration of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha)
1:30 pm Antica Chiusa Borrini, Tea planting: a guided visit of the experimental cultivation of tea by G. Cattolica in S. Andrea di Compito
2:00 pmConference Room of the Centro Culturale Compitese, Conference: A thousand colors of tea-presentation on the manufacture of tea and its various types.
3:30 pmVilla Orsi, Presentation/Demonstration of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha)
4:30 pmVilla Orsi, Afternoon tea: Two types of tea accompanied by delicious tea snacks that follow the classic British tradition of tea time ( a reservation and contribution of 4 euro is required to participate. Email: info@camelielucchesia.it)
Sunday, 29 March
10 am-6 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Opening of Camellia Exhibition, market and gardens
10 am-6 pmVilla Orsi, all day free tasting of Japanese, Chinese and Indian teas as well as sale of rare and precious teas.
10:30 amConference Room of Centro Culturale Compitiese, The long voyange of Tea. Presentation on the history of tea from its origins to the present day.
11 am-6 pmOld Olive Mill at Capo di Vico, the “Piazzetta del Gusto”, offers a host of local products, including the famous Lucchese Olive Oil, free to taste and enjoy.
11:30 am Villa Orsi, Presentation/Demonstration of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha)
1:00 pm Alberto Benicchi Jazz Quartet- Concert (location T.B.A.)
1:30 pm Antica Chiusa Borrini, Tea planting: a guided visit of the experimental cultivation of tea by G. Cattolica in S. Andrea di Compito
2:30 pmConference Room of the Centro Culturale Compitese, Conference: A thousand colors of tea-presentation on the manufacture of tea and its various types.
3:00 pmCentro Culturale Compitese, Children's Theatre Company puts on a play that includes three popular folk tales entitled, “Gosto e Mea,” “La gallina secca, and “Pochettino”.
3:30 pmVilla Orsi, Presentation/Demonstration of Chinese Tea Ceremony (Gongfucha)
4:30 pmVilla Orsi, Afternoon tea: Two types of tea accompanied by delicious tea snacks that follow the classic British tradition of tea time ( a reservation and contribution of 4 euro is required to participate. Email: info@camelielucchesia.it)

(Please Note, the program of events can be subject to last minute changes due to weather or organizational necessity).

There are a lot more events on offer, but these are the ones I thought might interest non-Italian speakers the most.

Getting there without a car

There are two free shuttles that depart from the Historic Center of Lucca at the Piazzale Verdi Bus Stop and go directly to the festival:
Morning Shuttle: 9:30 am departure from Piazzale Verdi with a 1 pm return departing from "Borgo delle Camelie".
Afternoon Shuttle: 2:30 pm departure from Piazzale Verdi with a 6 pm return departing from "Borgo delle Camelie".

If you don't have a car, but would like to visit the festival, you can arrange for a van or taxi to pick you up, drop you off at the shuttle and then fetch you at the end of the day by contacting Tau Touring( a local taxi and van rental company) www.tautouring.it/english.html Or call the owner's wife, Morena at : 328-58-17110 If you can't get your point across to her, just tell her that Gina "l'Americana di My Tuscan Wedding" sent you and she'll have an English speaker call you back and take down your information for you. If you are willing to meet the van at Piazzale Verdi, then the cost for round-trip transport should be €20.

Getting there with a car

Driving Directions to the ticket sales office and parking lot:

From the highway:
Take A11 (Firenze-Mare) exit at Capannori. Follow directions for Lucca and at the first round about exit for Pontedera and continue straight until you pass S. Leonardo in Treponzo. After this town, the Cultural Center will be on the left, in the town of Pieve di Compito. Park on the side of the road or in the large parking lot and enter the center to purchase your entry tickets and find a shuttle bus that will take you the rest of the way.

From Downtown Lucca:
Follow the SS12 bis in the direction of Pisa until you hit Pontetetto. From Pontetetto, enter on the left the "via di Sottomonte" heading in the direction of "Pontedera". Follow the via di Sottomonte until you reach, on the right the SS439 and exit onto this road following directions for Pontedera until you reach San Leonardo in Treponzo. After this town, the Cultural Center will be on the left, in the town of Pieve di Compito. Park on the side of the road or in the large parking lot and enter the center to purchase your entry tickets and find a shuttle bus that will take you the rest of the way.

There are two places where you can buy tickets and catch the shuttle to the towns if you have a car:

Saturday and Sundays
Pieve di Compito in front of the Mill Social Club of the Compitese. In Italian you'll want to say: "Frantoio Sociale del Compitese"
Sundays Only
San Leonardo in Treponzio, in front of the District 4 head office, in Italian you want to say, "davanti al alla sede della Circoscrizione"

On a side note, I've been to this festival several times now, and I have to say, there is something very Japanese about it. Firstly, the location, two small, green hilly villages almost always covered in a bit of mist at this time of year, reminds me of the small villages where I used to go plum tree viewing in February when I lived in Japan. But then there is the simple act of choosing to spend the day just strolling and admiring the flowers, which I find incredibly Japanese. For anyone who has ever visited Japan in April for the blossoming of the cherry blossoms, you'll know what I mean.

If you happen to be marrying in Lucca this March and you and your guests have an extra day free, I would highly recommend a visit to this most unusual festival that blends a Japanese esthetic with a very Italian approach to enjoying good food and company.

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posted by gina, 2009-03-04

[Wedding In Lucca Idea] [Day Trip] []


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