Known in Italy as La Festa degli Innamorati, or La Festa di San Valentino, Valentine’s Day is celebrated between lovers and sweethearts across the Belpaese.
Valentine’s Day has its roots in ancient Roman times with the pagan festival Lupercalia, which involved days of wild feasts to celebrate fertility.
The day then became associated with St Valentine, whose feast day is celebrated on February 14.
St Valentine was a bishop from Terni, in the central Italian region of Umbria, and he is the patron saint of his birthplace.
Though there is no reliable information about the saint, several legends surround his life and death.
One of them tells that some 1700 years ago, the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage, claiming that it decreased his soldiers’ zest for battle.
A lover of love, St Valentine apparently continued to marry couples in secret during the ban.
When word spread to Emperor Claudius II, he demanded that St Valentine renounce his faith.
The saint refused and was martyred on February 14, 269.
Today, Italian lovers celebrate this occasion by exchanging flowers and chocolates and indulging in romantic dinners together, similar to the Australian tradition.
To add an Italian twist to the festivities, renowned Italian chocolate maker Perugina makes a special edition of its Baci chocolates.
Traditionally hazelnut-flavoured, the iconic “kisses” feature a sweet red cherry and liquid centre on February 14.
The special red foil wrapper can be opened to reveal a “love note” with a poetic phrase.
Many events unfold across Italy in the name of love around this time.
Verona, city of Romeo and Juliet, organises an annual event full of romanticism, which is aptly called Verona in Love.
Activities include markets, guided tours, music and theatre events and exhibitions.
Meanwhile, St Valentine’s birthplace Terni celebrates the L-word not only on Valentine’s Day, but from February 1, when the celebrations, known as Eventi Valentiniani, begin with prayers in the Basilica, as well as a re-enactment of the saint’s life in full historical costume.
Throughout the month a series of other events also take place, including a jewellery-making competition, art exhibitions and music performances, as well as the awarding of the “A Year of Loving” award, which honours a special act of love carried out by one of the townspeople.
Here are some phrases to help you spread the love in Italian on Valentine’s Day:
- “Buon San Valentino, amore mio.” (Happy Valentine’s Day, my love).
- “Con te ogni giorno è San Valentino…Grazie, amore.” Every day with you is St Valentine’s Day…Thank you, my love.
- “San Valentino è solo un nuovo pretesto per dirti quanto ti amo!” Valentine’s Day is just another excuse to tell you how much I love you!
- “Amo te oggi e sempre. Buon San Valentino.” I love you today and forever. Happy Valentine’s Day.
- “Il giorno migliore per festeggiare il mio immenso amore per te! Buon San Valentino.” The best day to celebrate my immense love for you! Happy Valentine’s Day.
- “Grazie, amore, perché rendi speciali i giorni della mia vita. Buon San Valentino.” Thank you, my love, for making the days of my life special. Happy Valentine’s Day.