An Italian Valentine
Amore mio! Italy can certainly be called the land of lovers and romance with quite a few couples immortalized by the written word. Paolo and Francesca. Romeo and Juliet. Not to mention the millions of couples who have expressed themselves through countless love letters. And so, it only seems natural that Italy would also celebrate Valentine’s Day though a bit different than what we might expect.
The Italian tradition of Valentine’s Day took roots in the ancient Feast of Lupercalia held on February 15. This popular feast celebrated the end of the old year (February being the last month in the Roman calendar) and the coming of spring. The Romans viewed many of the activities as unwholesome and the feast slowly became a thing of the past, though many of the activities have evolved into today’s traditions.
While Valentine’s Day is a foreign holiday, February 14 is primarily celebrated by lovers. Friends and families do not generally exchange gifts or cards, leaving the day free for all the lovebirds. One tradition carried over from the feast is held in the Italian city of Turin where betrothed couples proudly announce their engagements on February 14. Another romantic gesture found throughout the country is the giving of Baci Perugina; small, chocolate covered hazelnuts containing a romantic poetic quote in four languages. The name stems from Baci meaning kisses and Perugina, the name of the company that produces the candy. In other regions, some parents might even wake up their unmarried daughters right before sunrise, believing the first man a girl sees is the man she will marry or at least someone who looks like him.
The final tradition I have to share is of course the intimate candlelit dinner, the most commonly practiced tradition throughout the world. And if you can’t make it to Italy, Assaggio is the perfect setting for your romantic evening. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day and remember “L’amore domina senza regole,” Love rules without rules.
Picture: Verona’s Piazza dei Signori transformed for Valentine’s Day, a tribute to Romeo and Juliet and one of Shakepeare’s settings in the play.