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Porto San Giorgio view of this seaside town

European Adventure Part Deux Porto Sant’Elpidio

Porto Sant’Elpidio e Porto San Giorgio

After exactly two weeks of travel, I finally arrive at this quaint little coastal town that sits right next to the Adriatic Sea. But more importantly, the site of the “Big Fat Italian Wedding” as my friends called it ☺. I was able to find a really nice affordable spot within walking distance to the church where the morning ceremony would take place.

Small towns like these tend to offer much more spacious affordable housing than you would find in larger cities like Rome. The apartment I stayed in was great and had everything I needed. The owner Christina was also a wonderful person. Very friendly and personable. It was late when I arrived. Tired from traveling, I decided to retire for the night, get some much-needed rest and wake up early the next morning to be on time for the ceremony.

The following morning, I walked but mostly ran to the church and made it right on time for the start of the wedding. I caught the couple outside and joined the crowd just as they were about to head inside to commence the ceremony. I was able to get some pretty good video of the opening famous walk down the isle of both the bride and groom.

The ceremony itself was a very traditional Italian Catholic style wedding. The majority of the ceremony was performed by the preacher with occasional breaks for a song. There was an instrumental group that sang a few songs in between the main procession and the reciting of vows. I thought this was a nice added touch.

After the ceremony concluded, the traditional rice throwing ensued outside the church. Everyone gathered outside for a bit and I got to meet many of their family members and friends. We were also reunited with a mutual DC friend of ours, JP, who managed to make it to the wedding just moments after I did. We took a group picture together. Then JP and I boarded a bus right outside the church that would take us to the reception with a mixed group of both the bride and groom’s friends.

I guess now would be a good time to give a little backstory on the happily wedded couple, my friends Simone and Kenia. We met in DC earlier in the year and became good friends since then. It was actually through a local outing that JP organized. They invited me to their wedding which they had been planning for quite some time. My inclusion was a bit last minute but their invitation was something that really meant a lot to me and I promised to do everything possible to make it.

Simone is Italian and Kenia is Mexican. They had already gotten married before in Mexico City but it wasn’t the official formal decked out wedding that this was. Also, Simone’s parents had not been present at the time so this would be their opportunity to do it right. I was truly honored to be invited and planned my whole trip around their wedding.

One important thing to point out is that Simone works as an Astrophysicist for Nasa. I only mention that for two reasons: one, to brag, of course, I mean how many people can say their friends with an Astrophysicist and two, so you’re able to make sense of certain events I’m about to describe as you continue reading my story.

We arrive at the reception just a few moments before the couple arrived. They had already started serving food almost immediately upon arrival. The location of the reception itself was quite impressive. It took place in a gorgeous villa/restaurant that sat up on a hill and overlooked the Adriatic Sea providing amazing views! It was also very tastefully decorated both inside and out.

The celebration at first took place outside. They kept bringing out many more dishes of food and we all started eating. Dish after dish of all different types of food but mostly fresh seafood which is what this region is known for. Thinking this was going to be the only meal of the day, I loaded up on as much as I could even at times ignoring my gluten sensitivity. After getting our fill, we all relaxed for a bit and I continued chatting up and getting to know everyone.

Around this time Kenia’s cousin (Gerardo) warned me to save room for more food as this was only the appetizer or pre-meal, the real meal was still planned for once we got inside. He had taken part in Italian celebrations before so he knew what to expect. I had no idea this was the case and sure enough as soon as we finished outside, we were instructed to go inside and sit at our pre-designated tables.

All the tables were arranged with names of constellations and my assigned table was the Pavo constellation. Almost immediately upon sitting, more food began to come out like clockwork. I peeked at the menu and it was going to be like, no exaggeration, a seven-course meal to follow, including many desserts and of course the wedding cake.

I wish I would have known this prior to stuffing myself outside. The way people were attacking each plate that came out made me think that there really wasn’t going to be anything else. Boy was I wrong! I have to give it up to Italians, they definitely know how to eat. No fake!

In between bites of food, I took time to get to know the other diners at our table. JP was also assigned to my table which made sense given we were the only DC folk there and actually the only Americans. Unable to consume any more food at this point, I decided to get up and walk around outside and enjoy more of the view. There was also a band that had just started up and they were playing some delightful traditional Italian tunes. I was later joined by many more people, guess I wasn’t the only one who needed a break from eating.

