happy ever after
FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY
Villa Cipressi Photographer Guide
Villa Cipressi is one of the two most known wedding locations in Varenna (Lake Como). The second one is the Villa Monastero, which is famous for its arches, balcony, the stairs (one of which lead directly to the lake Como and look great from the lakeside) and of course its gardens.
Villa Cipressi is the first villa that you meet next to the Hotel Victoria, which is in the centre of the town. It has the main building and several additional buildings, one of which has its own gates and very old inner yard with an old beautiful painting on the wall (14 Viale Giovanni Polvani). The yard is a great location for family gathering and some group photos, however, the rooms inside are quite small and only suitable for sleep over. There is almost no space for a photography inside the rooms, but I arrange very nice preparation photoshoots for the groom and his friends in the yard instead (watch the last video on the bottom - my vlog).
For the bride, I would always recommend booking a larger suite. These are spacious rooms, suitable for a makeup, hair, getting dressed and photos during all of that. Why is it important? Well, in the morning you most likely decide to stay with your mother and best friends, laugh, enjoy, get ready for the wedding ceremony. There are going to be at least several people around you, some coming, some leaving. Some rooms are too small for that, or have huge king-size beds in the middle of the room, which leaves very little space around the bed, I would usually take only a few photos in such rooms and would rather invite all to go to the stairs for more photos. Larger suites have more room for all wedding staff, family and friends to move, and pictures look great. Don't buy the idea of the "lake view", this is of no value for pictures at all, we do not take pictures of the lake when shooting inside the room. But it is also true that all larger suites will have a lake view. By the way, I have had some couples booking different locations for preparation, not even in the villa Cipressi itself. In Varenna there are several spacious B&B, less known villas etc. There is a nice walk to the villa Cipressi, so on the way we also take some interesting and usually "Italian style" shots, and of course, then you can experience the Italian "Auguri!" (when people on the street clap and shout "Auguri!" - eng. "Congratulations!" to the couple).
The usual time for the ceremony is around 4pm. This is still sunny time of the day, but is not as hot as at 2pm, especially in summer. The ceremony takes place on the lower area, which looks amazing. However, quite often the first 1-2 rows are lit with the bright sun, so please do not sit children there, for adults the sunglasses are recommended.
In case if you have booked two photographers (I recommend it only if you have more than 40 guests in your wedding), this is how it all works:
My second photographer Maria comes to the groom's location where she takes pictures of the preparation, all the boys' fun and so on. I have no idea how she manages this, but she makes boys feel very comfortable with her, they tend to relax and just enjoy their morning as if she was not there.
Just a few minutes before the ceremony, Maria comes to the ceremony location and takes some shots of the guests and the groom waiting for the bride, while I am staying with the bride and take some pictures on the stairs of the villa on our way to the main location.
Photo session in Varenna before the ceremony
Spacious suite Magnolia
The gates of Hotel Victoria
Bouquet toss later in the evening
Traditional Armenian wedding ceremony
Different preparation location decorated in marine style
Bouquet toss moment
The streets of Varenna on the way to Villa Cipressi
The Cipressi gates are one of the most known places of attraction
Maria takes amazing shots of the boys while I am staying with the bride
Sunset in Varenna
The groom and guests waiting for the bride
Sunset in Villa Cipressi
The view of Villa Monastero from the lake side
Spacious suites allow more friends to stay around, more fun for the bride as well
The painting in the inner yard of the villa Cipressi
Preparation in a different location
My team (left to right): Vytas (videographer), Maria and me
During the ceremony, we take pictures without the clicking sound of the cameras, since we use only mirrorless Sony cameras and the fastest G master lenses. After the ceremony, all the guests are invited to the aperitivo on the middle level of the villa. This is when we try to be discrete or take some pictures and videos with the drone. Usually we do not take many pictures there and let all the guests to relax and enjoy their chat with each other. However, I offer everyone to use this time for family or friends and other group pictures.
After aperitivo we would invite all guests to come back to the ceremony location (which by this time is cleared from the chairs) and have some family and group pictures. Some people think that the best is to take pictures with the lake view at that moment, which is not true. The sun lights the whole lake so bright, that all images look slightly washed out because of the bright background. To avoid a bad quality result, I ask my couple and the guests to stand so that we see the garden of the villa in the background. In this way we get no sun spells on the faces, no bright background, no disturbing shadows.
I also use the stairs for the main group photo (or the drone), then we get some lake on the background, but I guess in this case this is not as important as the people in the photo.
In many cases, we have a styled photo shoot of the couple after that. The best time for this is as late as possible, but before 8pm. The sun at 5pm is still too harsh, so I always recommend planning a wedding photo session later than that. Around 8-9pm the sun goes behind a big mountain on the other side of the lake, which drops a huge shadow on Varenna. After that, the images will look less colourful and dark, so I would recommend a photo session of the couple before that but not earlier than 5pm. On the other hand, I did have some couples who wanted the main photo shoot before the ceremony. This is possible too, but the best way is to do that in Varenna itself, and then have another shorter photo session in the gardens of the villa Cipressi after the ceremony or between the meals. One of the most known locations in the garden of Cipressi are the gates, I usually ask the manager to open them for our photo session. I do that because there is a quite interesting spot on the right side outside that can be used for very beautiful pictures too.
The garden of the villa is beautiful too. We usually take a short walk, during which I take some natural pictures. I do no pose and do not give commands to my couples, but I do provide a guidance to make sure they are relaxed, not thinking about the photo session at all, and enjoying themselves. This is quite valued by many of my clients in their reviews.
After we come back to the guests, I usually do not interact that much with anyone, but stay discrete. I do offer everyone to get a professional picture taken if I see that they are interested in that, but otherwise I just capture whatever I can. The villa allows music until 11pm, unless the client books all the rooms - then the party can continue longer. In most cases, we have a bouquet toss, first dance and cake done until then. By the way, there are several locations for the cake, so if you can influence that, pick the one in front of the fountain, it looks the most beautiful in the pictures.
In conclusion, I would confirm, that I am not paid or associated with the Villa Cipressi in any possible way. I have no friends working there, I get no benefit in writing all of this, except your acknowledgment. Villa Cipressi is just one of the villas that I work in, so I have no personal interest in my couples selecting this villa for their wedding. The idea of this article is to help you to understand better the location without visiting it in person.
Just in case you are interested, I provide services in Como since 2017. Quite often I work with Maria who is my second photographer and who, as you know now, takes care of the grooms side of the "wedding day story". She also helps me a lot with the group and guests photos, she takes a lot of pictures of the guests while the couple and I are taking stunning images at the gates or in the garden. There is also a videographer in my team, who has joined me in 2020. I know him for longer than that, but it was hard to get him on board, and now he works with me, and I am very happy about it. Below you will find some videos of my team that may provide you with more visual content, and I hope you find all this information helpful.