GEORGE Clooney and his Lebanon-born British fiancee Amal Alamuddin arrived in Venice on Friday for a spectacular waterfront wedding billed as the party of the year.
Riding a watertaxi dubbed “Amore” across the Grand Canal, the celebrity pair glided up to the Hotel Cipriani on the island of Giudecca Friday afternoon at the start of nuptials set to draw out over the weekend.
The evening took the pair their separate ways, with the silver-haired actor, director and producer reportedly hosting close friends for dinner at the Cipriani, rustled up by Italian chef Riccardo de Pra.
His 36-year-old human rights lawyer bride-to-be was heading to the Grand Canal’s fresco-adorned Aman hotel with an intimate group, for a luxurious last night as a single woman.
Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Matt Damon and Cindy Crawford, were just a few of the stars — paparazzi in tow — expected at the wedding of the world’s most sought-after catch.
Damon was among the first guests spotted arriving at Venice airport along with Clooney’s cousin Miguel Ferrer and the “Spin City” stars Ellen Barkin and Richard Kind.
Clooney was also also seen helping his father Nick Clooney onto a “vaporetto” boat.
The 53-year-old actor and Alamuddin are expected to be officially married in a civil ceremony on Monday, but the city on water is preparing for a weekend of serious partying before then.
Sources said the actor would be celebrating with 136 guests at a reception on Saturday at the Aman, a seven-star resort within the 450-year-old Palazzo Papadopoli.
“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.
“The city has 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 will be escorted by police boats to the exclusive Aman on Saturday, to keep over-excited Clooney admirers and hundreds of photographers at a distance.
They’ll be met with lashings of champagne and canapes in the garden, an oasis sheltered from the bustle of the canal, before sitting down in the main library to a sumptuous five-course dinner, according to a source close to the hotel.
The Aman’s restaurant will be turned into a nightclub, where they’ll dance the night away, a source said, with Lana Del Rey reportedly preparing to serenade the couple.
Speed boats will be banned from stopping in front of the hotel to keep goggling to a minimum.
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 streets around the town hall will be off limits to the public from 12 noon (1000 GMT) for two hours on Monday, when the ceremony is expected to take place.
Though the world’s most famous waterway will not be closed entirely, there were grumbles in the northern Italian city over the disruption and such an ostentatious display of wealth in times of economic crisis.
“Clooney’s not bringing us bread for our tables,” said 16-year-old Viviana, “coming here with all his nice money while we can’t find jobs.”
Fellow local resident Silvana agreed: “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.
Anything for a glimpse of the erstwhile bachelor in his Armani wedding 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 as a three-year-old and whose rights work has included representing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange — met the Hollywood star through his humanitarian work.
Clooney was married once before, to “Mad Men” actress Talia Balsam, but the pair split in 1993, just before his breakout role in “ER” propelled him to the status of global sex symbol. â€“ AFP