Celebrating San Valentino in Italy; la Festa Degli Innamorati
When it comes to romance Italy is certainly one of the most sought destinations. Filled with love, tourist attractions, delicious food and history, it’s no wonder Italy strongly attracts people from all over the world.
Many newlyweds are keen to spend their honeymoon in Italy choosing Venice for the most romantic holiday; however other destinations such as Verona, Rome and Florence are getting more and more popular and for all the right reasons. Italy boasts a whole range of experiences, such as sightseeing, boat riding, romantic venues to dine in and so much more!
This article will be taking you on a guided tour of all the things you can do in Venice and in the eternal city of Rome on Valentine’s Day or whenever you can visit them. First of all, let’s dive into the origins of St Valentine’s Day.
The dark origins of St Valentine’s day
On February the 14th around the year 270 AD, a holy priest called Valentine was executed in Rome following the orders of Emperor Claudius II. During his empire, Rome was involved in atrocious bloody campaigns. The Cruel Claudius had difficulties recruiting soldiers to join his military league; he believed that Roman men were too attached to their wives and families.
To resolve this problem, he thought of banning all engagements and marriages in Rome. Valentine, believing the law was unfair, continued to marry lovers in secret, hence defying the Emperor himself and it didn’t end well for him. As a matter of fact, he was discovered and sentenced to death, and a brutal one; he was dragged before the Prefect of Rome, beaten to death with clubs and had his head cut off.
The legend says that while in jail, Valentine wrote a message to the jailer’s daughter to whom he became a friend to and signed it “from your Valentine” For his valiant actions, the church named him a Saint after his death. However, the precise origins and identity of St Valentine remain uncertain.
How did his name become linked to romance?
There are different legends around this topic, with the most popular one being that the date of the martyr’s death may have become associated with the pagan Feast of Lupercalia. During this love festival the names of young women were placed in a box in order to be randomly drawn by men to have a direct chance with them. A sort of speed dating I suppose?
In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the festival and decided that February the 14th would have been celebrated as St Valentine’s Day from then on.
Indeed the day of love is widely celebrated all over the world and it is one of the largest sending holidays of the year. Valentine’s Day is also the most preferred day in Italy for engagements and marriage proposals!
Here are a few essential Italian phrases for expressing love and propose
- “Ti amo”– “I love you” (used when lovers fall in love with each other)
- “Ti voglio bene”– “I love you” (used with family, friends and loved ones)
- “Mi vuoi sposare?” (do you want to marry me?)
- “Vuoi essere mia moglie?” (do you want to be my wife?)
Celebrating love in Venice
There are plenty of things to do in Venice on St. Valentine’s Day with Ponte dei Sospiri () being one of the first attractions to visit. Perhaps the most famous bridge in Venice, the Bridge of Sighs offers one of the most prominent and stunning sights in Venice. Where is its peculiar name coming from? In the past prisoners were led to their cells or execution chamber through this bridge. The most probable story is about the last view prisoners took of the city whilst sighing, thus giving birth to the myth.
These days the sighs on the bridge are significantly different as they come from the exclamation of amazement of tourists and lovers.
At only 600 meters away is located another well-known bridge, il Ponte di Rialto, where couples can tie locks with their names on them as a gesture of love. However, a truly romantic holiday or honeymoon wouldn’t be completed without the most romantic experience lovers can live in Venice.
Of course, I am talking about the Gondola ride with the best time being in the evening, just before sunset. Choose the Gondola Serenade ride, a 30 minutes ride where you can listen to traditional Italian music. It is the most expensive ride costing 41 euros per person, but it is surely worth it.
Later in the evening you can head to Piazza San Marco, the main square, filled with tourist crowds during the day, it becomes a wonderful dance floor at night where you can dance on the notes of the orchestra playing outside the renowned Caffè Florian. The temptation to rest after a good dancing session and get a coffee at one of the cafes on the square will be strong; therefore, it is useful to know that having a coffee sitting down at the tables will cost you 12 euros per person!
Did you know?
February is also the month of the Italian Carnevale, a festival which involves dressing up in colourful masks and costumes and parading along with Carri di Carnevale (floats) on the streets of Venice. The Venetian Carnival is the most celebrated Carnival in Italy, followed by the Carnevale di Viareggio, but each city and town have their own version.
Must try Venetian traditional foods
Your visit of Venice would be incomplete if you don’t indulge in the most traditional Venetian dishes. Here is what to try:
Baccalà mantecato: (creamy salted cod fish), usually offered as a starter or as an aperitif.
Risi e bisi: a main dish which consists of rice, fresh peas and pancetta (thick bacon).
Polenta with schie: Polenta is the most traditional Venetian dish; it is made of a mix of cereal flours and cooked in boiling water for long time. In this case polenta is dressed with schie, tiny shrimps of a grey colour fished in the lagoon, definitely a unique winning combination.
Bigoli: A main dish made of pasta like spaghetti, but thicker; bigoli is served with a special sauce made of onion and sardines.
Fritole: A typical Venetian carnival sweet, fritole are very popular all year round. They are little fried dough balls dressed with pine nuts and raisins or they can be filled with cream (a sort of thick custard) or zabaione which is basically egg yolks beaten with caster sugar and a sweet wine.
In central and Southern Italy Marsala is usually used whilst in the North Moscato d’Asti is more common. Prepared for the first time in the XVIII century Fritole is definitely Venice’s signature sweet.
Where to take your loved one for a romantic dinner
Do you want a special restaurant where to take your loved one on St. Valentine’s Day? Check Trip Advisor rankings for the best romantic restaurants in Venice. They are rated mostly by Italians; hence you can certainly taste authentic Italian food and avoid tourist traps.
