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.


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).

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