Valentine’s Day: Traditions and Romantic Sites

Facts, traditions and unique events to celebrate your love in Italy

Romance is a necessity for Italians, it is in the air, food, wine, literature, films, music and most of all in the language.

It is no surprise that Valentine’s day is a big deal in Italy and a strong part of the Italian cultural tradition.

The history of Valentine’s day in the culture of ancient Italy

About eight hundred years before St Valentine was born, Valentine’s day traditions set its roots in ancient Roman culture when Juno Februtis, god of purification and fertility, was worshipped on 15 February and the celebration of Lupercalia was believed to bring purification and fertility on the city of Rome.

Legend says that on the eve of ‘Lupercalia‘ – February 14th – the names of young Roman women were drawn from an urn by young men, and became ‘betrothed’ for at least the following year.  Some, though by no means all, of those unions later became marriages.

So, modern Valentine’s day traditions related to becoming ‘engaged’ on 14th February seem to go back as far as the culture of ancient Roman weddings.

After the Roman Empire

The rise of Christianity meant that Christian leaders weren’t keen on keeping ‘pagan’ traditions nor did they want to alienate the Roman population.

So ‘Lupercalia‘ was re-defined as a Christian festival of love as Valentine’s date February 14th dedicated to the 3rd century Roman Martyr Valentine.

ROMANTIC PLACES IN ITALY

That’s Amore is why Travel and Leisure has ranked three Italian cities among the top 10 most romantic destinations in the world: Venice, Florence and Rome.

But also, Italy’s picturesque seaside villages, beautiful countryside, lakes, and historic cities are filled with romantic settings, views, hotels, and restaurants.

Portofino, Liguria : I Found My Love in Portofino

This song, inspired by the style of Louis Armstrong, became an all-time summer classic. It was composed in Liguria, though not actually in Portofino but nearby  at Paraggi near Santa Margherita, almost by accident by Fred Buscaglione and his friend Leo Chiosso.

“Love in Portofino” turned out to be an incredible success, a song at international level. The album sold 160,000 copies, and performed by Johnny Dorelli, Dalida,  Paul Anka, and recently by Andrea Boccelli.

Portofino, The half-moon shaped seaside village with pastel houses, restaurants, and cafes lining the harbor , a romantic castle, and a tiny church, sit atop the hill overlooking the village. This town and the surrounding coastal towns of Liguria bordering with the Piedmont Langhe region, and Tuscany not far from Lucca,  have inspired poets, writers, and lovers from around the world.

The lyrics:

 I found my love in Portofino because I still believe in dreams the strange twist of destiny, in Portofino, took my heart .

In the sweet charm of the morning, the sea brought you to me I close my eyes and next to me in Portofino, I see you. 

I remember a corner of the sky where I uset to wait for you I remember your so beloved face and your mouth to kiss 

I found my love in Portofino those kisses I won't forget, my pathway is no longer sad in Portofino, I found my love 

I found my love in Portofino, down in that small Italian bay, and everything was so divino, In Portofino, I found my way 

The sun was shining that mattino And so my words were just a few. I close my eyes and so vicino, in Portofino, I still see you 

There was a place made just for lovers the sky and sea and friendly bar tables and chairs and lazy waiters a curly boy playing guitar 

And when it's night in Portofino the stars twinkling up above I close my eyes and so vicino, in Portofino, I found my love 

 

Verona, Veneto

Rome & Juliet and the Shakespeare tragedy

The history of Verona, Italy, is tied up inextricably with love and romance.  Celebrated as one of the great world heritage sites, Shakespeare chose to set ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the beautiful town of Verona, where Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a special way .

‘Verona in Love’ (‘Un Cuore da Scoprire’) takes place on 13th and 14th February every year. It’s a tradition stemming from the links between the town and Shakespeare’s play of star-crossed lovers.

In Verona’s Piazza dei Signori (Gentlemen’s Square) is where most of the celebrations take place. The wonderful Valentine’s market is set up here with stalls set out in the shape of a heart – it’s known locally as the “heart of Verona”.

The stalls sell locally produced culinary delights, heart-shaped decorations, paintings, ceramics and more.

It is also a great musical event, where entertainers play a variety of music to celebrate the “festa degli innamorati”. 

A stop at Juliet’s house is a must and is a certain focal point where the front door is completely covered in love letters. “Dear Juliet” prize is dedicated to the thousands of people all around the world who write to Juliet. Every year on Valentine’s Day the club awards the most beautiful ones in the suggestive Juliet’s House.

The town also releases thousands of red heart-shape balloons from the bell tower to mark the end of the Valentine’s Day celebrations.