Everyone began dancing along to the traditional music and there were even some peculiar wedding rituals performed like having the groom wear the bride’s slippers. Not sure if this was even really a thing or if they were just messing with him but it definitely happened. They also began giving out gifts around this time.

Simone’s brother got him a really cool telescope and his friends all chipped in on a penis rocket complete with NASA letters written on it. No joke! Perhaps it was their goofball way of combining a bachelor party with the wedding, not really sure but it was quite amusing seeing the bride and groom take a picture with it. This penis rocket would end up making multiple appearances throughout the night.

After a little while of celebration and fooling around, they called us back inside to eat more food. I have no idea how I was able to make room for more but I did. It was just too good to pass up. I remember talking to one of Kenia’s friends who also thought the same as me. He got his fill during the pre-meal just like I did thinking that was going to be it. Knowing I wasn’t the only one who made this mistake made me feel much better. I’m pretty sure this was the most food I had ever eaten in my life.

As time went on, we got into many more conversations. It was funny observing JP get into some pretty amusing discussions with our Italian dinner mates about things like American versus Italian culture and just pretty much everything. Our table was a little further out from where the couple was seated and a bit away from the main action as JP had pointed out but I didn’t mind because it also had the best view. We had a view of the outside gardens including the ocean.

Prior to indulging in our final course of dessert, we’re summoned outside once again for the traditional cutting of the wedding cake. JP made sure to remind the couple that they should save the top portion for their 50th anniversary. I’m sure they were thinking the same thing I was, “Is cake able to last that long without spoiling?” We took many pictures together during this time. There were a few emotional speeches made as well. In particular, one by Kenia’s cousin in which he described quite touchingly how the couple had first met and how he played a big role.

The way the story went, Gerardo first met Simone in Mexico City through work and they became good friends. One night as they were talking on the phone, Kenia overheard the conversation and asked Gerardo who he was chatting with, to which he responded, “Your future husband.” Good story!

Porto Sant'Elpidio Wedding

As day turned into night, the party really started to get going with more music, dancing and plenty of drinking from the open bar. I think they ended up running out of rum. An Italian and Mexican wedding, I’m assuming they were prepared to run out at some point. As can be expected from these open bar parties, most guests were able to handle their liquor while others simply couldn’t. But for the most part, everything ran fairly smoothly.

There was even a surprise visit from a mariachi band which ended up being the groom and his friends in disguise. All sorts of party songs and games were played, my favorite being the all-time classic musical chairs. Even the penis rocket made a reappearance on the dance floor. After the partying was done at the Villa, we elected to keep it going and head down to a local night rave at the beach. The plan was to board the same bus that got us there earlier in the day.

Although I’m pretty sure the couple would rather I not, I do have to mention something strange that happened with one of the guests. Not sure if it was just the alcohol or perhaps more likely the combination of other substances but she ended up having a really bad trip with all kinds of crazy hallucinations. At one point we all thought she might be possessed. It was really that bad! It was like something straight out of the Exorcist!

The bus was about to leave so I boarded along with my friends and some of the guests from the reception who were up for more partying. A few of them ended up getting distracted by what happened with this crazy girl and they missed the bus. The bus ended up leaving without them thinking they had already boarded. Anyway, needless to say, all this confusing drama threw a momentary wrench into our beach rave party plans.

A couple of guests who had cars went back for the others and they later joined us at the beach. The beach rave itself was a lot of fun! Good music and fun crowd though mostly much younger. Plenty more dancing, singing and drinking ensued. After we got our fill of fun most of us decided to head back on the bus and call it a night but not before making plans to meet back at the beach the following day.

The next day would not only be my last day in Italy but also the final day of my trip. Of course, I couldn’t leave without enjoying some much needed sunny beach time. So I walked over to that same church where Simone and Kenia had just gotten married. They picked me up from there and drove me to a beach in San Giorgio. They decided on San Giorgio due to the fact that most of Kenia’s friends were already staying there and also because San Giorgio was known to have a cleaner ocean.

We met up with Kenia’s friends at their rental apartment and walked over to the beach together. They were hungry and decided to start the day with an early lunch at a nearby restaurant. Knowing that I would soon be on a bus headed back to Rome, I opted for going in the ocean instead. I really wanted to get in as much beach time as possible before it was my time to leave.

The water was crystal clear and very shallow. I remember being able to walk very far and the water would only get as high as my knees. I even made it out to the rocks and sat there for a bit soaking in the warm sun and enjoying the fantastic views. The ocean was also quite tranquil and I was able to layout and enjoy a relaxing float in between my long swims.

