Thinking of celebrating Valentine’s Day in Italy, the most romantic country of all?
Learn all about La Festa di San Valentino (Valentine’s Day): its Italian roots, and how to pronounce it flawlessly in Italian.
Find out how Italians celebrate Valentine’s Day, from romantic dinners to delicious chocolates and padlocks (really!).
I’ve also included my favorite Valentine’s Day festivals and romantic cities.
Table of Contents
WHEN IS VALENTINE’S DAY IN ITALY?
Valentine’s Day in Italy is on February 14th. It is named after Saint Valentine, who was born in Italy.
Valentine’s Day is not a national public holiday in Italy. It is a romantic holiday, celebrated by adult couples and lovers, not by friends and children like in the US and elsewhere. In cities where Saint Valentine is the patron saint, it is also a religious holiday.
VALENTINE’S DAY ROOTS IN ITALY
Saint Valentine was a Roman clergyman born in Terni, Italy in the 3rd century. He was martyred on February 14, which became the feast of Saint Valentine in the Catholic Church. There are conflicting theories and legends as to how Valentine’s Patron Saint Day became associated with romantic love.
In addition to Terni, Umbria which is his birthplace, Saint Valentine is the patron saint of Musile di Piave (near Venice), Bussolengo (near Verona), San Valentino Torio (near Salerno), Bessica (near Treviso), Limana (near Belluno), Pozzoleone (near Viterbo), and Vico del Gargano, Puglia, among others!
HOW TO SAY VALENTINE’S DAY IN ITALIAN
San Valentino means Saint Valentine in Italian, so Valentine’s Day in Italy is called La Festa di San Valentino (literally the Holiday of Saint Valentine), or simply San Valentino.
Italians also call Valentine’s Day La Festa degli Innamorati, or the Holiday of Lovers.
The pronunciation of La Festa di San Valentino and La Festa degli Innamorati is: lah FEH-stah dee sahn vah-lehn-TEE-noh, lah FEH-stah deh-lyee ee-nah-moh-RAH-tee
Listen to how to pronounce La Festa di San Valentino and La Festa degli Innamorati:
Pronunciation Tip: GLI in Italian makes a kind of LYEE sound, almost like the LLI in million. Listen to how to pronounce the GLI sound:
To wish someone a Happy Valentine’s Day in Italian, the sweetest, shortest way is Buon San Valentino. For more, read How To Say Happy Valentine’s Day in Italian.
HOW ITALIANS CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY
Valentine’s Day is considered a romantic holiday in Italy, and is celebrated by lovers and adults in romantic relationships. Giving Valentines to your friends, like kids do in the US, is not a custom in Italy. Children don’t celebrate the holiday at school and the supermarket doesn’t have an entire aisle devoted to candy hearts either. Instead, Italy has different sweet treats, like chocolate.
WHAT DO ITALIANS GIVE THEIR LOVERS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY?
Like lovers in other parts of the world, Italians give flowers, or fiori, to their sweethearts on Valentine’s Day. Red roses, or rose rosse, are a favorite. They may also give a romantic note. Read my tips on how to write a Valentine’s Day card in Italian.
Chocolates are another popular gift on Valentine’s Day in Italy. There are heart shaped chocolates, as well as heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates for Valentine’s Day. The supermarket often has a small display dedicated to these sweet treats.
Of course, Italy is home to the most romantic chocolate of all: hazelnut kisses, or baci made by the Perugina chocolate company.
ROMANTIC MEALS ON VALENTINE’S DAY
Italian lovers may choose to have a romantic dinner together, at home or at a restaurant. Restaurants often advertise a special fixed price menu for Valentine’s Day, or the menu may be alla carta (à la carte). In any case, definitely reserve in advance for dinner out on Valentine’s Day! (My Italian nephew’s birthday is on February 14th, so my husband and I never have a romantic Valentine’s Day– instead we go to his birthday party).
HOW TO SAY I LOVE YOU IN ITALIAN
Just like people elsewhere in the world, Italians on Valentine’s Day are likely to say I love you to their significant others, or may choose it as the day to confess their love for the first time.
Ti amo means I love you in Italian. It is used to express romantic love. Use it with your romantic partner, lover, or significant other.
The pronunciation of ti amo is: tee AH-moh
Listen to how to pronounce ti amo:
However, there are other ways to say I love you in Italian, so make sure you are using the right one to avoid any awkward misunderstandings!
Read How to Say I Love You in Italian for other romantic phrases, and to learn all the ins and outs of talking about love in Italian.
A ROMANTIC ITALIAN TREND
A trend that’s popular with young Italians all year, but especially on Valentine’s Day, is to fasten lucchetti dell’amore, or locks of love. Couples have their names or initials engraved on a padlock, often along with the date their relationship started. They attach the lock to a bridge, monument, or even a gate or fence, and throw the key away, symbolizing that they are locked together and their love will never be broken.
Federico Moccia’s 2006 book Ho Voglia di Te and 2007 film by the same name helped the trend really take off. The young main character attaches a lock to the Ponte Milvio in Rome, and throws the key off the bridge, then kisses the young woman he’s in love with. Swoon . . .
You’ll see lucchetti dell’amore on Ponte Milvio in Rome, Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and all over Italy (as well as the world), even though the Italian authorities consider them acts of vandalism (so beware if you’re thinking of putting one up!). Even though the authorities cut them off, locks of love continue to pop up regardless.
VALENTINE’S DAY FESTIVALS
Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, is considered one of Italy’s most romantic destinations. Not only that, Verona hosts a Verona in Love festival at Valentine’s Day, with concerts, plays, talks, exhibits, and markets.
Saint Valentine is the patron saint of Terni, Umbria, his birthplace. The city’s cathedral is named after him, and the city hosts several celebrations for Valentine’s Day, not least of which is Cioccolentino, a chocolate festival that lasts several days!
Vico del Gargano, in Puglia, also hosts a days-long festival for San Valentino, its patron saint. There are religious as well as cultural events, but the festa’s most famous feature is oranges, which lavishly decorate the streets.
WHERE TO CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY IN ITALY
Italy is full of romantic spots worthy of Valentine’s Day. If you’re looking for a place to woo your sweetheart, here are a couple of my favorites.
Is there any corner of Venice that isn’t evocative and romantic? From charming side streets to the drama of the canal and mystique of history, Venice itself will make you fall in love. A downside of the city’s charm is that Venice is so full of couples, an Italian woman once mistook my father and I for honeymooners.
Another city that oozes romance, Rome’s light casts a magical glow. There are beautiful parks for romantic strolls, like the Villa Borghese; lookout spots with spectacular views on the top of the city’s famous hills, like the Gianicolo; and places to watch the sunset, like the top of the Spanish Steps. In fact, you’re likely to find couples making out pretty much everywhere.