 Locks of Love or Lucchetti dell’Amore

The tradition of locking padlocks to bridges, railings and lamp posts began in Italy after the release of the best-selling book “Ho voglia di te” (I want you) by the Italian author Federico Moccia in 2007. It gained popularity when the movie with Riccardo Scamarcio and Laura Chiatti was released.  In the story the young lovers tie a chain and a padlock around a lamppost on Rome’s Ponte Milvio and inscribe their names on it. They lock it and throw the key into the Tiber River  suggesting their loved is forever lasting.

Now you can find these locks in many places in Italy – from Valeggio sul Mincio to overhead signs in the Cinque Terre. (Many towns now ban this practice for aesthetics but also safety. Many have been ordered removed like the Accademia Bridge in Venice. It is now a crime to put a lock on Florence’s Pont Vecchio where over 5000 locks were recently removed).

History of Italian Chocolates

Carnevale! Traditions and events in famous cities

Venezia

Every Italian city in February is invaded by masks, confetti, lights and colors to create a unique party atmosphere. One must have a sense of humor  “A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale “It’s Carnevale and any joke or prank is thus forgiven”!  Of ancient origins, today it is a folkloric event of tradition and entertainment. Carnevale dates back to the Roman Saturnalia celebration in honor of the New Year. However, the etymology of the word “carnevale” is derived, probably, from Latin “carnem levare” – remove meat. The expression indicated the banquet held on the last day just before the period of abstinence and fasting of meat of Christian Lent. In the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar Carnevale starts the day after Epiphany, January 6. Undisputed protagonists of Carnevale are the Masks, from the Arabic “mascharà” which means ridicule or satire. Many masks still represent the typical characters of the Commedia dell’Arte, part of popular uses, spirit and history. These masks have survived over the centuries as they preserve aspects of local traditions.

Here are some of the best known and most representative characters of the carnevale tradition:

  • Arlecchino (Harlequin)- from Bergamo/Lombardy, Arlecchino is a mischievous greedy unintelligent slow thinker servant. Although less intelligent than most of the other characters, Arlecchino is never short of spontaneous and creative ideas to solve a problem in a plot. He wears a pouch on his belt called “scarsela” which is always empty and carries the “batocio” (stick).
  • Arlecchino

    Arlecchino Mask
  • Brighella– an eclectic young servant is bully yet smart. Also from Bergamo, it is one of the oldest masks, dating back to the Middle Ages. The name Brighella comes from the word brigare (Italian for quarrel, trouble, intrigue).
    Brighella

    Brighella Mask
  • Pantalone, a 16th century Venetian mask, is a Venetian merchant, rich, greedy yet naïve. From merchant to nobleman he deals with people trying to take his gold, always losing against wit and improvisation
    Pantalone

    Pantalone Mask
  • Colombina is another Venetian mask. Often the female version of Arlecchino. Colombina represents a lively and clever maid and subject of interest for Pantalone.
    Colombina Mask

    Colombina
  • Pulcinella from Naples/Campania is a philosophical, eternally melancholic, dreamer typical of the Neapolitan culture. Pulcinella has a spirit all of his own. His melancholic approach to life makes him coast problems, situations, live adventures. A positive approach to life is his winning strategy.
    Pulcinella mask

  • Dr. Balanzone from Bologna, doctor and finicky talker who pretends to be a great scholar, but is very often a scammer. The name most likely comes from “balle” meaning lies in Italian.

    Balanzone
  • Gianduja from Piedmont is a mask representing a cheerful gentleman, with common sense and courage who loves good wine and good food. Gianduja name is result of two names- Gioan (John) and douja (Piedmont dialect for pitcher) =  great drinker and patron of local taverns.

    Gianduja
  • Scaramuccia literally means “small, fast fray” giving the idea of a soldier who does not involve himself too much in the battle.  This is his way of fighting too- a little touch here, a short attack there.

    Scaramuccia
  • Stenterello, a Florentine mask, is young, penniless and hungry but because of  his cunning and ingenuity he always manages to get by.

    Stenterello
  • Rugantino is a typical Lazio mask, characterized by arrogance. His name derives from the term “ruganza” meaning arrogant.

    Rugantino

From North to South, Italy celebrates carnivals of ancient traditions known internationally attracting every year thousands of visitors from around the world.

But the Italian Carnival is not only masks, it is also floats, parades, festivals and rituals.

