| A newly married couple pose in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy. (Reuters)
Rome, Feb. 10 (Reuters): If love is in the air, as the song says, then the Italian atmosphere must be full of the stuff.
Gorgeous scenery, historic cities, artistic masterpieces and exquisite food and wine draw tens of millions of tourists to Italy every year. Now, that heady mix is increasingly attracting foreigners with a more emotional agenda — marriage.
Some 6,000 foreign couples tie the knot in Italy each year and the number is rising.
“Italy was always a dream destination for us, so when we decided to be married and elope, it seemed like the natural dream locale,” said Steve Clancy from New York.
He had a civil wedding last year in Positano, a picturesque town that clings to steep slopes dropping into the crystalline sea of the Amalfi Coast, south of Naples. What did he get from the experience' “Specialness, beauty, intimacy and timeless memories... plus photographs that blow away anyone else’s wedding pictures.”
And there’s something in it for the hosts, too. Foreign weddings can provide a handsome top-up to municipal revenues, and Italian towns and cities are catching on. A civil ceremony in Venice, where the registry office boasts a view of the Grand Canal, is free for residents during the week but costs 310 euros ($335) for EU citizens and 1,240 euros for couples from outside the bloc.
If they want to get married on a feast day, residents pay 620 euros while non-EU visitors shell out 3,100. And then there’s the reception, flowers, hotel and the obligatory gondola rides. No wonder, then, that Venice city hall launched a website in English, German, Spanish and French to help foreigners arrange their weddings in the romantic lagoon city.
It’s not all about stunning photo albums and municipal bank balances, though. For many Catholics from around the world who marry in Italy every year, the attraction is mostly religious..
“Rome was ideal because of the Catholic connection, the Vatican and the Pope being there,” said Lisa Connolly, from Belfast in Northern Ireland.
“Weddings in exotic places like the Caribbean are really popular, but I never considered anywhere else than Rome. It would not have felt like being properly married by my Church.” Connolly and her husband were married last year in St Patrick’s, an Irish church in Rome. Father Michael Brennock, the rector, said demand was so high that the church was turning couples away.
“Years ago, you might have got widows or widowers wanting a discreet second marriage, or dysfunctional families who weren't too sure who to invite.
“Now couples are beginning to find the significance of the wedding vows is being lost in the trappings of big weddings at home, with money being lashed out on receptions, bands, even rehearsal dinners. Things are kept more simple here.”