Our Groom-to-be is now a fully fledged married man (if you missed his gorgeous wedding then you can check it out here!). Today he he’s tell give us the low down on his beautiful Italian honeymoon :) Take it away, Al!
I have to admit, there is something flagrantly ironic about a newlywed gay couple spending their first few nights of honeymoon in the Roman Catholic Capital of the world. But after seeing ‘Roman Holiday’, it seemed a pretty romantic place to begin our life of wedded bliss. Plus, I gather the new Pope is pretty liberal.
Being the clichéd homosexual men that we are, our main concern on arrival at the Star Metropole Hotel was locating an iron. We had brand spanking new chinos to don and who wants to walk around Rome with crumpled pleats? No one in their right mind, obviously.
Upon discovering a trouser press we could relax and get on with enjoying our trip.
The first night was surreal to say the least. In a good way. It was hard to believe that a mere 48 hours previous we had been sat on a marquee dance floor gyrating to “oops upside your head”. Not wanting to venture far due to post-wedding fatigue we had dinner in a nearby Japanese/Italian fusion restaurant- very trendy, darling- and were accosted by a middle aged Belgian couple who were sat at an inappropriate proximity to us (Italian seating has no sympathy for personal space).
Amongst the chit chat about Italian food, culture and architecture Mr Belgian Man came up with a nugget of advice so awesome in its simplicity that I was slightly taken aback: “Buildings and food and art are all great, but it’s relationships that truly matter.” Not to sound like a soppy fool but that has really stuck with me and was a perfect launch pad for our honeymoon… Maybe you just had to be there?!
I won’t bore you with the details of our extensive sight seeing- that’s akin to a barrage of holiday snaps- but I will say that neither of us burst into flames on entering the Vatican, so that’s a plus. Also, Rome is beautiful. Crazy, loud and commercial, but beautiful all the same.
My fondest memory is of our last evening spent at a roof-top restaurant, the name of which escapes me. The waiter greeted us with a booming “Buona sera, Meester and Meester” and seated us next to what can only be described as the campest collage in human history; comprising of Madonna and Marilyn Monroe images, torn from magazines. Loved it.
The meal was pretty rubbish but we got plastered on limoncello and gorged on ‘Fagola’ breadsticks, so what more could you want? Before leaving, and this is my favourite part, our vociferous waiter bounded over to tell Jonny that he looked like Andrew McCarthy: “You know, the guy from ‘Mannequin'”. My first thought was ‘how random’, closely followed by ‘does that make me Kim Cattrall in this scenario?’
Our next stop was the homoerotic hub that is Florence. Never have I seen so many statues of naked men with gloriously chiselled biceps, buns and pubic hair (oddly). I was surprised to learn, therefore, that Florence is actually quite conservative and has one of the smallest gay scenes in Italy. It seemed strange to me that a city famous for nurturing Renaissance art and culture could be quite so repressed. Not that you’d know it- the shopping alone was a gay man’s Mecca (Versace, Gucci, Dior. Oh my!) Correction, THIS gay man’s Mecca *no stereotyping*
The hotel was a complete contrast to that of Rome’s. When arriving at the Alba Palace we instantly felt at ease. Granted, there were one too many replica busts in reception and our room was where yellow went to die, but there were sweet personal touches everywhere. For example, atop our mini bar were ‘his and hers’ teddy bears propped against a bottle of prosecco with a sign that read: “Happy Anniversary”… Awww, close but no cigar.
Florence was my favourite city of the tour. I’d like to say there were mostly cultural reasons behind this (of which there were a few) but mainly it was down to one thing: gelato.
Somehow the stars aligned on our first evening stroll and we discovered what can only be described as the home of ice cream porn, in gelateria form. The Gelato Gods had smiled upon us and we did gorge. Sufficed to say this gelateria was frequented over the next few days and on each occasion the little plastic spoon had to be wrestled from my quivering hands. Unfortunately, I was so dazzled by the confections that I’ve forgotten the name of the place, but if we ever go back I know exactly where I’ll be heading.
Of course Florence houses several other impressive attractions. We were blown away by The Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery, and the Ponte Vecchio has immense quirky charm (although best appreciated from the next bridge along), and if you’re not hampered by claustrophobia or vertigo the view from Giotto’s Campanile is pretty nifty. Okay, it’s stunning!
But, oh! The gelato!
The next stop was Venice, and I am going to be stating the obvious here when I say it is an incredible place. For starters there are no deranged Italian drivers trying to run you over at every turn (always a plus). Of course we weren’t expecting any cars but it was bizarre nonetheless.
Again, I won’t relate all details of our exploits but know this, dear readers: Venice is a labyrinth, and there’s no better place to get lost. For instance, it’s hard to stay angry with your husband during a row over directions when you really just want him to take a picture of you next to another beautiful bridge.
I do have one anecdote that Cwtch readers will appreciate. While queuing for an evening concerto – as one does- a Japanese couple emerged from nowhere with an over zealous photographer in tow. That in itself was not weird, but the girl was dressed in a floor length red couture ball gown, diamanté tiara and crystal encrusted Louboutins (yes, I clocked those red soles immediately), while her beau was trussed up in a tux. They plunged into the queue for a series of awkward group shots with complete strangers, one of whom asked “Have you just got married?” The young lady replied “No, we just got engaged”, and off they scampered into the next gathering of unwitting tourists.
What the hell?! Firstly, had the photographer been present for the proposal? And secondly, if that was their engagement shoot what was the wedding going to be like?!
Our last three days in Italy were uber romantic. In fact with all the operatic gondolas, concertos and candlelit ‘meals for two’ it felt like a Rom Com on steroids. In retrospect this amorous haze had a slight opiate effect, resulting in temporary loss of reason and delusions of grandeur. Case in point; hiring a water-taxi to convey us 4 1/2 miles to the airport at an extortionate rate. At the time there seemed like no better way to end our adventure than waving arrivederci to Venice from the back of a speedboat at sunset, and thank goodness for such delusions, otherwise we’d have spent two hours on a water bus with 100 strangers.
I believe there is an expression which goes something like: “You will get lost in Rome, find yourself in Florence and fall in love in Venice”. For us it felt more like you will get lost in Rome, you will get lost in Florence and you will get lost in Venice. But that’s no big deal; we were pretty much in love at the start.
Thanks for reading Cwtchers! This is Mr Watkins-Stuart Esquire signing off