Here are some of the most famous festivities:

Venezia

Venice: the Italian Carnival par excellence Among the most famous carnivals of Italy, a special mention goes to the Carnival of Venice, in Veneto Region. The first official document with which the Venice Carnival was declared a public holiday dates back to 1296, and it is an edict by which the Senate of the Serenissima Republic declared public holiday the day preceding Lent. Set up by the Venetian oligarchy to give to the population a period dedicated to the fun and festivities, its dominant feature is the masking, thought to cancel any classist system, sex or religion. Today the Carnival of Venice is a picturesque festival considered unique for its history, forms and atmospheres. Known and appreciated throughout the world, the festival each year attracts thousands of tourists. During the two weeks of Carnival everyone can attend and take part in numerous events and the many open air shows that invade the Venetian city. Among the most fascinating moments of the Venetian carnival is the spectacular Angel Flight (or Flight of the Dove), which is also linked to tradition. This spectacular event includes a live acrobat making descent from the top of the San Marco Bell Tower to Palazzo Ducale.

Putignano

Putignano, the Carnival of the Murgia Apulia is the Italian region with the highest number of Carnival celebrations: from Massafra to Gallipoli, from Dauno in Manfredonia, it is a continuous succession of masked parades and dancing. The Carnival of Putignano, a village in the province of Bari, located in the Murgia of Trulli and caves and immersed in the Itria Valley, offers the longest ever Carnivale as it starts on December 26 and ends on Shrove Tuesday with an evening parade and the Carnivale funeral. This carnivale dates back to 1394, making it one of the oldest carnivals in Europe. Tradition says that by acting in local dialect verses and improvised satire arose the custom of “Propaggini”. A custom which is still the heart of the local carnival tradition. For several hours in a row, dozens of poets take stage to recite satirical verses in rhyme in dialect. Putignano’s carnival is also a magnificent procession of papier Mache floats through the streets of town.

Acireale

The Carnival of Acireale, one of the most beautiful in Sicily Considered one of the most beautiful carnivals of Sicily, the Carnival of Acireale, a magnificent baroque town in the province of Catania. The festival has an ancient tradition that began in 1500 as a big spontaneous demonstration in which the local population participated numerous and began the custom of throwing rotten eggs and oranges on the streets. At the beginning of 18th century this carnival practice was banned. It was refined and enriched thanks to the “abbatazzi”: popular poets who improvised rhymes on the streets of Acireale. The “cassariata” was introduced in the 19th century where stately horse carriages, reserved for the city nobles would throw bursts of confetti to the spectators. It is only in the 1930s when papier-mâché masks pulled by oxen turn into floats surrounded by characters and satirical groups on the move. Today it is even more spectacular, as the Acireale Carnival features flowered floats which attract thousands of tourists each year. One more reason to visit Sicily and above this splendid town and the beautiful surrounding places, from Catania to Etna, without forgetting the beautiful sea surrounding the island.

Cento

Cento, the Carnival of Surprises The Cento Carnival (a beautiful city of Emilia Romagna) is an event that takes place in the picturesque town of Cento, in the province of Ferrara, Emila Romagna region. This Carnival has ancient origins as evidenced by a 1615 fresco of the painter from Cento Gian Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercin. It represents “the Berlingaccio”, a local mask during a feast offered to the people on Shrove Tuesday. Still maintaining its historical connotations, since 1993 it has become a very important folkloristic event, thanks to the twinning with the Carnival in Rio. The parade of floats begins in the early afternoon and crosses the old town several times. Musicians and people in masks dance the streets. This takes place on the five Sundays preceding Lent. Fano, among the oldest Carnivals in Italy ‘Semel in anno licet insanire’, meaning “once a year madness is allowed”, this ancient Roman license seems to have found fertile ground in Fano, in the Marche region, home to one of the most famous carnivals in Italy. Over a month of festivities: the streets and the city’s people are stripped of the usual habits, they jump into the whirlwind of parties and parades that the Fano Carnival offers in a carefree spirit.

Few know that Fano began Carnival celebrations in medieval times, more precisely during the reconciliation of the two most important families of the city, the Del Cassero and the Da Carignano. The Carnival of Fano is one of the sweetest carnivals in the world,as there is a real battle fought with tons of chocolates. Tons and tons of sweets, candies and chocolates are thrown from the floats ontot he crowd

Ivrea+

Ivrea: Carnival of oranges Famous throughout Italy and abroad, is the Historic Carnival of Ivrea, a town in the northern Piedmont region. The Carnival of Ivrea is one of the oldest festivals and proclaimed in 1808. The festival has several characters and historical figures enacting the battle, a rebellion against tyranny; an insurgency that finds its culmination in the spectacular historical procession and in the striking Battle of the Oranges, which fills with colors and perfumes the city and involves all participants. The spirit of the Historic Carnival commemorates the expulsion of the tyrant from the city which took  place in the Middle Ages. The teams of orange throwers defend their squares while parading through the streets of the city. The procession of Mugnaia distributes sweets and gifts to the population.

