Valentine’s Day in Italy, the land of love. It must be a day full of Hallmark cards, kids exchanging Valentines, and buying gifts for everyone you love, right?
Nope – In Italy, Valentine’s Day is celebrated, but it’s by no means a national holiday, and it’s not celebrated in the same way as the holiday is festeggiato (celebrated) in the United States and many other countries.
Here in Italy, Valentine’s Day is less commercialized, but that’s slowly changing, as Italian marketers catch on that those in love can be easy targets.
Before we jump into what Italians do on Valentine’s Day, did you know that the holiday has its roots in Italy?
A Brief History of Valentine’s Day in Italy
February 14th is the day that commemorates the martyred Christian Saint Valentine (San Valentino, in Italian), from Terni (near Rome), Italy.
Legend has it that the bishop Valentine secretly married lovers, even though marriage was banned by the current Roman emperor. He was martyred on February 14th by the Roman Emperor Claudius II.
Later, in 496, the Pope named the 14th of February the Festa di San Valentino (Feast Day of Saint Valentine), to commemorate Valentino and replace a pagan fertility festival from ancient Roman times.
It’s also been said that February 14th was chosen because it was the day the Roman goddess of women and marriage – Juno – was traditionally celebrated.
What is Valentine’s Day Called in Italy?
Valentine’s Day in Italy is La Festa di San Valentino (Saint Valentine’s Day) or La Festa degli Innamorati (The Lovers’ Holiday).
How To Wish Someone Happy Valentine’s Day in Italian
To wish someone a Happy Valentine’s Day, you can tell them Buon San Valentino (Happy Valentine’s Day) or Buona Festa degli Innamorati (Happy Lovers’ Holiday)!
Want to know more? Check out our post on How To Say Happy Valentine’s Day in Italian.
6 Ways Italy Celebrates Valentine’s Day
Are you and your partner coming to Italy in February? Or do you just want to celebrate Valentine’s Day like an Italian? Choose one (or more!) of the following ways to festeggiare:
Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Italy as a Couple
Valentine’s Day in Italy is only celebrated by couples. It’s also more for younger couples and new lovers than it is for established, older couples.
There’s no ‘Galentine’s Day’ in Italy.
Kids don’t exchange Valentine’s Day cards or sweet treats at school. There are no children’s parties for Valentine’s Day.
Get Engaged on Valentine’s Day in Italy
Couples often get engaged on Valentine’s Day.
Profess Your Love on Valentine’s Day in Italy
Couples profess their love.
You may hear ‘Ti amo‘ more than usual on Valentine’s Day.
See below for some Italian phrases to use on Valentine’s Day.
Italians use WhatsApp to send holiday greetings throughout the year (for Christmas, New Year’s, Women’s Day, Thanksgiving, and more). Valentine’s Day is an exception – don’t send WhatsApp Valentine’s Day messages to your lover – find a better way to express your love!
Good To Know: If you want to profess your love, remember that there are two ways to say ‘I love you’ in Italian. In Italy we use ‘ti amo‘ for romantic love, and ‘ti voglio bene‘ for friends and family.
Eat Together on Valentine’s Day in Italy
Couples share a special meal together. This could be:
- Going out to a special dinner together. Many restaurants offer Valentine’s Day-themed menus.
- Preparing breakfast for your partner
- Making dinner at home
Exchange Gifts on Valentine’s Day in Italy
Couples exchange small gifts:
- Chocolates (Perugina, Lindt, and Venchi are some of the main brands of chocolate that are gifted). Perugina makes a special edition of its popular bacio (kiss). The special editions have included liquid cherry centers or sprinkled centers (instead of the traditional hazelnut) and red wrappers. These baci have sweet love messages inside the wrapper.
- Flowers – red roses are still the traditional favorite, but more and more Italians are branching out to other flowers and potted plants. I would love to get a small tree to plant for Valentine’s Day!
Good To Know: Exchanging cards isn’t very popular here. Sorry, Hallmark!
Follow the Locks of Love Trend
Lucchetti dell’Amore (Locks of Love) are a recent trend in Italy. Lovers (especially young ones) write their names or initials on a padlock and lock it to a bridge or a railing. Then, they throw the key away (often dramatically into the river).
This tradition became popular after Federico Moccia’s book Ho Voglia di Te was released in 2006, followed by the film in 2007. In Moccia’s story, two young lovers chain a lock to Rome’s Milvio bridge and throw the key in the river, signifying that they’ll be together for eternity.
You’ll see the locks spring up all over Italy, and the trend has even spread to other countries.
Good To Know: Leaving a lock of love is illegal in many cities because it damages property and can even create unsafe conditions. Cities have cracked down and if you try to leave a lock of love, you risk getting a steep fine.
If you want to leave one, attach it to somewhere on your own property. That way you’ll see it often and be reminded of your love.
Good To Know: The above are only cultural guidelines and you can stray from them! For example, even though children don’t celebrate the holiday here in Italy, I still like to make Valentine’s Day a special day for my sons by exchanging homemade cards and chocolates.