A brief visit to Verona
Whilst in Venice a visit to Verona which is located only one hour and twenty minutes away by car, is a must. There you will find La casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house) home to one of Shakespeare’s favourite heroines. Juliet is the icon of the most famous love play ever written; Romeo and Juliet.
Juliet’s house fun facts
It is said that if you stick a note with a declaration of your love on the courtyard walls you will be together forever. However, be careful, these days if you do that you will be fined 500 euros. This is because the chewing gum used to stick the notes on the walls was damaging the structure of the house.
Do you need some luck in finding your soul mate? It is believed that if you touch the right breast of Juliet’s statue, it will bestow luck upon you in finding your own true love. Perhaps a safer option than sticking love notes on the courtyard walls today.
People in search of love advice still write letters to Juliet. The letters are answered by a team of secretaries working in the very same house. This particular fact became an inspiration for the movie “Letters to Juliet” starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave.
Celebrating love in Rome
A truly romantic venue is Lo Zodiaco; one of Rome’s scarcely tourist places where Italians like to stroll with their loved one and exchange kisses. Lo Zodiaco is situated on top of the highest and sumptuous hill in Rome called Monte Mario, located north of the Vatican. At night, the scene is breath taking with Rome’s lights twinkling for miles around.
The venue boasts a café area open day and night. Here you can enjoy cocktails and nibbles if you don’t fancy Italian hot drinks. For the greatest romantic experience make sure you get there before sunset.
Also in Rome, you get the chance to express your love by tying a padlock on a bridge, the Ponte Milvio Bridge. Following the success of the famous book and film “ho voglia di te” (I want you), starring the hot Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio, couples started tying padlocks around the pillars of lamp posts and then threw the keys into the river Tevere (Tiber).
To round off the day, choose a super romantic Night Tour of the Colosseum; certainly the most romantic and intense way to experience the buzz of the iconic ancient amphitheatre once the doors close to the general public. What an unforgettable experience!
Need to destress? For a luxury spa experience, the Cavalieri Grand Spa Club part of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels is the place to go to for a relaxing day with your partner. Benefits of going to a spa include; de-stressing; anti-ageing; improves sleep; higher levels of happiness and relief of bodily tensions such as muscle aches.
So, this is the perfect opportunity to both look and feel your best whilst having the best time of your life with your sweetheart. The Cavalieri Hotel is just a 30 minute walk away from the Vatican museums.
For a unique experience head to the Roman countryside and let us spoil you. You will have the opportunity to learn Italian with a qualified tutor whilst learning how to make a romantic lunch or dinner with a professional bilingual Chef.
You will love a guided visit to the winery Casal del Giglio along with an outstanding wine tasting including up to 20 labels.
For more information get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our live and learn Italian in Italy page https://www.languagesalive.com/learn-italian-in-italy/
Roman traditional food
We say “When in Rome, eat like the Romans” We have put together a bucket list which contains 10 iconic traditional Roman foods. Check it out here! https://www.languagesalive.com/top-10-foods-to-eat-in-rome/
Where to take your loved one for a romantic dinner in Rome
Don’t take our word for it, check what thousands of Italians rate the most romantic restaurants in Rome. https://www.tripadvisor.it/Restaurants-g187791-zfp3-Rome_Lazio.html
What to buy for your Valentine
Are we talking about chocolate? Of course we are! Baci Perugina is the first chocolate which comes in mind when love is in the air. Why? Simple, there is something unique to these delicious dark chocolate truffles filled with hazelnut. That is a multilingual love note right inside each one! Baci are produced by Perugina one of the most famous chocolate making Italian companies. You don’t have to be in love to enjoy these sublime chocolates, we all deserve some.
When talking about chocolate we cannot forget to mention the world famous Ferrero Rocher, these mouth-watering chocolates come in special editions just for St Valentine!
Did you say prosecco? Yes, of course. The special Bottega Gold Prosecco is just what you need to celebrate without getting a terrible hangover the day after. It is a superior prosecco which comes in an elegant golden gift box featuring a stylish heart.
Want to explore more gifts?
Do you have time on your hands? Then, there is no excuse not to bake some delicious heart shaped biscuits filled with strawberry jam. If you would like to make healthy cookies, you definitely have to use the miraculous flour. Spelt is a healthier alternative to wheat flour and it contains vital nutrients such as zinc, magnesium and iron.
It is high in fibre which means it is good for digestion and it is also great for keeping the heart healthy. Spelt was widely grown in Roman times and legend has it the Roman army called it their “marching grain”.
Moreover, It also has the benefit of helping people maintain a healthy weight which is helpful for people with weight associated conditions such as diabetes.
In addition, you can swap refined sugar with raw brown sugar and butter with sunflower oil! Need the recipe?
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Tips for looking your best this Valentine:
Italians are known for using natural products for their body, hair and skin care. For instance, olive oil is beneficial for skin and hair and has been used by Italians for centuries. Similarly, coffee grinds are good for skin especially for exfoliating it when combined with olive oil or coconut oil as coffee tightens skin. A popular food in Italy is dark chocolate; the zinc in dark chocolate increases endorphins and serotonin, the so called happy hormones.
Italian romantic music
At last but not least, it is time for some Italian romantic music.
The iconic love song written by Umberto Tozzi is still high in the charts when one feels romantic. Simply named “Ti amo” is known by old and young generations alike.
You can watch the Italian version with lyrics here
Here are the correct Italian lyrics
An interesting version it the one sang by Umberto Tozzi and Anastacia with English Lyrics
Another iconic love song is certainly “Questo piccolo grande amore” (This little, big love) written and sang by one of most famous Italian love singer of all times; Claudio Baglioni.
Enjoy the song with Italian lyrics