When Sharon and I married in 1978, we had to jump through secular and ecclesiastical hoops to get to the altar in Santa Croce’s Medici Chapel in Florence.
Forty years later, all we had to do was cross a small piazza to the parish church of San Michele Vetere in Cremona.
As we planned our May 2018 trip to Italy, we intended to renew our marriage vows but, unlike four decades ago, we had no formal plans.
Sharon was looking to sharpen her Italian language skills and found an immersion program through La Studentessa Matta. Sharon reserved back-to-back sessions with Elena and Gianna in Bergamo. She lived with the teachers in their homes and did EVERYTHING in Italian.
I planned to meet Sharon after her programs and we would spend a couple of weeks savoring life in a small city Italy. I flew on mileage reward tickets (thank you, United and Lufthansa) and had to travel around available dates.
My Wife Has AirBnB Radar
Sharon has the knack for finding stellar AirBnB accommodations hosted by spectacular people. She has consistently demonstrated that talent on four continents and counting.
Once we chose Cremona (grazie Fred Plotkin for the recommendation in Italy for the Gourmet Traveler) as our base in northern Italy, she worked her magic once again.
“This looks nice, doesn’t it? It’s in a palazzo…” she said as we scanned the Casa Vergani listing.
“How are the reviews?” I responded.
“Wonderful! People love Benedetta.”
It was available for the two weeks we wanted, and Sharon booked it.
I arrived on a Sunday, a day after Sharon. It was hot, but I walked to Casa Vergani from the train station.
I surprised Sharon at the gate of the palazzo as she didn’t know exactly when I was arriving. While I was hugging her, a tall, thin man in shorts, a sleeveless tee, and flip flops approached. He had a tattoo on his left upper arm and was carrying a broom. I don’t know what he had been doing, but he’d worked up quite a sweat at the task. Sharon introduced us. It was Gianpaolo, the owner of the palazzo that has been in his family since the 1860s. We bonded.
I learned that Gianpaolo is a prominent attorney in Cremona … and one of the hardest working people I’ve met. He always has a project or three underway at home. Benedetta, our hostess, is smart, warm, and efficient. She is a culinary professional so she and Sharon spoke the international language of food.
We had dinner together a couple of times, and I rode shotgun with Gianpaolo on a number of diverse missions. They showed us around lovely Cremona and offered bicycles that made exploring the city and environs a breezy treat.
At one point I casually mentioned to Gianpaolo that we were celebrating our fortieth wedding anniversary and pulled up photos from the long ago wedding. He was entertained. I asked him if he would be willing to preside over a casual renewal of our wedding vows. He said no, that as an attorney he had no authority to do so.
The next day he dropped by and asked us if we were free the evening of Saturday, June 9, 2018. We had nothing planned. Then he got excited. “Please come to San Michele Vetere, the church in the piazza, for the evening Mass at 6:30.
Don Aldo, the parish priest will have everything prepared for you.”
More Nervous the Second Time Around
Time passed. Sharon had fun shopping for a dress, shoes, and accessories. I was glad that I had packed my trusty blazer for the trip. We delighted in day trips to Crema, Mantova, and Fidenza. Then suddenly it was Saturday.
Sharon jumped on her bicycle and pedaled for a floral bouquet at the bustling Saturday market surrounding the cathedral. She returned with a beauty. I shopped for Prosecco to enjoy after the ceremony, and also returned with a beauty.
By 5:30 I had gotten dressed and was pacing around the apartment.
“Sharon, I’m nervous. More nervous now than at the wedding,” I said.
“Calm down,” she said.
I spotted Benedetta in the courtyard. She was readying a table for refreshments after the mass.
I went down and said hi.
“How are you?” she asked.
“It’s strange but I’m more nervous today than I was forty years ago.”
She paused, then smiled. “Of course you are. Because now you know what marriage is all about.”