If my title brings to mind the 1964 film directed by Vittorio De Sica, based on the Edoardo de Filippo play Filumena Marturano, starring everyone, including Sofia Loren, and Marcello Mastroianni, then, congratulations on your knowledge of Italian movies. However, right now, I am not talking about the fictitious goings-on. This is non-fiction all the way down the line. Since it is based on personal experience.
Let’s just say right now that, Mike and I are not the experts. If you want to know how getting married in Italy is done properly, there’s all sorts of information on the net. We found a great site that included a fantastically-useful set of checklists, of what to do, starting from two years before D-Day. We used the last one, which covered what to do in the last six months. Not that we spent six months planning our wedding, you understand. It’s just that there wasn’t a “planning a wedding in four weeks” checklist. I guess what follows is going to be the next nearest equivalent.
Why so short a time? Well, I guess the simple answer is that neither of us could see much point in hanging about. This is what we did.
Since I am a British citizen and was resident in Milan, I needed a document from the British Consulate in Milan stating that there was no reason why I should not marry my beloved. Said document, in Italian is called a nulla osta. Getting it involved a 23-day posting of the Notice of Marriage in the Consulate itself at 6. Via San Paolo. For the purposes of this, I had to produce an original of my birth certificate. Since this hallowed document was issued more than half-a-century ago, it was hardly surprising that I did not have it about my person. No prob. I ordered a copy online from the British Government Records Office website on the Friday, and it was with me by Tuesday — by mail. Excellent service.
So I would suggest that, if you plan to marry in Italy, you get in touch with your consulate to find out what is needed. In our case, although Mike, my intended at the time, and my husband now, is American, he did not need to go through any similar procedure at the US consulate, because he became an Italian citizen through his previous marriage.
My twenty-three days having expired on May 22, and no-one having found any hindrance, impediment, or otherwise, to our proposed scheme to tie the knot, I collected my nulla osta, and we were able to move on to the next step: the pubblicazione, or the posting of the banns. These have to be displayed for eight (calendar) days, after which another four (calendar) days have to elapse. (Don’t ask. I didn’t.) The pubblicazione process is done at the town hall of the comune of residence of the two people in question. If you are both residenti in the same municipality, then the process is straightforward. If you are not, then you do it at one of the two comuni. Your choice. That comune, and specifically the Ufficio Demografico in the shape of the Ufficiale dello Stato Civile then communicates the necessary details to his/her counterpart. We opted for Mike’s comune, since it is small (Induno Olona in the province of Varese), as opposed to mine: Milan.
In our case, we got another town hall involved. Not because, as an investigative reporter, I wanted to check the efficiency and effectiveness of local authority employees. (In fact, all of them were exceptionally efficient, as it turns out, except for one small glitch but I will tell you about that later). No, the reason was that we wanted to get married neither in Induno nor in Milan. But in yet another municipality. Which is one’s right, as per Article 109 of the Codice Civile, and Article 67 of something called the Nuovo Regolamento dello Stato Civile. In real terms, this means that the comune handling your paperwork also handles a request to the comune where you wish to marry, asking them carry out the ceremony on their behalf (per delega). Having considered Varenna on Lake Como, our choice had fallen to Cernobbio, also on Lake Como, a place where I had spent time in another life, and which was a lot closer.
The Ufficio Demografico at Cernobbio town hall could not have been more helpful. They can do weddings any morning of the week, and Thursday afternoons too, they told us. However, when we went to visit, we found there was a lot more traffic than we had expected, i.e., the town seemed to consist of one long line of cars with the lake on one side and the town hall on the other. Which is as to be expected since you have to go straight through the middle of town to get from Como to anywhere else on the western lakeshore. It’s just that there seemed to be too much of one (traffic) and not enough of the other (town).
Disappointed, we decided to add to the congestion and drive eight kilometers (five miles) further on, to Moltrasio. Which is something completely different. In more ways than one. Set on a hillside, the town is tiny, just 1,640 inhabitants. Although getting about means climbing steep steps, the place is virtually traffic-free. The new road (well, it’s been there many years but it’s called that because it was built in the 20th century) that takes the bulk of traffic is above, while the old road that hugs the lake-side is below. Located half-way up the hillside, the town hall affords an excellent view of the lake, and of Torno, the town on the opposite shore. That was the positive difference. The negative difference was that, compared to Cernobbio’s welcome, Moltrasio’s initial response was distinctly luke-warm. This all changed after we had had a few exchanges on the phone, and a face-to-face meeting, and we produced the necessary documentation. It had all seemed a bit daunting to them: a British woman marrying an American widower with two children. There was also another problem, though. The mayor (il sindaco) was scheduled to go on vacation on July 7, so it all had to be done before then. OK, so we wanted to get married asap, but this seemed almost like too much of a good thing! Anyway, from Induno, Angelina produced all the necessary documents for Oriella, in Moltrasio, in the right order, and we got our date: Thursday, June 29, 2006.
