Valentine’s Day in Italy: background, traditions and two perfect destinationsFebruary 6, 2023
To experience Valentine’s Day in Italy means to live it in a way that is likely very different from any other country. The traditions of this holiday are, in fact, profoundly embedded in the Italian culture and long history and, although San Valentino has become more consumeristic with time, it still holds some magic.
Let’s begin by saying that, according to some, Valentine’s Day’s historical origin dates back to a pagan celebration called Lupercalia, a fertility holiday dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, Faunus. Celebrated each year at the ides of February, on the 15th day of the month, it was supposed to make the women more fertile in the coming year. All the young women in Rome would write their name on a piece of paper and place it in an urn, from which the bachelors would choose their companion and, quite often, future spouse.
Today, Valentine’s Day is of course celebrated on February 14 and, in Italy, is also known as “San Valentino” or “la festa degli innamorati” (the lovers’ holiday).
Italy’s current Valentine’s Day: magic with a bit of business
Of course, just like every other holiday, Valentine’s Day is also a perfect occasion for brands to promote their products and services. Italy is no exception, and marketers and shop managers certainly know how to keep their potential customers engaged with special offers and magical decorations.
However, this celebration still holds onto some interesting – and, quite frankly, beautiful – traditions. First of all, San Valentino is historically linked to the arrival of spring, and therefore considered some sort of spring festival. In mid-February, winter is about to loosen its grip and the days start to get longer and more luminous, the temperature outside is getting warmer despite the still crisp air, and nature is beginning to bloom again. In a way, Valentine’s Day kicks off the outdoor season, as the advent of spring also means spending time strolling in the city centers, enjoying the sun while sitting in a park and experiencing the city in a much more vibrant way, compared to the previous weeks.
And what about presents?
As is customary, Italian lovers typically exchange gifts on Valentine's Day. According to tradition, the most popular gifts include flowers and sweets, especially “cioccolatini”.
Red roses are typical presents for the lovers’ holiday, although only one in ten pink roses is actually “Made in Italy”. The Italian Farmers Association suggests using Italian flowers such as anemones, buttercups, calendulas, lion mouths, carnations, and freesias to create the ideal bouquet. In addition to being extremely attractive, these flowers have other benefits that should not be overlooked: they are more recent, fragrant, and long-lasting.
Finally, among the most appreciated San Valentino presents in recent times, trips and experiences tailored to couples take the crown.
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Valentine’s Day destinations in Italy: Verona and Venice
If you’re planning your Italian vacation right on time for Valentine’s Day, Verona and Venice are definitely the two main destinations to consider, as they epitomize romantic love to a T.
Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, dresses up for the occasion and decks out in decorations and beautiful lights. Traditionally, its extraordinary Piazza dei Signori vibrates with a heart-shaped market, and numerous activities, performances, and unique guided tours will make your time in the city unforgettable during the week leading up to Valentine's Day.
The historic municipal tower, Torre dei Lamberti, one of the city's emblems and the tallest building in the area, offers a surreal 360-degree panorama of Verona's medieval district. Couples traveling to Verona on Valentine's Day can benefit from special offers and reduced admission rates to the city's landmarks, including this tower. From here, you can see the Piazza dei Signori's large red heart painted on the sidewalk, which serves as Verona's representation of Valentine's Day.
The streets in the ancient district of Verona are embellished with various heart-shaped decorations; large red hearts adorn the streetlights in Via Mazzini, Verona's commercial district, and create a really one-of-a-kind atmosphere in the city's main square, Piazza Bra.
Of course, Juliet's home is the focal point of the Valentine's Day festivities in Verona. Numerous couples, both young and elderly, congregate in the courtyard of the Capulets' house. Some pose for pictures next to the statue, while others write messages on the worldwide famous lovers’ wall. Couples can visit Juliet's residence and the city's museums for less during the week of Valentine's Day. In addition, Shakespeare-based productions, concerts, readings, and Juliet Club award ceremonies occur in Juliet's house and courtyard.
Picture by wirestock on Freepik
And what about Venice? Of course, it’s considered one of the most romantic cities in the world and Valentine’s Day among its canals will never be a letdown. You can get lost in the town’s little side streets, ride a gondola down the Grand Canal, wander along the Riva degli Schiavoni in the evening, and enjoy a romantic meal in one of the many gorgeous restaurants in the city center.
Finally, one of the old Valentine's Day tales from Venice is that if you kiss your significant other as you pass beneath the Bridge of Sighs in a gondola just as the bells of St. Mark's Bell Tower begin to sound, your love will last forever. Even if you don't believe in tales, you have to admit that sharing a passionate kiss in one of Venice's most picturesque locations is still quite romantic!
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