VIAREGGIO, ITALY – March 12: allegorical float at Viareggio Carnival held March 12, 2016

Viareggio: The Carnival of the floats Among the many attractions of the Tuscany region. The Carnival of Viareggio greets thousands of people every year from Italy and abroad. It began in 1873 as a masked rebellion of the rich merchants unhappy to pay high taxes. Over the years its main feature has become undoubtedly the big, colorful and lively float which feature political and satirical figures of modern day. The huge caricatures with extraordinary mechanical with movements with complex and grandiose scenic effects. They are a perfect combination of artistic skills of the workers of our country and the new technologies. Viareggio is a lovely seaside resort town full of Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture and a stones thrown Pisa and Lucca.

No festivity would be complete without a sweet delight: Chiacchere, Bugie, Crostoli, Cenci, Frappe….different names but same delicious light pastry.

Travel with Me: Ultimate Northern Italy- LE TRE VENEZIE: Veneto, Friuli, and Trentino

 Tre-Venezie is  to indicate the Triveneto geographical area of current Italian regions of Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige (Sud Tyrol), and Friuli-Venezia Giulia. 

Of the three regions that make up Tre Venezie, the Veneto, with Venice the region capital, Verona the city of lovers is by far the best known.

The term TRE VENEZIE appeared in cultural circles in the mid-19th C, shortly after the Second War of Independence. It was coined by linguist Graziadio Ascoli in 1863 to mark its Italian cultural land as the Tridentine Venice and Venezia Giulia subjected to the Habsburg rule, Austrian Empire. After the First World War these lands were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.   A modified geopolitical Italy scenario following the Second World War and events that came thereafter (until the 1975 Treaty), the Tre Venezie had areas no longer belonging to the Italian State (part of Venezia Giulia was ceded to former Yugoslavia).

VENETO –  remove links and put IDV

Most people speed through the region of Veneto on their way to the amazing city of Venice (IDV Link  Today, Il Veneto has established its own distinct identity and offers hospitality to numerous visitors eager to explore the many treasures of the region. Set aside few days to behold the other parts of  Il Veneto that is blessedly .

Venice  is unparalleled as the traveler is seduced by the beauty and variety. Get lost in the intricate lanes while going up and down the bridges discovering the treasures with a personal tourist guide to avoid the tourist crowds and discover Venice through hidden paths.

A magical city par excellence where everything is magical, romantic, full of poetry and sadness…. A World Heritage by UNESCO for its artistic treasures, Piazza San Marco the vast square opens on one side of the lagoon and its  Basilica built in oriental style and topped with five Byzantine-style domes . Palazzo Ducale, the Bridge of Sighs, and romantic gondola to ride up the main waterway of the city the Grand Canal. Modern and contemporary art works are in the renovated Punta Della Dogana, or inside Palazzo Grassi.

Just outside of Venice, the famous  Prosecco Wine region IDV link  Prosecco Wine region is north east of Venice, with medieval towns Asolo and Conegliano  of the Treviso province, the popular Prosecco white wine which is peculiar to this zone only. Far north, close to the border with Austria, there are the Pre-Alps and the Dolomite mountains over which Cortina D’AmpezzoIDV, link  Cortina d’Ampezzo reigns supreme with her sublime ski slopes and stylish city.

West is IDV link  Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, paradise for sailing and windsurfing, paragliding and mountain biking.  South of the lake is Verona, the city of f Romeo and Juliet, immortalized by Shakespeare.  The ancient open air amphitheatre magnificent Arena  and just outside Verona   is Valpolicella Wine Region filled with countless family wineries and some of the best red Italian wine. Vicenza is 30 min, away   with the astonishing Palladian Villas and Padua where to see Renaissance painting by Giotto’s memorable fresco cycle.

The Friuli-Venezia Giulia borders with Austria to its north and Slovenia to the East. An autonomous region Friulia Venezia Giulia has a special statute that recognizes its unique history and geography. A mountainous terrain alternates with plains, criss-crossed with river was dominated for most of the early modern period by Austria, which left a distinctly foreign and well-organized imprint on the area. The isolated nature of many northern Friuli towns meant a more medieval style with local characteristics. The inhabitants of nearby Roman Aquileia fled here as Attila and his Huns approached. Their resistance and tenacity was transferred to Venice with magnificent results.

