72 Hours in Firenze: An EC Wedding Diary
At EC, we like to crank it. We’re an efficient bunch (meetings! walk throughs! tastings! making it beautiful for our clients!) but we also believe deeply in the concept of “la dolce vita” and Italian hospitality. So when our cara amica Nicole gets married in the hills of Tuscany at Villa Gamberaia (a castello from the seventeenth century, and beloved by Edith Wharton for its over the top gardino and Tuscan views) we’re there in an Italian heartbeat.
The weekend is an extravaganza of epic proportions. It’s awakened our hunger for sprezzatura, eleganza, poetic backdrops, and delicious, local flavors. The Italians nail it.
A quick timeline below, and some favorite snaps from 72 hours of eating, drinking, and living it up in the land of Dante and world famous delicacies. As usual, we’re inspired, and brainstorming how to translate these magnificent moments into tangible event details for our clients. Every day is an adventure at EC.
7pm flight to Zurich via O’Hare. Stock up on magazines, charge up bluetooth headphones, pray to make our connection to Florence.
Eat all the Swiss International Air chocolate, and binge on rom coms. Read “Midnight in Sicily” and plan how we can retire in Italy.
Arrive at Firenze-Peretola, hop in a cab and into the hills of Florence, to Via Doccia 12. The cab driver is puzzled as we wind through the turnpike and up a verrrry narrow road to the villa where we are staying, along cobblestone streets, smattered with overhanging ivy and some smashed wine bottles. “La prima volta qui’ he says, wondering if this address really exists. We make it just before a huge rainstorm, sending lighting bolts along the hills. We have a private pool and a view of Florence, including the Duomo thousands of miles away — life is beautiful.
We meet our housemates, stir up a spritz, and take a quick shower. No time to unpack! Priorities. Put on a vintage dress from an estate sale — all crepey blue and gold — pin up our hair, and head to the van.
Take a boat ride along the Arno River to the Welcome Dinner — in a clear tent on the riverbank, with 150 other guests who have traveled from Philly, New York, England, Paris, Rome, and god knows where else.
Dinner is a stunning buffet — Campari and Aperol spritzes, fresh tomatoes in olive oil, fried sage leaves and zucchini flowers (a Florentine classic), local burrata, pesto garganelli with local cheese and crispy bacon, white beans in oil, and fresh bread with proscuitto and salami. The good life.
From here it’s all wedding toasts, and dancing to Italian grooves, free flowing wine and midnight espressos (jetlag is a killer).
The tables are set with fresh basilico and tomato plants, and the lights are twinkling onto the riverbank. It’s 3am when we head back home, the wedding is hours away.
Wake up buzzing, and head to Villa Gamberaia (a few hundred feet away) for lunch — white wine, Peroni, fresh pineapple, melon and strawberries, sardine sandwiches, salami bites, cheese, peppers, and stewed tomatoes with fresh bread. The event crew is setting up at the villa – laying down the dance floor, stringing the lights, and assembling the tables — there are just two for 150 of us.
Head to the pool, mix some poolside spritzes, read, splash, and nap before the evening kicks off.
The ceremony kicks off at 6pm at Villa Gamberaia – just as the sun is setting. We’re in a grotto underneath trees from the seventeenth century, and sculptures and statues from ancient stonemasons. This is Call Me By Your Name, 2019 edition. Villa Gamberarai is known for its exotic gardens, pools and views of Florence and we’re situated on the most beautiful hilltop — with a sweeping view for hundreds of miles.
After a teary ceremony — it’s time to party! It’s cocktail hour — and a fried feast. Waiters are passing fried sage leaves, fiori di zucca (fried zucchini flowers), fried burrata, and carpaccio; all of the apps are piping hot, having just emerged from the fryer a moment ago. Guests are sipping prosecco, negronis and spritzes, and enjoying the Tuscan sun which is honey colored and should be its own Instagram filter.
Soon we’re lead inside the tent for the reception. We’re at Table 2 – right near the bride and groom, and underneath a million tea lights. The place settings have been hand illustrated, and are sitting atop emerald green floral, vintage Italian of course. The mood for the evening is flora and fauna — and the hues are watery and green. Everything is natural and magical — in total Tuscan fairy tale style.
Dinner is delicious — duck ragu, branzino, local vegetarian ravioli, salad and eggplant parmigiana.
The toasts – red and white wine – are all flowing, and before we know it — we’re lead to another grotto for dessert. The wedding cake is made right in front of us — it’s Tuscan millefeuille and it’s layers upon layers of cream and fresh berries, whipped up in front of 100+ guests. This of course is followed by a champagne toast and fireworks overhead; aaaaand then it’s onto four hours of dancing.
The evening is a disco sensation, fueled by negronis, prosecco and hand rolled cigarettes; and when everyone gets to bed at 5am, we have spilled numerous glasses of champagne on our shoes, and had the most epic evening — in true Italian style.
We head back to the city center on Sunday, with blisters, hangovers, and memories of the brilliant feast the evening prior.
We have 24 hours before heading back! The day is a frenzy of pictures, laughs, cocktails, and all the cibo we can find: potato pizza, margarita pizza, spicy sausage and mushrooms, pitchers of birra, curbside paninos from All’antico Vinaio (fresh sausage and mozzarella, fungi and peppers, eggplant and cheese), afternoon pistachio gelato, cocktails at Gosh Bar (stop here for the flamingo wallpaper and insane cocktails on ice), and dinner at Il Santo Bevitore. Love this restaurant — we dine late, among the locals, and the food is divine. Tomatoes and buffala mozzarella, nduja pasta, truffle rigatoni and spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basilico, natural wine, and dessert of creme brulee, and strawberries with mascarpone (I will remember this mascarpone for the rest of my life). The day is a feast and perfect capstone to the weekend. We go to the disco, dance till 4am, and then it’s back to the hotel! The airport is a few hours away.
Back to the airport we go. We sit at Firenze-Peretola, awaiting our flight back to Zurich, with the best cappuccinos and cornetti, thinking on the incredible 72 hours we’ve just had.
Our takeaway: this year, we want to borrow the Italian spirit of generosity, opulence, natural beauty and historic details.
Now to sleep, jot down all the foodie inspirations of the last 3 days, and hydrate.
Till the next adventure, a domani !