By MARTA FALCONI, Associated Press Writer
BRACCIANO, Italy – This lakeside town was busy Friday sprucing up its medieval facade with a touch of Hollywood flair on the eve of‘s wedding to , naming restaurant menus after the actors’ most famous movies and filling shop windows with well-wishing messages.
Streets were cleaned, the grass cut and weeds pulled. Road signs outside Bracciano warned drivers that the center of town would be closed to traffic all of Saturday to free the area around the 15th-century Odescalchi Castle — the likely venue for the celebrity wedding.
By early afternoon, town workers began setting up barriers on the street leading to one of the castle’s entrances. The historic town’s narrow streets teemed with journalists and camera crews, while locals made their own preparations.
“We are all participating a little in this wedding,” said Simona Palazzini, a restaurant owner in the square next to the castle. “And we are quite happy to do so.”
At the Il Ristorantino dining spot Palazzini offered a “Top Gun” menu that included fettuccine with seafood called “Mission Impossible” and apple pie with cream and hot chocolate named after Suri, the couple’s daughter. At the nearby Trattoria del Castello, guests could order a “Tom e Kat” — a basket of parmesan cheese with truffles and mushrooms.
“Wishing you love and happiness,” read one well-wishing sign written in English and taped to the window of a coffee shop.
“Congratulations Tom and Katie,” said a sticker on the window of a clothing store, whose two other windows sported a wedding dress with a photograph of the couple, and a “Top Gun” theme with aviation outfits and jackets, and a poster of Cruise as Maverick, the pilot he played in the movie.
Nearby, a store had an arch of white balloons over its doorway, except for one red one shaped like a heart. A picture of the couple and a postcard of Bracciano hung from the red balloon.
“This is good for the town. It’s a beautiful thing that will make Bracciano known to the whole world,” said Iolanda Barbarani, who owns a hardware store.
Lidia Sabbatini, who owns a flower shop, said residents were besides themselves with excitement.
“Everybody is so enthusiastic. … it’s not an everyday thing to have a Hollywood star as a guest,” Sabbatini said. “That’s all anyone is talking about. Wherever you go, they’re talking about it. People aren’t even taking the time to buy bread!”
On Friday evening, Cruise and Holmes left the Hassler hotel where they have been staying in Rome to take part in a reception at a villa on a hill overlooking the Italian capital.
On Thursday, Bracciano Mayor Patrizia Riccioni said the celebrity couple would likely wed Saturday in a Scientology ceremony at the castle, 43 kilometers (27 miles) north of Rome.
While she stopped short of confirming the actual date of the wedding, the town’s Web site had a picture of Cruise and Holmes under the headline, “The wedding of the year in Bracciano, Saturday, 18 November 2006.”
Riccioni, who met with the couple Wednesday at an undisclosed location and gave them a gift, said Friday she had received a large bouquet of white flowers, including roses, from the couple.
“These beautiful flowers arrived from both of them with a thank you note,” Riccioni told The Associated Press, adding that she was “almost moved” by the gesture.
Riccioni described her meeting with Cruise and Holmes and baby Suri, who was born April 18, as “intimate,” saying that “they seemed to be a couple in love who is ready to take the big step of getting married.”
She said that her office had not received any request to celebrate a civil wedding as of late Friday morning, and that she believed the ceremony in Bracciano would be a Scientology rite. She has not been invited to the ceremony, she said.
Scientology ceremonies contain many elements of traditional weddings — rings, procession, vows, etc. But they also include certain Scientology fundamentals, including vowing to never to go to bed without communicating about any differences. They also stress the Scientology tenet known as ARC — A for affinity, the closeness between a couple; R for reality, what a couple agrees on; C for communication, the exchange of ideas and thoughts.
A spokesman for the Church of Scientology for Rome, Fabrizio D’Agostino, said an exchange of vows with a Scientology rite was not legally recognized in Italy, and would have to be preceded or followed by a civil union.
The medieval castle — with its frescoed library and a loggia looking out on a lake — and the town that surround it have seen celebrity weddings before. CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour and U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin married there in 1998.
The same year, Italian pop starand his bride, TV personality Michelle Hunzicker, had their reception at the castle, gathering a crowd of TV celebrities and pop stars, including .
Cruise and Holmes have been staying this week at the luxury hotel near the Spanish Steps in Rome. They dined out Thursday night with about 50 guests at a small, nearby restaurants.
Those spotted coming and going into the restaurant included “Mission Impossible III” director, J.J. Abrams,and and Lopez’s husband, singer .
Meanwhile, more VIP guests flew into Rome on Friday.arrived at the city’s small Ciampino airport in the late morning, and soccer star David Beckham and his pop-star wife, Victoria, arrived in the afternoon.
Cruise and Holmes were first photographed together in Rome in April 2005. They became engaged in June 2005.