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A Firenze Fairytale: Love Under a Full Moon
by Sheean Hanlan for Globalnista.com
A full moon is the ideal time to trust one’s intuition, to be open to the possibilities, and to allow new romantic relationships to form. Especially when, like American attorney JenEece Phillips, love finds you when you least expect it, on a bridge in Florence, Italy.
With films like “Unthinkable Good Things,” “Love in a Villa,” and Netflix’s upcoming “From Scratch'' series hitting the big screen, one thing is clear: black women finding love in Italy is trending—and not just in Hollywood.
As featured in The New York Times, NPR and Buzzfeed, Globalnista.com founder and travel expert Fleace Weaver has championed black women finding love between villas and Vespas for years. Weaver’s private Facebook group, “A Black Girl in Italy,” highlights many black brides like JenEece who have found love and tied the knot in Italy.
I had the pleasure of meeting JenEece, her then fiancé Luloloko, and their 1-year-old son at Fleace’s birthday party in Florence.
JenEece’s fairytale romance started on Ponte Alla Carraia, a bridge over the Arno River in Florence beneath a super full moon.
As in Shonda Rhimes’ best-selling book, JenEece packed up her bags four years ago and moved to Florence for her own year of saying “Yes!” to new experiences.
“I came to Florence to kiss all the boys,” she says. At 39, the Bakersfield native was hardly interested in getting married or having kids. JenEece was perfectly content to travel, have fun, and explore new cultures.
One evening in September 2019, JenEece had plans to see the Harvest Moon with a cute bartender who canceled at the last minute.
“I’m still seeing this super moon!” she thought. JenEece made her way to the popular bridge to behold the rare occurrence.
While standing on the bridge, JenEece was approached by Luloloko; a Congolese-born artist and fashion designer adopted as a teenager by an Italian family. JenEece invited him into her full moon selfie.
Luloloko invited her for coffee. She said yes. Not wanting the impromptu date to end, Luloloko invited her to the jazz concert he was headed to. Afterwards, they walked around the city, hand in hand, until 2 am.
“I saw the moon, I saw you, and my heart went boom.” Luloloko confided, gazing at her. “Tonight, our lives have changed forever.”
He was right. Three months later, they were engaged.
For JenEece, there was no question of his feelings about her. Luloloko had been consistent and clear with his intentions from the beginning. He picked her out as a woman he wanted a long-term relationship and a future with. But when he proposed to her in Milan in front of his entire family on Christmas Day, JenEece had her doubts. After all, it had only been three months.
“The pandemic did him a favor,” she says laughing. She recalls visiting family in Bakersfield, California as the first seven COVID deaths were announced out of Milan. As she vacillated between returning to Italy or riding out the pandemic in California with her family, she realized that she didn’t want to be away from him. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with him – in sickness or health.
Wedding plans were put on the shelf over the next two years due to the pandemic. During that time, their son Michael Ambrogio was welcomed into the world
Since their romance bloomed in the birthplace of the renaissance, the couple wanted their wedding to pay homage to Florence. “Every fairytale needs a palace,” says JenEece. Luloloko promptly took steps to make his fiancé’s dream wedding a reality. Against all odds, he secured the historic Palazzo Vecchio (“old palace”), which once was the home of Cosimo I de Medici.
The fairytale wedding finally took place on September 17, 2022. JenEece made a dramatic entrance in the red hall (pictured above) in a dress designed by Atelier Bianca surrounded by silk red drapes, gold-gilded mirrors, and medieval tapestries. Florence Vice-Mayor Alessia Bettini and friend of the groom, officiated the marriage.
Every detail recalled the couple’s serendipitous meeting on the Ponte Alla Carraia under the full moon. Instead of table numbers, each table was named after a Florentine landmark. The couple gifted guests miniature of themselves at Florence’s historic sites under a full moon, hand-painted live by Florentine artist Sofia Toribio.
A four-tiered wedding cake designed by Cake Lab featured the Florentine skyline christened with a hand-painted book symbolizing their fairytale romance.
Today, JenEece thanks the bartender for breaking the date that left space for her to say yes to love that found her under a full moon.