27 January 2010
Posted in CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
You will not be surprised to discover that Valentine’s day, the day celebrated all over the Western world as a day for love and romance, originated in Italy. What may surprise you more however, is how little the Italians make of it - at least on the surface.
There are many legends surrounding the origins of Valentine’s day, but the general consensus tends to be that the original Saint Valentine was a Roman priest executed for marrying couples in secret and against the orders of the Emperor.
He died on February 14th, 269 A.D., and it is said that he left a secret note to the jailer’s daughter, with whom he had become friends, and signed it “from your Valentine”. Gradually February the 14th became a day dedicated to the celebration of love. In Terni there's the Basilica with altar dedicated to the San Valentino.
In much of the world, this celebration has become extremely commercialised and stressful. Not so in Italy, where tradition held that the young people of the area would go to the local piazza to listen to poetry before going for a stroll with their Valentine. It was, in fact, common practice in many parts of Italy to become engaged on Valentine’s day. Gifts were not usually exchanged, and only recently did “commercial” Valentine’s day reach Italy, with the only widespread nod to the commercial aspect of the day being the chocolate "Baci Perugina", or Perugian Kisses, a chocolate and praline covered hazelnut wrapped up with a romantic quote in four languages.
Although the tradition of listening to poetry has died out, the Italians are still quite unlikely to buy commercialised Valentine’s day gifts. They are far more likely to go out for dinner, or to have a romantic meal at home. Weekend breaks around Valentine’s day are also popular, as they are during the rest of the year. After all, if you live in the most romantic country of all, boasting Venice, Rome, the Tuscan hills and the fragrant Sorrento coast, what do you need with fluffy hearts and pink teddies? All the romance you could ever wish for is right there in front of you.
If you fancy getting married in Italy on Valentine’s day, be aware that it is a popular day and that you should probably book in advance. For ideas on a Valentine’s day theme, have a look at our thoughts on the subject - hopefully you will be inspired!