You are cordially invited to the wedding of John and Valeria…actually thats a lie, I think my invite got lost in the post… so I invited myself.
Listening to the dulcet tones of Whitney Houston, exploding fireworks and clinking glasses of congratulations, I was like a moth to a flame. Surely I couldn’t sit inside just observing? Could I? Thats a rhetorical question and the answer is no, no I could not and no I would not. With my Mother (Mads), Godfather and Godmother in tow, out we went, to join the party…
Firstly, I forgot to acknowledge weddings have a dress code - good one Jess.
So here I am, got me short shorts, sunglasses and sandals on, giving it British tourist, while surrounded by those suited and booted. Some might say I stuck out like a sore thumb. Thankfully, It happened to be an English/Irish/Italian wedding, so being ginger (I prefer strawberry blonde) worked in my favour. Smashed it… I thought.
With an air of confidence (forced by Mads) I rock up to the free bar. ‘Two mojitos please.’ The waitress scurried off to get her mixologist hat on. Next thing I know I’m being looked up and down by Inspector Goole to my left. ‘So, how do you know John?’ In a moment of impulse I point at my trusty three companions. ‘Oh, John, yes, we are family friends from home.' Sparse enough answer, yet still believable. Goole, however, had other ideas. ‘Where's home?’ he responds. Good question, where would John live?…. Haven’t the foggiest, so blurt out as casually as possible ‘London, yourself?’ With a raised eyebrow Goole pipes up ‘Old school friends from Reading.' Ahhhh, Reading is John’s home and this chap knows him from school. Marvellous. If I were a real guest, who’d travelled for a wedding in Italy, chances are my name would already have been mentioned; or I'd have gone to the ceremony for starters. He’s onto me. Before anything else can be said, I escape, leaving the mojitos behind.
You’d of thought I’d have left the wedding at that point. Oh no, instead I cut up some shapes on the dance floor, got papped by the photographer (enjoy those) and ate some wedding cake – great choice, by the way, John and Val.
When morning comes, I’m blissfully enjoying breakfast with the troops, when I spot last night's Inspector Goole, heading towards us. My attempts at avoiding eye contact go down like a lead balloon. To which Goole barks: ‘Why haven’t you been with the wedding party today?’ If that didn’t scream YOU’VE BEEN RUMBLED then I just don’t know what does. Still, I thought I’d play it cool. ‘Decided not to go.' There were only really two ways it could go from here, and you guessed it, I was caught. In fact his exact words were these: ‘I love that you're a cheeky little fucker.' It's not all bad.
Motto of the story, ladies and gents: if you are planning on gatecrashing a wedding wear appropriate clothes, learn at least one piece of information about either bride or groom and who knows maybe you can blag yourself in better than I. Good luck. Oh, and check out the wedding hashtag. #johnandvaleria
Away from wedding crashing, I did actually see part of Tuscany – hard to believe I know.
We stayed in the miniature town of Colleoli, just 30 minutes drive from Pisa airport. The perfect location to stay by the pool all day, alternatively it’s 45 minutes drive to any of the big cities.
From May to September you are pretty much guaranteed sublime weather, so pick a long weekend and switch that Friday commute for a Tuscan hideaway.
5 Top Tips
1. Take a poodle around Pontedera’s Museo Piaggio (Vespa museum). Sound dull as dishwater? This is now my favourite museum and I am obsessed with Vespas. I’m not talking bog-standard Vespas; these bad boys are one of a kind, you will not find them anywhere else. Have a mooch, and if you hate it (which you won’t) then come back and have a rant if you fancy. Before you do, just look at this snap I caught of a lone Vespa on the hillside. How idyllic is that! Yes please!
2. Book a table at Fattoria Di Santa Lucia. It's away from the touristy locations, set in the middle of the Tuscan hills. Alissia – the owner – offers a unique eating experience, for those who love something slightly off the beaten track. Firstly there are no menus. Grab a plate and head to the starter table. An array of hearty Italian finger food will be waiting for you to delve into, from traditional cold meats and cheeses to slightly unusual chilli bruschetta. For mains, Alissia will reel of the menu in whatever language you choose, offering you either a pasta or meat dish, or both if you are doing it the Italian way. I’m a lover of anything truffle-related so I would highly recommend the truffle pasta. In terms of wine, it is organic and made on site, I mean, come on, does it get much better than that? If I haven’t won you over yet, look at the decor and tell me you don't want to go.
3. Visit the old town of Lucca for a day trip. It is famous for its Renaissance-era city walls that encircle the city, even allowing you to cycle on them. So without further ado, grab a bike, tandem, even four-person bike, and cycle the walls around the whole city. It's a steady cycle taking 30 minutes at a leisurely pace. Expect to pay 3 euros an hour for the standard bike. You can also get a cheeky view of the botanical gardens if you look closely.
For those wanting to explore Tuscany further via bike, Tuscany Ride A Bike offers daily tours on request and has a variety of excursions from Pisa to Lucca at €60, even Bike and Wine for €70, just in case you need some Dutch courage for all those hills.
4. Let's get touristy, visit San Gimignano. A small medieval town situated on a hill, it’s renowned for towers offering panoramic views across Tuscany. Hunting for gifts? This is the place to get your mitts on any kind of I love Italia T-shirt your heart desires. Then grab yourself an Ice cream; they have two stops claiming the ‘Best ice cream in the world’. Tony Blair has even written to Signor Sergoi Dondoli himself.
5. Tuscany is covered in vineyards, most of which offer wine tasting. Just stop off at any one you see and they will more than happy to help. A bit too ‘mainstream’ for you? Why not try truffle hunting beside the poplars? Or horse riding among the olive groves? Too energetic? Just pick some olives.
Finally, I give you permission to take a snap pushing the leaning tower of Pisa, but just once. Then get out of Pisa. Personally after 12 trips to Pisa I have struggled to find anything worthwhile in the city. Feel free to prove me wrong.