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Italian Town Has TomKat Wedding Fever

MARTA FALCONINovember 18, 2006

BRACCIANO, Italy (AP) _ With the town spruced up and its residents eager to welcome the stars, all that was left was for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to arrive Saturday.

Streets were cleaned, the grass cut and weeds pulled. Road signs outside the lakeside town of Bracciano warned drivers that the center 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.

Guests were expected to include Jennifer Lopez and husband singer Marc Anthony; the actor Will Smith; soccer star David Beckham with his pop-star wife Victoria; ``Mission Impossible III″ director, J.J. Abrams and the actress Brooke Shields.

Barriers were set up 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 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 displayed 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 a 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 beside 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 attended a reception at a villa on a hill overlooking Rome.

Bracciano Mayor Patrizia Riccioni said the celebrity couple would wed Saturday _ probably in a Scientology ceremony _ at the castle, 27 miles north of Rome.

Scientology ceremonies contain many elements of traditional weddings, including rings and vows. But they also include certain Scientology fundamentals, including vowing never to go to bed without communicating about any differences.

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.

Riccioni said her office had not received a request to celebrate a civil wedding as of midday Friday.

Riccioni, who met with the couple Wednesday and gave them a gift, said she had received a large bouquet of white flowers, including roses, from the duo.

``These beautiful flowers arrived from both of them with a thank you note,″ Riccioni told The Associated Press.

She described her meeting with Cruise and Holmes and baby Suri, who was born on 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.″

Cruise and Holmes have been staying this week at the luxury hotel near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

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