From film festivals to summer fireworks, Venetian regattas to the Rialto market there is always something to see in Venice. It makes living here quite an adventure, as you never quite know what you’ll find turning the corner into an old piazza or promenading along the canal. But few things make a soppy, old romantic like me happier than watching a wedding in this beautiful city. And boy did we spot a grand one up close yesterday!
Not that my friend and I were invited to the ceremony, sadly!
We just happened to have front row seats for the arrival of the wedding guests as we’d stopped for a well-earned cold drink in a Cannaregio café, opposite the church. Talk about good fortune!
So while Gianini, aka Little John, the gondolier entertained us with his robot Dad-dancing to the café’s 80’s soundtrack and we settled into our second round of drinks (ahem!), the Campo Santa Maria Nova was transformed into a design-house catwalk. Large hats, French fashion and simple elegance were the order of the day.
Wedding guests arrived on foot with the men striding out confidently as their ladies teetered and tottered across the Venetian stone paving in ever-more precipitous heels.
Hats, it seems, are most definitely in this season with many of the chiefly French-speaking ladies sporting large, soft brimmed creations or fancy feathered designs to protect against the scorching summer sun.
Their dresses stunned too as family and friends sported what we can only assume was the cream of the French fashion houses’s summer season.
And finally, after a few tense minutes, the bride arrived in a motoscafo taxi festooned with flowers.
There was a slight hiccup before she could alight, as a Venetian family had accidentally chosen that exact moment to offload a small flat-full of furniture onto the canal-side. Exactly where the bride’s boat was due to dock! Clearly all the planning in the world can’t legislate for everything!
But fortunately the wedding organiser, calm in a crisis, gently press-ganged her team into action to help clear bed frames, tables and an old desk so the bridal boat could pull alongside.
By now a small crowd of tourists, visitors and well-wishers had gathered.
And as one of the organisers straightened her veil, the bride gently stepped off the boat on her father’s arm, we assume, to cross the last little bridge, Ponte Santa Maria Nove, to the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli.
Her dress was breathtakingly delicate and stunningly sexy all in one.
In what looked like haute couture, the lace-bodiced dress used its delicate threads to highlight and accentuate the bride’s beautiful figure with almost see-through finery, whilst delicately protecting her modesty. It was a subtle, stylish vision of lacy layers and suited the demure young bride perfectly.
The bride’s destination, the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is a popular spot in Venice for weddings.
Known as the “marble church” or “jewel box” because of its beautiful coloured stonework, inlaid with polychrome marble panels in geometrical patterns, the Renaissance church was built in the late 1480s. Legend has it that stone leftover from the construction of St Mark’s Basilica was used for the church of miracles. What is more certain, however, is that it was commissioned to house Nicola di Pietro’s 1408 painting of “Virgin between two saints”.
The painting, also known as The Miraculous or I Miracoli, was originally intended to be placed outside a house. However, locals began to associate it with miracles and donated funds to build the church in its honour. The designer,Renaissance architect and sculptor, Pietro Lombardo, is also credited with Venice’s San Giobbe church, the tombs of 2 Doges and the tomb of the famous Tuscan writer Dante Alighieri, father of the Italian language no less.
And so, as the late afternoon sun cascaded over the white marble and through the rose windows, the bride and groom sat at the top of the flight of stairs leading to the altar as the ceremony was conducted in French and English.
Violins and sopranos serenaded the couple throughout the service until finally a beautiful, moving rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria signaled the end of the formalities and the wedding guests erupted into applause.
The small crowd of well-wishers waiting outside was rewarded with the sight of the couple, as they emerged from the church a few minutes later. Friends and family showered the newly weds with traditional handfuls of rice, symbolising a shower of fertility.
And several of the crowd playfully called for “Baci baci baci!” or “Kiss kiss kiss!”
And so ends the story of how a simple Saturday afternoon pit-stop for cold refreshment in one of the hundreds of little courtyard cafes of Venice turned into a close-up of French fashion, romance and a wonderful French-Swiss marriage. The wedding party left to continue their celebrations in one of the palazzi, palaces, dotted around town no doubt. And we left to explore more of the labyrinthine streets of Venice. If you’ve discovered a secret spot in Venice, leave me a comment. In the meantime, maybe we’ll fall over another hidden gem tomorrow, or the next day – here’s hoping! And remember to keep your eyes open as you never know when you’re going to get a close up of something special like a wedding in Venice!
Congratulations to Isabelle and Nicolas & best wishes for a long and happy life together!
The Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli is well hidden in the labyrinth of narrow Venetian streets. The easiest way to find it is from Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, via Calle Larga G. Gallina and Fondamenta Piovan. The Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli can be seen from Campo Santa Maria Nova.
PS If this has inspired you, maybe now is the time to pop the question to your beloved and here’s How to ask “Will you marry me?” in Italian