Twelve Sarasota friends ran away to the tiny hillside town of Barberino Val d'Elsa, Italy, late last September to orchestrate the marriage of Sarasota's Lee Morse, a feature film and national commercial producer, and independent film producer Tom Garrett.
Under the bright blue sky of a Tuscan Indian summer, the friends spent a week eating sumptuous food, drinking lots of wine, hiking, taking day trips to Siena and San Gimigniano, and plotting and planning an enchanted wedding that captured the best of Tuscany.
In slightly topsy-turvy fashion, the wedding supper was held the night before on the terrace of the very private Villa Podere C'elli, a former farmhouse surrounded by herb and rose gardens. The next morning, the mayor of Barberini Val d'Elsa married the couple in a quiet ceremony in the town hall. A translator witnessed the proceedings.
For Morse and Garrett, who met 13 years ago on a film shoot and have been together ever since, turning their wedding week into a photo essay was a lark. "It was beautiful traveling to a different country and different culture and way of life," she says. "There was lots of paperwork; we had to have all the documents translated, and the Italian embassy here had to get involved." But, "It was wonderfully romantic, getting married in a 15th-century town." They plan a proper church ceremony in Sarasota later this spring.
Now-what to do for the honeymoon?
Flavors of Tuscany
Peter Callahan, of downtown Sarasota's Zoria restaurant and an old friend of the bride, was already visiting his mother, who lives in northern Italy on Lake Maggiore; they joined the wedding party for a few days. "It was a one-of-a-kind experience," he says. "We were lucky to be invited."
Tuscan food, says Callahan, is "robust country style; romantic in a very sort of bucolic way. Tuscany's not known for its pasta, although it's always there. Because there is a lot of hunting in the rolling hills, a lot of wild game-rabbit, wild boar-is served. Saddle of rabbit is a classic dish. One night we had a classic Tuscan preparation: huge cuts of steak grilled with fresh rosemary and olive oil, with lots of fresh fruit for dessert. The traditional cheese is pecorino, a sheep's milk cheese that ranges from very creamy, like goat cheese, to very dry, crumbly and salted.
"And, of course the wines are just fabulous-robust, or heartier, with quite a bit of tannin. The top wines aspire to the top French Bordeaux but with a little roughness around the edges; they go great with game."