August 1, 2021
Have you ever travelled to a popular destination and suddenly felt the need to get away from the crowds and the noise of tourism?
My passion for travelling might sound stereotypical for an international destination wedding planner; however my desire to explore locations that aren’t on the top 10 must see or featured in countless blogs and guidebooks, is something that has revolutionised the way I travel. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you this… well, it’s because the destination you choose for your elopement should be just as exciting as any other adventure you go on with your favourite travel companion!
Italy is a firm favourite on the destination wedding scene. However, over the years I’ve noticed entire regions being overlooked in favour of their more well-known counterparts. I’ve now come to the realisation that some places are reserved for the free-spirits, those who dare to explore a little further and enjoy the experience of discovering a lesser-visited destination.
If you’re considering an elopement or intimate wedding in Italy, but are looking for a unique destination that makes you and your nearest and dearest excited, these unexpected locations will have you asking yourself why they’ve been ignored until now!
What’s an elopement and is it right for you?
Before we get into the juicy part – the destinations – I want to touch on the terminology that is often used in the industry and can be somewhat confusing.
Traditionally to elope means to run away in secret to get married. Over time this has somewhat changed, and whilst some couples choose to keep their elopement a secret, the happy news now gets shared with loved ones and of course celebrated. More and more couples also choose to invite their nearest and dearest to join them on the day – does that make it less of elopement? Absolutely not! Which leads me onto the point of confusion for many – numbers!
With micro weddings (max 20 guests according to Hitched) becoming an increasingly popular term and intimate weddings being firmly on the scene (for some this means under 40, for others under 70), it can be difficult to know what to call what. Even though it’s hard, I try to not get caught up in the terminology as I believe it’s more important that you have who you want by your side. I am also going to be bold and say that even with 100 guests you can have a wedding that feels intimate. Sure the logistics are different but please don’t let the terms and numbers dictate what wedding you should have!
There are also many reasons why you might choose to elope and you should never feel the need to justify your decision of having an intimate celebration:
- Celebrating your love story in ways that truly reflect who you are and your values, breaking away from traditions you don’t align with.
- Financial commitments such as buying a house, saving for an around-the-world adventure, or simply the cost of having a larger wedding in the destination you dream of and with the level of detail you require.
- You want your wedding to be an adventure just for the two of you and perhaps your favourite travel buddies. It might involve hiking or horse riding and your great aunty is probably not going to be up for it!
- Difficult family situations or perhaps family and friends living across many different countries.
Regardless of the destination you choose, the essence of an elopement is to have a heartfelt celebration, immersed in magical settings and cultures, where you and – if you choose – your loved ones will experience an unforgettable journey.
Look beyond Venice!
Venice is a gem, in my biased opinion the most romantic city in the world! But unless you’re visiting during a global pandemic (an arduous task!), it’s always busy with tourists. This isn’t ideal if you want to be truly immersed in a special moment. And crowds don’t lend themselves to gorgeous, intimate photo opportunities, unless waking up at the crack of dawn takes your fancy!
Luxury hotels have been built on private islands, allowing their guests complete exclusivity on their wedding day, whilst others located in the centre have internal courtyards or terraces. If you are happy to venture to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello the experience away from the Palazzos will be very different, but as you can probably imagine, tourists love to visit the well-known islands too!
But what if I told you that you can travel by boat to exclusive villas where the Venetian aristocracy would retreat to?! I grew up in a town nestled between the cities of Venice, Padova, Vicenza and Treviso. For much of my childhood I would fantasise about masquerade balls taking place in the wonderful frescoed halls of these 16th century villas overlooking the Canal Brenta. One of my favourite venues in this area is Villa Valmarana, with a private dock, lush gardens and frescoed interiors! Whether you’re after a luxury elopement for just the two of you, or with your nearest and dearest, this location would make the perfect setting for a dreamy and authentic Venetian experience.
And the rest of Veneto? When it comes to variety in backdrops for your elopement in Italy, Veneto has it all. Mountain views with the Dolomites, the stunning Euganean Hills, castles overlooking Lake Garda and more villas and farmhouses with beautiful gardens and views than we could possibly count! You’ll truly be spoilt for choice.
One of my favourite venues for a laid-back setting is La Finestra sul Fiume (The Window on the River). A B&B nestled in incredible surroundings between Lake Garda and Verona, absolutely perfect for an elopement in the Italian countryside. Is there anything more magical than dining in the beautiful gardens, amongst the trees overlooking the river? I’ll let you decide whether Verona or Venice is more romantic…I just can’t!
