Weddings are by definition joyous occasions, and one that hasn't even happened yet has already made the mayor of this small, picturesque town happy indeed.
The mayor, a lady elegant in that casual way Italian women have, is actually a stand-in because the elected one died in office. She held a news conference today to talk about the impending nuptials of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in the town's imposing 15th-century castle.
Signora Patrizia Riccioni told more journalists and camera crews than the town has ever seen that she could not, of course, confirm the wedding would actually take place because, as she put it with a smile, "in every wedding we must wait for the bride until the last moment."
It was a sense of humor and grace that is rarely manifested by politicians.
The same couldn't be said for an Italian photographer who, in an effort to go behind the mayor to cross the room, caught his leather jacket on a chair, which he dragged into her. Signora Riccioni carried on as if nothing had happened; she was in such full flow that when she finally paused for breath, she giggled and apologized to the translator for getting too far ahead. It was, she explained, a first for this sort of thing.
The mayor also took the opportunity to thank everyone in the municipality who had pitched in to make the occasion work. That included everyone from the local shopkeepers, who are doing their best to turn a quick euro without being rip-off artists, to the police, carabinieri, firemen, civil defense, parking attendants and even the local school that has tuned over its grounds to provide a parking lot for press vehicles.
The space is necessary because on Saturday, the day the wedding may or may not take place, cars will be banned from the historic center of the town. The hoards of fans and sightseers expected to flood in will have to park at the edge and take special shuttle buses.
The press have been given hastily made passes, and the mayor apologized for having charged us for the space to set up live camera positions and satellite trucks. But, she explained, it is expensive to stage such an event, and she hoped we would understand that the town didn't have a budget to cover it.
Apparently the Cruise party did not offer to offset the cost.
At any rate, the town hopes to recoup any losses through an influx of tourists — especially Americans, who until the wedding would never have heard of the place.
And in truth, it must be said that they have been missing something.
Set on the shores of Lake Bracciano, the eighth-largest body of fresh water in Italy and the result of an ancient volcano, the town of Bracciano is a jumble of cobbled and flagstone streets, small shops and elegant homes with flower boxes in windows and on doorsteps and good, family-run restaurants.
One of them is offering a special "Tom and Katie risotto," which is said to be a big hit with journalists on their first visit to Italy. There are more than a few of those, including the kind seldom if ever seen here — those who specialize in celebrity reporting.
They, and the rest of us, have probably interviewed half the population by now, most especially those who speak even a modicum of English.
The sentiment seems to be universal: What a great thing.