I think my partner and I had both given up on getting married by the time we met. Our siblings and friends had all done it and were well on their way to maturity with houses, pets and children, while we still stayed out late and swam in the shark pool of internet dating. But then, Eureka!, we met each other just as the cliché foretold, when we were both least expecting it, and a vintage engagement ring was produced along with a marriage proposal.
Being older and wiser, American and British, a geek and writer, we wanted a wedding and honeymoon that satisfied our unusually contrary interests and philosophies: art and science, beaches and cities, spas and volcanos, on budget, with a good dose of glamour. And where better to find such pairings than in Italy, the land of perfect contradictions. If you’re looking for something similar, here are five Italian pairs you might consider.
Volcanos and spas
We married in Riposto, a little town at the base of Mt Etna in Sicily, and honeymooned in the Aeolian Islands. This provided a happy combination of drama and relaxation. We (and our 40 friends) went trekking in the lava tunnels on Mt Etna, danced tango in Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina and feasted beneath the olive trees on Etna’s slopes. Then we scooted off for a relaxing honeymoon on the island of Salina in the Aeolian archipelago, where we spent the days in an old Aeolian thermal spa, complete with stufa (literally ‘stove’, or steam room), and clambering down the cliffs to secluded beaches.
Mountains and lakes
Friends of ours looked further north to the mountains and lakes of northern Italy, deciding to marry at the Villa Cipressi in Varenna on Lake Como. Their guests arrived in mahogany cigarette boats from Bellagio, and the gardens were full of blooming camellias in May. Afterwards, they set off trekking in the Triangolo Lariano (the steep mountains behind Bellagio) and finished up in the romantic Swiss town of Locarno.
Cities and beaches
Before settling on Sicily, I was quite captivated with the idea of honeymooning in Puglia. The baroque town of Lecce is known locally as the ‘Florence of the South’, and is chock full of art and architecture, good food and wine. Scoot south, east or west, and you’ll end up on one of Italy’s finest white sand beaches, either at Gallipoli or Otranto. The gorgeous ribbon of beach known as the Baia dei Turchi near Otranto is blue flag credited for its pristine water and deep lapis colour.
Art and nature
Italy’s classic perfect pairing, though, must surely be Florence and Le Crete Senesi, the rolling wine country that stretches south of Siena. As a wedding venue, it's hard to better the 700-year-old Torre di Bellosguardo, perched on a hill above Florence with a panoramic view of Brunelleschi’s red-tiled Duomo dazzler from its pool, and frescoed bedrooms to boot. Its cypress-lined avenues provide the perfect precursor for a honeymoon drive through the historic countryside of Le Crete where you can sample some of Tuscany’s finest wines and tour some of its most historic art and architecture in Greve in Chianti, Passignano, Siena, Montalcino and Montepulciano.
Backpacking and upscale
Although with savvy planning glamorous honeymooning on a reasonable budget is possible all over Italy, few places offer the same bling-to-budget ratio as Naples and the Amalfi Coast. The historic city of Naples knows how to be a diva on a budget like no other Italian city. It’s also easy to day trip on public hydrofoils to Capri, where you can cruise the lemon groves in a retro, open-topped sedan taxi (€10-20), walk the islands waymarked trails for spectacular views (free) and feast on fish on a terrace overhanging the sea (€20). Then for a quick dose of mid-century modern coastal chic check into the Gio Ponti designed Parco dei Principi, which sits in its own pine wood on a cliff overlooking the sea.