Although Paris is justifiably called the City of Love, there is no shortage of amore in Italy. Whether you are looking for love Under the Tuscan Sun or your very own Roman Holiday, here are the Top 9 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Romantic Italy! There are plenty of options for all types of budgets and interests to suit jet-setters and art lovers alike.
Italian Festa Degli Innamorati
There is a lot of mystery surrounding the origin of Valentine’s Day, which was initially popularized in England and France, but the traditions are said to have evolved from both Christian and ancient Roman rituals in present day Italy. One theory claims that the date commemorates the anniversary of Saint Valentine’s death or burial, while another stresses that the Christian church placed Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia. In Italy, only couples typically celebrate “La Festa Degli Innamorati” (which translates more closely to the festival of those in love).
1. Visit Juliet’s Balcony in Verona
Let’s begin in fair Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet. The city sponsors a Verona in Love Festival starting the weekend before Valentine’s Day, which features activities ranging from half-marathons to food tastings and love treasure hunts. The Piazza dei Signori is covered in a huge red carpet in the shape of a heart. Concerts are organized throughout the city and a prize is given each year to the best love letter written to Juliet. On Valentine’s day, the most popular attraction is Juliet’s house, which provides discounted entry. The courtyard includes a bronze statue of Juliet and couples can leave messages on special panels designated for the purpose (to control the graffiti after the house was renovated). The panels are changed twice a year, before Valentine’s day and Juliet’s birthday in September.
2. Explore Rome’s Romantic Museums
The Eternal City’s museums offer plenty of special exhibitions to celebrate San Valentino. The Chiostro Del Bramante is hosting a well-timed exhibition entitled Contemporary Art Meets Love through February 26. The exhibition features Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins — an Instagram favorite. While the Keats Shelley House Museum near the Spanish Steps is organizing a Valentine Poetry Reading Hour with Perugina chocolates. Or you can recreate your own Roman Holiday and explore several landmarks with a Vespa Movie Set Tour.
3. Go Wine Tasting in Tuscany
Rent a villa and tour the sun-drenched Tuscan wine country. The hilltop town of Montalcino is a popular destination due to its prestigious Brunello di Montalcino wine and medieval architecture. The 12th century Castello di Argiano, built on site that housed Etruscan and then Roman settlements, served as the backdrop for scenes in the movie Letters to Juliet.
4. Masquerade at the Venetian Carnival
In addition to the regular Carnevale Venezia program, on Valentine’s Day there are special events to combine the masked Carnival festivities with romance. The morning begins with a Love Market in Piazzale Santan Maria Elisabetta and the evening ends with a Lido in Love party. Couples can take selfies in special Carnival themed areas and partake in paired Venetian mask parades. There is always the option to take a quintessentially Venetian gondola ride near the Bridge of Sighs!
4. Discover Poetic Destinations on the Italian Riviera
The dramatic coastal views of the hamlets of the Gulf of Poets and the quaint fishing villages of Liguria have attracted and inspired poets and writers such as Lord Byron and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley for generations. Sestri Levante, located between Genoa and Florence, was favored by Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson. Sestri is famous for its two bays, the Bay of the Fables (named in honor of Christensen) and the Bay of Silence, which can be best observed from the private gardens of the Grand Hotel dei Castelli. Further north is Camogli, a small fishing village, which hosts an annual “Innamorati a Camogli” (Lovers in Camogli) festival during the week of Valentines. The festivities include a cocktail competition among the local bars, while couples tie heart-shaped cards to fishing nets in the harbor.
5. Admire Florentine Art and Views
The city’s compact historic center is great for walking and filled with Renaissance art history treasures. For art lovers, the Uffizi Gallery Art & Love Tour focuses on the depiction of love in the arts throughout history. (As a holiday bonus, couples only pay for the price of one admission). For unforgettable 360 degree views of Florence, climb the 463 steps of the Duomo. Spend the evening strolling along the River Arno to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge.
6. Enjoy Cliff Side Views Fit for an Emperor in Capri
Stay in the island’s only 5-star hotel, the Caesar Augustus, for a luxurious getaway perched 300 meters above sea level. The secluded Relais & Chateaux property boasts cliff side views of the Amalfi Coast and a restaurant that serves zero mile specialties made with ingredients grown in the kitchen garden. For cliff side views that are less strenuous on the wallet, tour the Villa San Michele, which was built on the site of the ruins from one of Emperor Tiberius’ villas. The gardens at Villa San Michele also offer spectacular views and an idyllic location for a picnic.
7. Hike the Via del Amore in Cinque Terre
One of the most popular trails among the picturesque fishing villages of Cinque Terre is the Via Dell’Amore. The name for the trail is said to be inspired by the fact the Via Dell’ Amore allowed young lovers who lived in the neighboring towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola an easy pathway for meeting up in an otherwise mountainous landscape. It’s also the least physically strenuous part of the trails connecting the five towns.
8. Saveur Seafood & Limoncello in the Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast resort towns boast more than windy mountainous roads with spectacular ocean views. The region is also known for some of the best seafood in the world! Luckily, Valentine’s Day falls during the off-season in the Amalfi Coast, making it a good time to find deals. Although some restaurants are closed during the slow period, the weather is mild and there are plenty of establishments open for Valentine’s Day. My personal favorite among the small towns is Ravello. Tour the gardens or stay at the Villa Cimbrone, which has a Michelin-star restaurant specializing in organically-produced regional cuisine. Enjoy sunset views of the Amalfi Coast at one of the tables on the terrace and cap off your meal with some locally produced limoncello.
9. Take a Cooking Class in a Palazzo
Try your hands at Italian cooking in a renovated 1200 square foot palazzo in the Roman countryside. Palazzo Gregorio offers culinary vacation options in the medieval town of Castro dei Volsci. Learn how to make authentic Italian dishes in a gourmet kitchen and discuss wine pairings while overlooking fabulous mountainside views. The tours include local markets where you learn about artisan products – the Dolce Vita tour includes an opportunity to make your own buffalo mozzarella and limoncello!