After enjoying my much-needed beach time, I made it back to the restaurant where I had left the others. I was a little surprised to see that our group had grown exponentially. We were now joined by more of Kenia’s friends and also by some of Simone’s as well. We all enjoyed one final good Italian group meal together.

I ended up ordering more of the local fresh fish Orata and some equally fresh Melone with very good quality thin Prosciutto on top. Not bad for what would be my last real meal in Italy. After finishing our meal, I bid farewell to everyone. I wish I could have spent more time with them and enjoyed more beach time but unfortunately, I had another bus to catch.

Simone was nice enough to drive me back to my apartment so I could change clothes and pick up my luggage. We headed for the bus stop and made it there right around the same time the bus was arriving. We gave each other a big hug and said our goodbyes. We would see each other again soon in DC. After another four-hour bus ride, I would find myself back in Rome.

It was great being able to spend time with my friends in Italy and take part in their special day. I was fortunate enough to have been invited and lucky enough to have made it all work out. I also enjoyed meeting their family and friends and getting to know each of them a lot better. I learned new things about both of them that I hadn’t known prior to this trip.

Btw, for those wondering what happened with that crazy girl from the night before, we learned from Gerardo that they literally had to hogtie her down and forcibly drag her out of the establishment. Wow! Loco stuff indeed! The only remaining question left to answer is, “what the hell was she on?!”

I arrive in Rome that night tired and just looking forward to a good night’s sleep. The next day I would be on a plane back to the states. I ended up staying at a place that was really close to the train station so I could take it to the airport and not miss my flight. Or at least that was the plan.

The following morning, I woke up early, finished my preparations and rushed to the train station to catch my train. Yes, even though I had stayed close by so I wouldn’t have to travel far I was still rushing because I was running late. I guess I got a little too overconfident being that I was literally staying right across from the station.

To make things worse, after having turned in my room key, I got stuck on the final exit gate outside. It was locked and no matter what I tried, it just wouldn’t open. Apparently, this gate needed a key to open from the inside which I thought was really odd and something that I don’t recall being mentioned to me the night before. Pressed for time, I ended up panicking and decided on jumping the gate with luggage in hand.

This was not a short gate at all. It required quite the climb and it even had those spikes at the top to keep people from doing exactly what I was doing, although in this case from the inside instead of the outside as it was intended. Luckily, I make it a point to travel light, so I ended up having to throw my carry-on bag along with my backpack over the gate as I was climbing towards the top. When I reached the top of the gate, someone who was passing by saw me and asked if I needed help, oddly enough in Spanish instead of Italian, “Te ayudo?”

Once he noticed I was also carrying bags over, he rescinded his offer. He must have thought I was robbing the place. This was a really embarrassing and uncomfortable moment but thankfully there weren’t too many people around to witness it. After pulling off this awkward acrobatic feat, I raced to the station as fast I could.

After all that effort, I ended up missing the train anyway because I couldn’t find the correct platform from which it was leaving. Luckily since this was an express train, I was still able to catch a later one with just enough time before my flight. So pro travel tip number 9 and the final one from this trip: Always leave yourself a good buffer of time when planning your trip in case you run into some unexpected ‘obstacles’ along the way ☺.

Final Thoughts

As previously noted, this trip ended up being one of reconnecting with friends while exploring new destinations and enjoying new life experiences along the way. I consider myself fortunate to have had this opportunity. From spending time with good friends that I hadn’t seen in a while to the honor of being invited to a wedding in Italy, for the most part, it all worked out quite splendidly!

I also took advantage of this opportunity to visit new places that I hadn’t seen before and enjoyed trying new foods. So in a way, it turned out to be a journey of many firsts as well. I was very grateful for the time that each one of my friends spent in hosting me and showing me around. They all did a terrific job of playing tour guide and my only hope is that I get a chance to return the favor in the not too distant future.

To those of you who took the time to read my new story, once again, Thank you! I hope my shared experiences and travel tips serve you well. Take care my friends and till my next adventure, Saluti!

—Alain
Born in Havana Cuba, raised in Miami, and spent a decade of his life in ‘America’s Finest City’ sunny San Diego and now living in America’s capital, DC aka ‘the gateway to Europe’ or is that NYC?

An adventurous and nomadic soul. When he’s not actually traveling, you will find him mostly dreaming about it and occasionally writing about it.

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