We wouldn’t be talking about Italy if we didn’t mention food and drink, correct? Well, Veneto is famous for Prosecco, Bellini, Spritz and Grappa – you can rest assured that drinks (along with delicious food) will not be an afterthought!
Tuscany is stunning, but have you ever heard of Friuli-Venezia Giulia?
Bordering Austria and Slovenia and neighbouring Veneto, the pace of life in Friuli seems slower and in the towns there is a real sense of community. I’m lucky to spend real quality time in this beautiful region when I visit my sister. Cycling in the countryside along the beautiful sunflower fields, visiting local family-owned vineyards and sipping delicious wine accompanied with the best charcuterie and cheese is our and the locals favourite pastime!
With mountains, beaches, hills and medieval villages, Friuli’s nature and diversity is incredible. There really is something for any elopement vision – be it in the warm or cold seasons!
- Villas and castles, like the locally renowned Buttrio, nestled in the hills of the Collio make the perfect backdrop for your elopement in Italy. You’ll have fantastic views of the vineyards and the wine is amongst the best in the country!
- If an adventurous elopement in the Dolomites with majestic mountain scenery, enchanting forests and unspoilt nature is everything you’ve been dreaming about, the town of Sauris is the jewel in the crown. The town is also well-known for producing mouth-watering prosciutto and cheese; you’ll be guaranteed a fabulous feast!
- Last but not least is the city of Trieste and the stunning venues on the Adriatic coast; perfect for elopements or a welcome party with stunning sea views.
Friuli is not stereotypically Italian, the history and cultural heritage of this region is influenced by all of its neighbours, which is truly special and unlike any other. If you want authenticity and a unique setting for your elopement or intimate wedding in Italy, without compromising on luxury and accessibility (Venice airport is just over 1 hour from Trieste), then Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is the destination for you! One of the perks of this region is that it allows you to road-trip into other countries in Europe for your honeymoon. You can easily reach Austria, Slovenia and Croatia from here. Why it’s not at the top of the list for destination weddings in Italy, I’m yet to find out! I’d love to help you create an experience that allows you to get to know and enjoy this fantastic region to the fullest.
One of Sicily best kept secrets… the Aeolian Islands
Sicily has in recent years become a popular destination for holidays and weddings. Chiara Ferragni and Fedez married in Noto at the stunning Dimora delle Balze, putting Sicily firmly on the map for destination weddings. In 2019 the city of Palermo ranked 2nd amongst the top 20 destinations to visit in 2020 – Forbes. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier! This region is the perfect example of rugged beauty. Of course you’ll find luxury hotels, but Sicily’s beauty is in its culture, nature and of course history.
However there’s a place (or 7 islands to be precise), reserved for the curious travellers, those who dare venturing off the tourist trail to see what lies off the north coast of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Aeolian Islands can only be reached by boat/hydrofoil or helicopter, making the journey to the destination the start of your wedding adventure. The islands are of volcanic origin (2 of which are still active), all different in size, landscape and vibe, with some being more remote than others. On all the islands you will find mesmerising rocky landscapes with cacti, enchanting sea views and magical sunsets… as far as elopement backdrops go, I don’t think it gets much better than that!
I’ve been lucky to spend my childhood and teenage summers in Salina, the green oasis of the Aeolian Islands. I still visit at least once a year and fall in love with the views, the local architecture and the traditional ways of going about life every single time! To me this is home; everyone knows one another and it always feels familiar since not much has changed in over 30 years. Il Principe di Salina is one of the most beautiful boutique hotels on the islands offering incredible hospitality, delicious homemade food and stunning views.
In the Aeolian Islands you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to stunning locations to say your vows and with my local knowledge I can help you find the perfect spot and your dream team! Whether it’s just the two of you or you want to share your elopement with your loved ones, I recommend spending a week exploring the islands by boat, on foot or cruising around in a Vespa.
There are so many elopement destinations in Italy to showcase, but with this post I wanted to share with you destinations that are very close to my heart. Over time they’ve remained somewhat unchartered, and their magic also lies in that they’re true hidden gems. I hope to have given you a glimpse of what your elopement or intimate wedding in Italy could be like. Italy is such a diverse country with so many regions, each one offering a unique experience to their visitors and I would love to help you find the perfect one for your destination wedding. If you would like the support of somebody that gets adventure as much as you do, I’d love to hear from you – you can contact me via my contact page or email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography by the talented Gianmarco Amico, Aljaz Hafner, Daniele Buso, Amir Heshmati.