On The Road: A wedding day the Neapolitan way
Saturday 16 May 2009
My sister Barbara's wedding day starts at a high-rise in Napoli's lawless suburbs and ends with a pop video screened at Villa Soglia, a Bourbon-era mansion on the southern lava fields of Vesuvius. The film Miseria e nobiltà (Poverty and Nobility) starring Totò and Sophia Loren was a matrimonial farce based on class. Today's comedy of manners, with its five-strong media team, is a paean to celebrity culture, Neapolitan style.
At 8am a cameraman and overbearing photographer fuss over a net-swathed Barbara. Neighbours drop in to admire the bride. Then father and bride cut the red ribbon and she leaves her old life in a limo. An hour of vows, tears and prayers ring around the Duomo of Acerra. Luca Giordano's baroque angels offer vacant reverence as the film crew clatter about behind the altar, clicking throughout the benediction. Balloons, joy and shutters are released below Ionic columns and the Mezzogiorno sun.
Our cavalcade's celebratory klaxons bring beaming women outside, carrying trays piled high with bags of confetti (sugared almonds). Champagne corks and coriandoli (confetti) fill the courtyard of the couple's new home.
The reception is a six-hour, 11-course feast, with baby octopus, fennel with oranges and langoustine risotto. Uncle Luciano sings a gravel-gargling "Aye gat you ander my zzkeen". Then it's show time: Barbara and Pietro's big-screen love story. Slow-mo caresses at Positano are interspersed with the day's events, bizarrely set to a speeded-up Muppet Show and Sugababes soundtrack. The film crew, nodding to themselves throughout the half-hour film, take a bow and finally disappear.
Amongst the faff, it is a simple granite drink that distils this Neapolitan celebration. There are bursts of flavour and joy. The waiter reveals the magic ingredient: annurca apples, grown here in Campania. For a revelatory moment the ancient "apple of the underworld", as Pliny the Elder called it, links us with Herculaneum's original Epicureans. Its nuptial rites may have changed but Naples' natural bounty continues to steal the moment – without a flash-bulb in sight.
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