The Collio  Collio and Colli Orientali area is best known for its ham and wine production, the ‘superwhites’. Further north is Udine, the region capital. A lot sweeter are the rolling hills near an Daniele del Friuli, name is synonymous with Prosciutto di San Daniele, considered the country’s best cured ham thanks to its particular location. Recognizable by its typical guitar-like shape it is made solely of the meat of pigs born and bred in Italy and sea salt. A natural food product with no additives or preservatives of any kind and high nutritional value.

Further east is Trieste .  A very humble beginnings as a small fishing port, Trieste is now the  third largest Mediterranean port  and is the major port for Middle Europe. In the 18th century, the village was turned into a “free port” by the Hapsburgs in order to compete with a declining Venice. Its Central European atmosphere found in the Trieste Coffee Cluster-Three historic cafés  reflect its past- Caff è Tommaseo, opened in 1830 sober, discreet and popular with businessmen and politicians; Caffè San Marco, opened in 1914,  destroyed by WWI and restored makeover in the 30’s to make it more Viennese; and Caffè Pasticceria Pirona popular with James Joyce who enjoyed its fine Austrian pastries and even finer wines.  Here in exile, he found the intellectual climate of Trieste particularly invigorating as Trieste offered a cultural and linguistic crossroad of three civilizations and three great cultural traditions.

The cuisine in the Trieste area reflects the German/Slavic traditions-. Iota is a soup made of beans, potatoes and white cabbage. Porcina is a mix of boiled pork with sauerkraut, mustard and horseradish. Slavic goulash and dumplings are also local favorites. Like the Veneto, the coast loves its seafood and includes all sorts of shellfish including cuttlefish (sepia), mixed fried fish and a fish and white polenta soup known as boreto graesano. Regional desserts have a Germanic touch such as apple strudel, cuguluf (a ring cake that originated in Vienna) and gubana (made from dried fruit and raisins). Friulian Grappa, made from stems and skins after making wine is considered the best in Italy. This native liquor, the only true Italian spirit once had a nasty reputation as “Italian moonshine” and was not usually found outside Italy.

wines ……..

Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol

An autonomous region in Northern Italy since the 1970s, most legislative and administrative powers have been transferred to the two self-governing provinces of Trento and Bolzano which make up the region, it is one of the few Italian regions not touched by the sea, with a mostly mountainous territory including the majestically beautiful Dolomite group, and a great number of small lakes. iDV LINK.    Historically under the domain of Austria for long centuries, in the Northern part of the region the German language is spoken, and the region is officially bilingual. The region is famous for its production of apples and wines, and has a greatly developed tourist industry, with renowned winter resorts, such as Madonna di Campiglio.

Archeological findings around the city of Trento the region has been inhabited very ancient times, being the valley of the Adige river a transit center between central Europe and Italy, s a meeting point of the German and the Latin cultures.n 1972, the introduction of the second Statute of Autonomy recognized the special statute to covers the political, legislative, administrative, and fiscal institutions.

The Alta Valsugana valley is located in eastern Trentino. The valley winds its way down the chain of summits and extends all the way into the Valle di Fiemme, a distance of 180 km and Valle dei Mòcheni, an ethnically German area sitting some 2006 meters in altitude. The typical preserved ham or Speck of Alto Adige has always played a fundamental part in the diet of the people of this mountainous area.

Under Bolzano is Merano located in the valley of the River Adige, the emotional heart of Süd Tirol with the strong ladino culture and its autonomy.  The leisure industry is for fabulous winter snow . What is shared is a love of gastronomy and reverence for the mountains. An amazing sight as far south as Trento, the lower slopes of the valleys are almost entirely dedicated to apple and peach orchards. The most southern corner of the region is Riva del Garda, right on Lake Garda for the microclimate of the lake allows olive and lemon trees to grow.

In Trentino-Alto Adige, the wine region extends the farthest north and the Alps rise for some of the most breathtaking vineyards in the world. The region boasts a large number of grape varieties, including chardonnays, pinot biancos, pinot grigios, traminers (the progenitor of gewürztraminer).

Tastings suggested- Amarone (Verona), Teroldego, Gewürztraminer (Trentino), Ribolla Gialla (Friuli Venezia Giulia) and more.

‘Risotto del Doge’ recipe

Word is that Risotto del Doge was Giacomo Casanova’s favorite dish.At least that’s what is written in an old Venetian cook book, which in turn based this story on an older book, written in 1720 and affirming that this was the dish the famous Venetian writer and seducer loved the most.

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