Which is where the one glitch I mentioned earlier came into play. Everything had run so smoothly that when, on the morning of Tuesday June 20, I sailed into Angelina’s office at comune the Induno to get the document (delega), which we were to take to Moltrasio and deliver by hand on the following day – giving us a whole week for the people there to complete the wedding document (atto di matrimonio) — I was not too worried when I heard that Milan had not returned their set of the documents. A call to the office in the Milan town hall that handles the banns when they have run their course (ufficio avvenute pubblicazioni) revealed that the papers were on their way. By fax, in the next few minutes. When they arrived, the awful truth dawned. Milan — the super-efficient, extra-effective city, the place where things get done, the city that never sleeps, and all that stuff — had, taken ten whole days to get the piece of paper from the incoming fax machine to the all-important bulletin board. In effect, when Induno was taking down its copy of the notice, Milan was still not ready to post its. Lack of notice-board space? Lack of push-pins? Whatever, it meant that, since four (calendar) days had to elapse between the taking down of the notice and the date of the abovementioned delega, this could not be produced before Friday June 23! Less than a week. Here again, the officials involved were more than helpful. Moltrasio agreed to accept the document by fax, even if they did insist on seeing the original before the wedding day. So, on the Monday afternoon we raced the thirty kilometers (20 miles) to Moltrasio, handed over a piece of paper, and raced thirty kilometers back to Induno.
At this point, things were coming together. The wedding dress had been bought in Como, the wedding rings came from Calvin Klein in Milan, and the wedding reception was booked at the delightful Orso Bruno restaurant (www.hotelorsobruno.com) at Carate Urio, the next village along from Moltrasio. This is on the lower, lake-shore, road that leads to Laglio, and then joins back up to the main road to Menaggio and points north.
And the day itself? I am glad you asked. It was wonderful, although the beginnings were less than auspicious. After days of tremendous heat, during which we hoped for some rain, we woke on Thursday morning – in late-June, in sunny Italy — to find that our wish had been granted! Rain, by the bucket-load, blustery winds to sweep you off your feet. Mike had to drive me to the hairdressers — and back, otherwise all their work would have been for nought. On the way home, we drove to a shoe shop where, the previous week, I had bought a pair of open-toed sandals, that suddenly seemed most unsuited to wedding wear. I had also tried some ballerina slippers that day. We raced in, grabbed them, paid and raced home.
As we got back to the house, Margherita, Mike’s witness arrived with her son. Alex and Nick, Mike’s sons, were unrelenting rain and high winds.
Andy, my old friend and witness, messaged to say he was already in Moltrasio, having come from Milan by train and ferry-boat, and having had a wet walk up to the Bar Centrale, right next to the town hall, which was our rendezvous point. It rained and rained, until we got to just outside Como and saw – blue skies. By the time we got to Moltrasio, it had stopped. I raced into the bar – it was now 11.40, and the ceremony was scheduled to start at noon. Flung my dress on, added the new shoes, which looked great, and – with everyone present – ambled down to the comune. Up to the council chamber. The sun by this time was out and the views of the lake were stunning. Like none of that other weather had every happened at all. It was now 12.10 or so. All very calm. Oriella, the admin woman greeted us. Since the mayor (sindaco) was busy, the wedding was to be conducted by the deputy mayor (vice-sindaco). He turned up and more introductions took place. By about 12.25, we were all ready. The ceremony took about 10 mins. We signed. So did the witnesses. It was done. Photos, kisses, hand-shakes, and then out onto the courtyard in front of the comune to get more pics with the lake in the background. Lovely breeze, against a brilliant blue sky.
Then on to the restaurant. Which is on the first floor, overlooking the lake. Lunch was lovely. Among the delights were a delicious risotto with lake perch (pesce persico), which was tangy with sage. Everyone had grilled sword fish, while the dessert options included a delectable woodland berry (frutti di bosco) mousse. We drank prosecco and a wonderful time was had by all. Daniele, the owner, came out to chat. Eventually, about 15.30, we repaired to the terrace of the bar on the ground floor. After some drinks, and photos, it was time for everyone to leave. Andy, from Milan, took the regular ferry from Moltrasio back to Como, a twenty-minute ride, and then the train. The rest went by car. We stayed, driving up, via Tremezzo, and Menaggio, to Dongo and then to Gravedona, which is almost the northern end of Lake Como and where the landscape is quite different. Lots of campers, lots of cyclists, people there for the hiking, as opposed to the gentle amble with an ice-cream cone (gelato da passeggio) along the lake-shore promenade.
And that’s about it. Would we recommend it? Yes! Although in normal circumstances, dealing with the Italian bureaucracy can be daunting, in this case it was not. Everyone was terrific, and did their utmost to make sure we had a lovely day. Would we do it again? Can’t wait! With all the same people, of course!
A slightly different version of this piece appeared in the August 2006 issue of Hello Milano magazine