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Bello! Bello!
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Jack, remember that pic I sent you a while back of the chapel of Soccorso? Well the other day I walked down there and saw a gathering crowd, so I decided to stick around. Pretty soon it started.

The groom was swarthy, with a shadow of a beard, in a dark blue suit and brilliant white shirt. The bride was also very dark-skinned, in a shining white silk bridal gown and veil topped by a tiara of flowers. She smiled a lot.

The relatives of the groom all were swarthy, dark-skinned, stocky men who wore perfectly tailored dark suits, bright white shirts and dark ties. I was in bleached denim shorts, sandals and tee shirt, and I sat next to one of those impeccably dressed men.

I got a curious, questioning glance from an old woman, perhaps the aunt of the bride. Her look said, “Who are you?” but no one else paid any attention to me.

Three quarters of the way into the ceremony, the congregation shook hands and without a trace of enmity or distaste the dark-suited gray-haired man to my right offered his hand, as did all the others who were nearby.

A videographer panned his camera on the burning candles, and on the ancient sailing ship models high up on shelves on both sides of the main altar, and on the little angels lining the arch of a side altar, and on the exotic flower arrangements, and on all the guests in the pews, including me, in my white tee shirt and bleached denim shorts and sandals.

Off to the right, in a small altared alcove, an organist and a trumpeter played traditional folk songs. Accompaning them were a young girl, and next to her a mother, who held her four-year-old daughter in her arms as she sang. All four were dressed casually. The music was strange and exotic to my American ear.

When the ceremony concluded, a still photographer arranged the bride, groom, family members and the priest for a series of formal photographs. I walked outside into the sunshine. The sea glittered around Punta Imperatore. The façade of the chapel was an intense, vibrant white.

Finally the bride and groom emerged. A woman handed the bride a bunch of white, helium-filled baloons, and she posed next to her new husband for more photographs. At the foot of the steps two girls held odd-looking tubes with small canisters of compressed gas attached to them.

At a signal the bride released the baloons. At the same time, the girls fired off the tubes and the air was filled with confetti and streamers. A little boy next to me turned his face upward, squinted and blinked, and whispered “Bello! Bello!” The videographer aimed his camera at the baloons, which ascended slowly into the bright sun.


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