Saint Valentine’s Day in Italy


Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by Laura Teso

Saint Valentine’s day in Italy, in Italian giorno di San Valentino, is not about anonymous cards for people you fancy. Only couples (and not all of them) celebrate this day.

I wrote that not everybody celebrate this day because many people believe that it is just a “festa commerciale, inventata dalle aziende” (commercial feast, invented by brands), in order for you to spend money on flowers, chocolate, jewels, dinners out. They say they can prove their love every day and not necessarily on this particular occasion.

Well… You surely can celebrate your love whenever you please. But… why not do that also on Saint Valentine’s day? I see no reason why. Am I right?

Those who celebrate it, usually go out for a candle light dinner or prepare a special dinner at home. The most common presents are red roses, chocolates (especially the delicious Baci Perugina) and jewellery.

History and legends

The Saint. San Valentino was a bishop from Terni, Umbria. The celebration is on February 14, day of his martyrdom. Probably, this celebration, instituted by the Church in 496 as la festa degli innamorati (the feast of those who are in love), replaced the ancient pagan Lupercalia, days of wild feasts to celebrate fertility.

There are many legends related to the Saint:

  • While walking he once saw a couple fighting. He told them to hold their hands together and reconciled them.
  • He wed many couples, despite the orders by the Emperor (who was trying to avoid enlistments decrease).
  • The young Christian Serapia and the pagan Roman centurion Sabino were in love, but their families. Yet their parents were against this union. When the girl fell seriously ill, Sabino called the bishop Valentino and asked him to join them in marriage. Valentino wed them and they died together.
  • When the Emperor found out about all these secret ceremonies, Valentine was imprisoned. There, he fell in love with a blind girl, daughter of his jailer, and made her see again. The next day he was sadly executed. In conclusion, not so cheerful these legends, eh!

Saint Valentine’s Day in Italy Celebrations

The most peculiar celebration is the Festa della Promessa (Promise Feast). In Terni, on the Sunday before February 14, all the couples of fiancées to marry in the following months (within the year), attend a Mass and vow their love.

Verona, city of Romeo and Juliet, organizes every year an event full of romanticism, called Verona in Love: markets, guided tours, music, theatre, exhibits and romantic events. I think this is a great idea to spend a romantic Saint Valentine’s Day in Italy!

In my city, Padova, a peculiar celebration takes place on that very day. It is not related to people in love, though, but to children. In the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, some little keys, symbol of familiar love and protection against childhood illnesses, are blessed and given to the kids. A similar ceremony is held also in Monselice. I read that these two events are related to another Saint Valentine, also celebrated on February 14.

I think that we must all try to keep romance alive throughout the whole year: be kind, spend quality time together, still go on dates from time to time. That said: Happy Valentine’s dayBuon San Valentino!

And, if you missed it, here is my post about Romantic Italian phrases!

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