I am not sure a man ever dreams of the practicalities of getting married. I mean we don’t have scapbooks or Pinterest boards setting out what kind of flowers we want or what our groomsmen are going to wear.
We also have no comprehension of how difficult or expensive it is. So when we started to organise a wedding from Seoul by email / Skype in a town we had never been to and with Spanish instead of Italian I started panicking a bit. Couple that with the recent addition of an expensive cat to the family with medical bills that desiccated any surplus money and I started to fear that wedding equals disaster.
So the fact that we somehow managed to get married in a foreign country with friends and family from all seven continents (and I mean seven) and even had edible food for a wedding dinner speaks to the fact that our friends, family and absolute strangers went above and beyond. Because I really did sod all. So this post is some form of thanks before handwritten letters arrive to those who helped out and also by way of a recommendation if you ever find yourself in Tuscany.
First, Cortona. So we knew we wanted a wedding that was focused around friends and family and somewhere with good food. The selection of Italy and the hill town of Cortona was a bit of a gamble based on the recommendation of a friend in Seoul who knew a great villa there (more below).
Now despite being a bit of an Italian hill town lothario and having dallied with a few Tuscan civic centres I somehow never made it to Cortona. In fact I had never heard of it. This is particularly strange as when we invited people there were two types of response. The Americans all knew of Cortona whilst the Europeans and Asians were “ok that’s in Tuscany right?“. What Jen and I had somehow missed is ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ which is a rom-com book and film apparently. Quite frankly I am seriously glad we missed this as otherwise we would have never opted for Cortona as I would have feared it would be a tourist hell hole.
And the most remarkable thing is; it isn’t. Cortona is probably the prettiest, most lively and un-touristy hill town I’ve been to. And because it seems to have been sustained by a local population rather than tourism it means that it has a real character and proper food. We particularly recommend the following in Cortona: (i) Taverna Pane e Vino; (ii) La Loggetta; (iii) and the restaurant run by the owner of the theatre/ cinema if you can persuade her as the setting is resplendent.
Whilst Cortona was the setting what really made the wedding was the accommodation. Being in Asia means we don’t get to see people properly. So we wanted to stay with and next to our friends and at a German friend’s suggestion in Seoul booked all three villas which make up Villa Ugo (here).
Quite frankly it was a bit of a gamble as we had never been and this is where we were going to spend the week of the wedding. Well the gods shined on us as Villa Ugo is basically where you wish you had grown up and with owners who you would happily accept as surrogate parents.
To give a brief example, the night before the wedding we wanted to do a pizza and prosecco party so all the guests could get to know each other. At this stage Ugo (the owner) simply says leave it to me and drives 25km to queue for and buy the region’s most famous pizza.
Coupled with the fact that the villas which make up Villa Ugo – Villa Liliana, Villa Orlando and Villa Nello – are picturesque, come with beautiful stone bathrooms and modern kitchens and are decorated in style means we obviously did something right in a past life.
Now I doubt people would call me humble but they would probably accept that I am low key; jeans and bikes rather than white tie and Maseratis. So Villa Passerini slightly overwhelmed me when we first saw it with all its Napoleonic frescoes, Roman swimming pools and Tuscan glamour.
However, fill it with 60 of your closest, top it up with as much alcohol as Tuscany can provide and some great catering by Tonino Catering and it was all a lot more relaxed and turned out to be the perfect place to get married.
Once again thanks to this has to go to Ugo of Villa Ugo as Villa Passerini is owned by some great friends of his who again went above and beyond to make the wedding day special. Why are Italians so nice?
Now when I said above this couldn’t have been done without friends I really meant it. It is true from the emotional to the plain fiscal. One of Jen’s best friends – Tess who is a pastry chef in SF – did the cake. Three of my best friends – C, R and Mat – did the photography. Clair, a talented poet, grabbed the chance to rhyme and tease us at the ceremony (her mockery is here) and a priest from an nascent religion did the ceremony for free. Without this we would have been eating rice and drinking water.
This was topped off by Josh Wong from noughts and exes flying over from Hong Kong to do the music. So then it was the honeymoon.