Destination weddings have definitely provided me with opportunities to travel and see places I may otherwise not have the opportunity to see. And so was the case of Phoebe and Paul's wedding at Villa Vistarenni in Tuscany, Italy. Tuscany Wedding Photography is definitely something I want to do more of as a result. And I got to live out a life ambition in the process.
So I was contacted by Phoebe and Paul a year or so back enquiring as to whether I was available to shoot their Italian wedding. They had been guests at another wedding I'd shot and loved what I'd done for their friends Rich and Nat.
We clicked straight away and they duly confirmed that they'd like me to shoot their big day. So plans were put in place to get me out to Italy. I had the choice of flying into Florence or Pisa. I had always wanted to visit both but the pull of the Leaning Tower of Pisa was too much.
The day before the wedding I flew from London out to Pisa and having an afternoon to spare I had a stroll from my hotel to the Tower. I was speechless. The lean on it is so much more intense than you sense on pictures or the TV. I spent ages just staring at it. The whole place was gorgeous. I was not disappointed.
So I had a 50 mile drive to the Villa on the Saturday morning. I'd heard lots of horror stories about driving in Italy so I was a little apprehensive about driving on the autostrada. But it was a doddle! I'm still wondering whether a 90 in a circle is maximum speed or minimum speed. I was doing 90kph and was being left behind by everyone. But I did feel like I was doing a Jeremy Clarkson style driving film! It was great! Then it got better as I left the motorway. Into the hills and villages the drive just got better. More akin to the opening scenes of The Italian Job....without the bulldozers!
Along a long dirt track and at the end of an avenue of poplar tress stands Villa Vistarenni. Oh my God! What a venue. It was like a little piece of heaven sat on a hillside overlooking sweeping vineyards! It was a little cloudy and the day before there had been thunderstorms. But as we were to find out, this was just a temporary blip as the day just got hotter and hotter. Strolling through the gates I was greeted by Raffaella, the manager of the villa. She is an extremely pleasant and helpful lady who enthusiastically showed me around the estate and some of the hidden little gems I could use. More of that to come.
The mood was relaxed when I entered the Villa. Paul was getting things prepped and ready, making sure things were in the right place......or at least relaying messages passed to him from Phoebe the night before.
The ceremony was to take place on the grassy terrace overlooking the vineyard and valley. And up above in a room overlooking this scene was Phoebe who was as cool as a cucumber. Make up being applied, she kept passing words of encouragement to her mum was who starting to get a bit stressed. But everything was in hand.
Before we knew it, it was time to take our place. There was a light breeze which took the edge off the heat. Paul waited at the bottom of the short makeshift aisle. From a door at the top of some steps overlooking everyone, Phoebe made her entrance. At the exact moment she started walking down the steps the sun came out.....and it stayed out for the rest of the day.
A stringed duo played various hits by bands like Coldplay in between different parts of the ceremony before accompanying everyone as they made their way to a drinks reception once the ceremony was completed. One thing that can be said about the ceremony....it was emotional but full of laughs. Paul shed a few tears for good measure.
The food at Villa Vistarenni is sublime! The appetisers that were dished out was mouthwatering! I took the happy couple on a stroll around the grounds from the gardens at the top of the estate, to the swimming pool and to the little chapel at the back of the estate. But the best was yet to come. Raffaella had shown me the crowning glory. The giant Chianti kegs in the cellar. These were jawdropping. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I estimate them as being about 20 foot tall. I've never seen anything like it!
By the time we were finished the table had been set for the wedding meal. This was on the grass terrace so we had views over the valley as before. But by now the sun was out in full force. We had speeches which were hilarious with a background soundtrack of birds and passing cars on the otherside of the valley. I was fortunate enough to have a seat at the table and again we weren't disappointed. The food was unbelievable. For the next few hours everyone just ate and talked. It was so relaxed.
Eventually everyone was ushered back around the corner of the villa to a tree covered terrace where cocktails were served up ahead of first dance. Under the trees Phoebe and Paul swayed, cheered on by their guests. Eventually the remaining 20 or so guests joined them before the tunes cranked up a notch.
That was my time to leave and head back to my hotel in Pisa. The next morning I was on the 6am flight back to London, a little blurry eyed but happy with another new experience in another overseas venue. I fell in love with Italy. And to cap the weekend off, at the wedding were Rich and Nat whose wedding I'd shot a few years earlier in Northumberland where Phoebe and Paul first saw me. These two have become great friends and it was awesome to have such friendly familiar faces there.
All in all, this was safely one of the highlights of my wedding career and I hope I get many more opportunities to travel to Villa Vistarenni. Thank you Paul and Phoebe for asking me to shoot your wedding day and introducing me to an absolute dream of a venue.