The Best Places to Celebrate Valentine’s Day In Italy
So, now you know how to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Italy. But, just as important, where should you celebrate? Below are a few places that are extra special on the Festa degli Innamorati.
Valentine’s Day in Verona
The Verona in Love festival includes:
- a love-themed, heart-shaped market in Piazza dei Signori
- live music
- interactive guided tours
- special showings of romantic movies in the Teatro Ristori
- the Romeo & Juliet Half Marathon
- romance-themed aperitivi and dinners
- theatrical performances
- Romeo and Juliet’s kisses cookies (Baci di Romeo and Baci di Giulietta)
Juliet’s balcony receives special attention during the festival. Perhaps you’ll catch a proposal on her balcony.
Every year, thousands of letters are sent to Juliet, and responses are sent back by volunteers. The ‘most touching letter’ is awarded the Cara Giulietta (Dear Juliet) prize.
Valentine’s Day in Venice
Venice is a romantic city year-round and it won’t disappoint for Valentine’s Day.
Take a gondola ride down the Grand Canal, get lost on the small side streets, take an evening stroll along the Riva degli Schiavoni, escape the chilly weather and have an intimate meal in a cozy restaurant.
Valentine’s Day may coincide with the city’s huge Carnevale celebration. Check the dates and steer clear if you want to avoid the crowds and festivities.
Valentine’s Day in Rome
Rome also seeps romance without even trying. You could:
- Stroll hand-in-hand past the Roman Forum or the Colosseum
- Rent a Vespa and ride around the city together (though not for the faint of heart)
- Throw a coin into the Trevi fountain
- Tuck into a small cafe for a coffee date
- Go for a walk in the Villa Borghese gardens
- Have a romantic dinner at a rooftop restaurant, La Terrazza
More Places To Celebrate Valentine’s Day In Italy
Valentine’s Day in Terni
Terni’s Festa di San Valentino celebrates the holiday in the home of St. Valentine himself. The highlights include:
- the Cioccolentino (combo of chocolate and valentine) festival
- the St. Valentine’s marathon
- a St. Valentine’s market
- visiting the relics of San Valentino
Valentine’s Day at Lake Garda
Lake Garda’s Valentine’s celebration Lago di Garda in Love includes:
- live music
- light art displays
- love-focused events
- a special love walk.
Valentine’s Day in Camogli
Camogli, on the Ligurian Coast, has an annual festival for Valentine’s Day – San Valentino Innamorati a Camogli. Join other couples for:
- a Valentine’s Day-themed market
- love-themed events
- decorations throughout town
- the tradition of hanging a heart-shaped card with your lover’s name on a fishing net on the wall of the harbor (currently suspended)
Valentine’s Day in the Tuscan Countryside
Celebrate the Festa degli Innamorati at Relais Borgo Scopeto, a 4-star countryside resort near Siena. It was a film location for the romantic film, Letters to Juliet (along with Verona!). Sip Tuscan wine (cheers!), spend time at the spa, stroll through the vineyards, and have romantic dinners in the hotel’s restaurant.
Or, wander the medieval streets of the hilltop town of Montepulciano, where the dramatic scenes were filmed for Twilight: New Moon. Then, spend the night in an agriturismo in the adjacent Val di Chiana or Val d’Orcia.
Italian Valentine’s Day Vocabulary
|amore mio||my love|
|tesoro mio||my treasure (dear)|
|ti amerò per sempre||I’ll always love you|
|sei la mia vita||you’re my life|
|mi togli il fiato||you take my breath away|
|stare con te è un sogno che sia vera||being with you is a dream come true|
|sei l’uomo dei miei sogni||you’re the man of my dreams|
|sei la donna dei miei sogni||you’re the woman of my dreams|
|sei la luce dei miei occhi||you’re the light of my eyes|
|il mio cuore batte solo per te||my heart beats only for you|
|non posso vivere senza te||I can’t live without you|
Is Valentine’s Day popular in Italy?
Yes, Valentine’s Day is popular, but it’s less commercialized than in the United States (although that’s changing as marketers target young lovers).
What do Italians eat on Valentine’s Day?
Italian couples gift each other sweet treats like chocolates. The famous Italian chocolate maker, Perugina, makes a special Valentine’s Day version of its bacio (kiss). In the past, it’s been a hazelnut chocolate filled with a liquid cherry center and wrapped in red foil, and it’s also been a dark chocolate bacio with colorful sprinkles. Italian grocery stores carry the special Valentine’s Day baci.
In Verona, lovers exchange baci di Romeo (Romeo’s kisses) and baci di Giuletta (Juliet’s kisses) cookies. They’re almond and hazelnut sandwich cookies with a coconut filling for Romeo and a chocolate filling for Juliet.
When is Valentine’s Day in Italy?
Valentine’s Day in Italy is celebrated on February 14th.