Italian wedding in the rain: Nothing can dampen romance on a lakeside paradise

Vittorio Gamboni and Elena Cappiello married on Lake Bracciano Saturday.
Vittorio Gamboni and Elena Cappiello married on Lake Bracciano Saturday. Photo by Marina Pascucci

ANGUILLARA SABAZIA, Italy – Italian weddings usually last longer than most American marriages. But Saturday, I went to my kind of wedding. Short on ceremony, heavy on romance, scenery, food and wine.

This was the most non-traditional Italian wedding I’ve ever experienced. The only similar one was a gladiator wedding in Rome where I graduated from gladiator school in 2002 and a fellow gladiator got married. He and his bride walked out of the church under our raised swords. 

Saturday’s topped it. No church. No mass. No long wedding dress. The wedding was outside, and it rained. It was as earthy and casual as the couple.

The couple

Elena Cappiello is a journalist who works at the University of Urbino in Le Marche and is Marina’s ex-colleague. Vittorio Gamboni helps American college students when they arrive for a semester in Urbino. They have climbed 37 peaks of at least 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) in Italy’s Apennine Mountains. They are arguably the biggest Boston Red Sox fans in Southern Europe after one game at Fenway Park in October. They stay up late watching Red Sox games from Italy.

Pierangela Palma gets her daughter, Elena, ready in their home by the lake. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I learned this from the Daily Prophet, a mini 10-page newspaper dedicated to the couple’s wedding with the end-of-the-world-sized headline, “LIFE COMMITMENT” handed to the 70-plus guests.

Anguillara Sabazia

They held the wedding in Anguillara Sabazia, a town so cute the city limits should be a gold picture frame. It’s on Lake Bracciano where the Ancient Roman aristocracy once had villas. It has a broad lakefront with paved walkway and sandy beach lined with trees and park benches for doing nothing but look at the calm, blue water.

You can get a bowl of fresh mussels for €9 at Pescheria Friggitoria Toto on the lake and go swimming in the summer when the water reaches 77 degrees. 

The town’s historical center is a series of windy, narrow, cobblestone alleys which rise to the top of a hill. With each turn you get a new gorgeous view of the lake and its lakefront. At the top is Chiesa della Madonna delle Grazie, a 16th century church with a view all the way to the town of Bracciano, six miles to the west. 

She’s ready. Photo by Marina Pascucci

Are you a fan of 1990s American sitcoms? “Everybody Loves Raymond” filmed two episodes in Anguillara. The scripts weren’t nearly as good as the scenery.

Marina and I did a recon mission last week as she photographed the wedding. The day we visited was beautiful, a rare sunny morning in a month of rain all over Italy. The town was nearly empty. It was so quiet, we could only hear the birds hovering over the lake.

Saturday was back to steel skies and drizzle. I accompanied her on the 30-minute drive from Rome to sherpa her equipment and provide support on the dark, wet drive home late at night. I mainly went to experience the most romantic day of a couple’s life in the most romantic country in the world.

An Italian wedding. Try topping that.

From left, Pierangela, Elena’s grandmother Rina Finardi, Elena and father Achille outside the parents’ home. Photo by Marina Pascucci

Wedding prep

We first stopped at Elena’s parents’ small home on a narrow walkway near the lakefront. Elena’s mom, Pierangela Palma, and Elena were working on their nails while I sat on the couch and talked to the father. Achille Cappiello and Pierangela are chemists who lived in Boston, Memphis and Vancouver.

They’re all fluent in English but were kind enough to talk Italian with me in my never-ending quest for fluency. We chatted about American obesity, gun culture, the death of newspapers. The atmosphere was as calm as a picnic. Elena was all smiles all morning. Vittorio dashed in to work on his laptop briefly then dashed out. 

Vittorio waits for his wedding as rain continued to come down. Photo by Marina Pascucci

The wedding was held in I Giardini del Torrione (The Torrione Gardens), a series of 15th century ruins with a big clearing high above the lake, the perfect setting for anything romantic. Then the rains came. I sat in my bright blue suit looking like a flunky for the Irish mob, covered in a trench coat hoping Marina’s equipment bag under my seat stayed dry.

She photographed the couple as they made their way up the steps to the clearing. Accenting the casual theme, Elena wore a white miniskirt and white sneakers. He had a blue suit and a man bun. They were a cute couple. 

The couple climb the steps to I Giardini del Torrione (The Torrione Gardens). Photo by Marina Pascucci

The ceremony

The justice of the peace, hired from the comune (town hall), stood at the head table wearing a pantsuit. I leaned over to tie my shoes, looked up and Vittorio was kissing the bride as a Beatles medley played on the loudspeaker. It was over. I’ve seen longer lightning strikes.

The rain came and so did the rice. Photo by Marina Pascucci

The reception

We all drove down the lake to the reception at some kind of boating club where canoes were stacked on a trailer in the back. It was a good group, a broad cross-section of Italian culture. White. Black. Catholic. Muslim. Straight. Gay. I met a German couple, friends of the couple, who were sleeping that night in a tent near the canoes. They were camping their way up Italy.

The buffet was the one thing typically Italian: pizza, pizzette, mini-salami sandwiches, bresaola and parmesan salad. Later came the pasta carbonara. Then came a beautiful white-frosting cake. Bottles of Prosecco stood guard on the table next to pitchers of local Lazio white wine.

Karaoke was a big hit. Photos by Marina Pascucci

Men sang karaoke. Everyone (mostly) danced to Katy Perry and Goo Goo Dolls and John Denver on the wet grass. Being nearly all Italians, the bar was never crowded. 

Of course, being Italian, you knew the cake would be good. Photo by Marina Pascucci

The drive home was dark and wet on rural roads with nary a streetlight or a sign. But in Italy, you don’t need much light – or church weddings – to show love in this country. 

(Director’s note: Any couples who wish to marry in Italy and want a local photographer, contact Marina Pascucci at

This couple has climbed 37 peaks in the Apennine Mountains. Photo by Marina Pascucci