I wake up at our hotel room in Matera before Olivier and decide he needs to sleep this morning. So I go for run. I find my way around the cliffs easily after getting so lost the night before. Aside from a local blasting music from a boom box strapped on the back of his bike, singing in Italian and peddling up and down main street, I am only person up and definitely the only working out. Italians look at me like I’m crazier than crazy bike guy.
When I get back, I shower, pack, and eat two croissants; one plain and one made with chocolate chips and filled with Nutella, for measure. We decide croissants in Italy are definitely not as good as croissants in France.
We drive to the Bari airport to drop off our rental car. On the ride, we discuss what it would have been like to live in Middle Ages — a town like Matera was built for protection and survival, near a source of water, where people could hunt and gather and live in cave homes sheltered from intruders in the cliffs. I think even though it all sounds romantic, people spent their whole lives just trying to eat and not get killed. And we are pretty fortunate today in the US for not having to spend every day worrying about getting speared in the back, or dying from childbirth or dysentery. And now that we have it so good, we need fast cars and skydiving to get the thrills that were once everyday life. That people couldn’t have been as happy as us tourists, dropping by for a day to drink wine and eat croissants. Olivier says he thinks happiness is relative. I think he’s just arguing to argue.
We drop off the car. Guy who checks us in notes a couple of scratches. We tell him they were already there; first guy who rented us the car refused to note them because they were too small. The first guy is there: He denies it. But Olivier took iPhone photos of scratches before we left (they’re dated and everything), which we show to the rental company. They still have us fill out paperwork that basically says we’re responsible. But insurance covers it. Now it makes sense. This is the Italian way of doing business.
We cab it to Borgo Egnazia, the hotel where our friends are holding their wedding weekend (Thursday to Sunday):
This place is insane. The lobby’s air vents are all perfumed with a signature fig milk scent. There are candles everywhere (must be someone’s job just to run around and light them all day). Justin Timberlake had his wedding here three years ago; this is also the place where sultans from India come to get married. This sounds like our friends.
The front desk tells us the hotel was built — three years ago, by Americans — to look like a typical Italian village, complete with its own cathedral. The design is convincing. Except everything is so perfect it all looks same to me…and I keep getting lost.
We eat lunch by the pool. Servers are “polite,” pulling out chair for me but not Olivier, and giving me a menu with no prices printed. (Olivier, of course, gets a menu with prices.) I want to pull out my own chair and see prices. We order pasta with saffron and mussels, local white fish with roasted vegetables:
Then we spend the rest of the afternoon at the pool, reading:
That night, we go to a wedding welcome dinner in a nearby restaurant, among olive groves. I give my bridesmaid speech to Emily and Matt, the couple. I had planned it thinking this was the rehearsal dinner, and it would be 20 of their closest friends. The realty: It’s 120 people. Emily, my friend, is only person laughing at my inside jokes. I am humiliated. So I just get really drunk (we later find out that each guest drank an average of 4 bottles that night).
7:40 am: Splitting hangover. Can’t fall back asleep. Olivier is out. And mad at me for mouthing off last night. I lay in bed, then slip out at 9am. I don’t make a peep.
9:30 am: Yoga class by MOH. I get the spins in child’s pose; almost puke in downward dog. Two girls do just that in bathroom.
12pm: Olivier and I skip out on socializing for an amazing massage at the spa.
2pm: Rent bikes to try and go to the beach club, where the rest of the wedding party is, instead of taking the bus with the rest of the guests. We are proud of ourselves for being adventurous. We bike to wrong beach. We go back, take the bus.
3pm: We arrive at beach club our friends have rented out and hired a DJ to give it a boozy brunch atmosphere. We feast on a huge Italian buffet with six types of pasta, seafood, cheese, grilled veggies, rose wine on ice; then we float on rafts in the lagoon. The bride’s photogs are stationed hidden behind bushes on cliff taking pics of us. We pretend we’re celebs.
Dinner that night is in “Borgo Square” of our hotel. There are candles everywhere, and even more food: A chef making burrata in a giant barrel as we watch. Other chefs slicing steak and ribs, serving pastas and cheeses. During dinner, an 8-person traditional Italian band played while four traditional dancers danced. Then the piece de resistance: Three hours in, a 20-person Brazilian drum band arrives and plays for the next four hours.
This is not even the wedding day.
We note we will probably never be invited to a wedding like this again. Including our own.
Olivier and I go for run in morning around the golf course next to the hotel. An Italian security guard kicks us off 20 minutes in: Guess some things are too tacky for even guests to do.
After preparing at the hotel, we load on buses to go back to Ostuni, the place we visited on Day 2:
But this time, it’s to attend the wedding of my friend. She and her husband met and live in New York, but they love Italy and decided it was the place for their wedding.
The ceremony takes place in the same cathedral that Olivier had commented — before we knew it was where our friend’s wedding was going to take place — that he would want to ditch our beach wedding and have a wedding in a church if it looked like this:
We take photos of the bridal party on our iPhones before going into the church:
This is the last I got of the wedding itself, since I was busy doing my bridesmaid duties…but the local Ostuni newspaper featured the wedding that weekend.
We bus back to the hotel, and after cocktails on the roof, we bus again back to the hotel beach club. It’s lit with hundreds of candles. We eat until we’re stuffed and dance until 4am to the tunes of BBC DJ our friend flew in. Private fireworks show: included. It is over the top, and it is beautiful: