VENICE: Venice is abuzz, with Hollywood stars and the world’s paparazzi arriving by gondola for the event of the year: George Clooney’s wedding to Amal Alamuddin, his Lebanon-born British fiancee.
With the exact arrangements being kept strictly under wraps, officials would not confirm whether the ceremony will take place Saturday or Monday, but what’s clear is the city of masks is preparing for a weekend of serious partying.
“Clooney’s on everyone’s lips here in Venice, the girls in particular are all in a tizzy, they’ll be lining the banks of the canal to see him,” said watertaxi driver Bruno Bartolini, who said it would be “a fantastic party.”
“The city’s ground to a halt because they’re using the grand canal, but what does that matter: there’s nothing better than getting married in Venice,” Bartolini said.
Guests including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock and Matt Damon are set to stay at the Hotel Cipriano on the island of Giudecca, where they are expected to dine in style Friday evening with the groom and his glamorous bride-to-be.
The reception is tipped to take place in the exclusive seven-star Aman hotel on the Grand Canal, where guests will be escorted by police boats keen to keep over-excited Clooney admirers and hundreds of photographers at a distance.
Rome’s former mayor Walter Veltroni, a long-term friend of Clooney’s, will be performing the civil ceremony, which is likely to be held in the town hall, the stunning Ca’ Farsetti 14th century palace opposite the Aman hotel.
The singer Lana Del Rey is then expected to serenade 53-year-old Clooney and Alamuddin, 36, in the garden of the Aman, an oasis sheltered from the bustle of the canal, where speed boats will be banned from stopping to keep goggling to a minimum.
Though the world’s most famous waterway will not be closed entirely, there were grumbles in the northern Italian city over the disruption caused by the wedding and such an ostentatious display of wealth in times of economic crisis.
“Clooney’s not bringing us bread for our tables, his getting married here will do nothing to better our problems,” said 16-year-old Viviana, who slammed him for “coming here with all his nice money while we can’t find jobs.”
Fellow local resident Silvana agreed, saying: “It would have been better for all of us if he’d gone to get married in some secret countryside location.”
But nothing appears able to dampen the spirits of the crowds of tourists eagerly snapping photographs of the town hall and Aman from the water ferries, or the locals staking out the best viewing positions in houses along the canal.
All desperate for a glimpse of the erstwhile world’s most eligible bachelor in his Armani suit and Alamuddin in an Alexander McQueen creation designed by Sarah Burton, the woman behind the gown worn by Britain’s Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William in 2011.
Alamuddin, who moved to Britain with her family as a three-year-old, is a top human rights lawyer who met the Hollywood star through his humanitarian work. AFP