14 February 2019

The Feast of the Lovers

A day for flowers, chocolates and padlocks


Romeo and Juliet - as depicted by Francesco Hayez in the 16th century
Romeo and Juliet - as depicted by
Francesco Hayez in the 16th century
Today is called La festa degli innamorati (The Feast of the Lovers) in Italy when couples celebrate their love for each other.

Italian lovers give each other flowers and chocolates and celebrate with romantic dinners just like the rest of the world.

Chocolatier Perugina make a special version of their Baci chocolate for the occasion in a shiny, red wrapper with a red cherry in the centre rather than the traditional hazelnut.

Florence and Venice are traditionally considered to be the most romantic places in Italy, but Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, puts on several days of celebration for the festival each year.

Verona in Love 2019 will run until February 17 and will feature a programme of poetry, music and events, including a Romeo and Juliet half-marathon.

The streets round Piazza Bra and Juliet’s house and balcony will be illuminated and the tallest building in the city, the Lamberti tower, will be lit up in red.

Market stalls offering visitors the chance to taste local products will be arranged in a heart shape in Piazza dei Signori.

Padlocks - lucchetti dell'amore - attached to a lamppost  on the Ponte Milvio across the Tiber in Rome
Padlocks - lucchetti dell'amore - attached to a lamppost
on the Ponte Milvio across the Tiber in Rome
Official guides will offer Tours of Love, leading themed walks throughout the city, and many restaurants will offer Valentine’s Day-themed romantic dinners.

The tradition of locking padlocks - lucchetti dell’amore - to bridges, railings and lamp posts to demonstrate never-ending love started in Italy after the publication of the novel Ho voglio di te (I want you) by Federico Moccia, and the screening of the film of the same name, starring Riccardo Scamarcio and Laura Chiatti.

In the story, young lovers tie a chain and padlock around a lamppost at the side of Ponte Milvio in Rome, inscribe their names on it, lock it and then throw the key into the River Tiber, suggesting they will be together forever.

This has been copied throughout Italy and hundreds have had to be removed from Ponte Milvio and the Accademia and Rialto bridges in Venice.

Special Valentine's Day Baci are in the shops
Special Valentine's Day Baci
are in the shops
The tradition of February 14 being the day to celebrate love started long ago with the death of Saint Valentine, a third-century Roman martyr, who is commemorated with a feast day on this day every year.

All that is really known about him is that he was martyred and buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia in Rome on 14 February, but there is a story that he was a priest, who secretly married lovers whose marriages had been banned by the Emperor.

It is believed he was imprisoned and tortured to death. His feast day was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who revered him.

The alleged skull of Saint Valentine, crowned with flowers, is displayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome.

During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired in mid-February and this is probably why February 14, Saint Valentine’s Day, became associated with romance.

'Juliet's balcony' at the so-called Casa Giulietta in Via Cappello in Verona
'Juliet's balcony' at the so-called Casa
Giulietta in Via Cappello in Verona
Travel tip:

‘Fair Verona’, the setting for William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, is the second biggest city in the Veneto. It is home to the first-century Roman Arena, famous for staging open air opera productions, and Casa di Giulietta, which has a romantic, marble ‘Juliet’ balcony, although there is little evidence that the real-life Romeo ever stood below it declaring his love for Juliet. Casa di Giulietta, (Juliet’s House) is a Gothic-style 14th century house, which now has a museum, in Via Cappello in Verona.

Hotels in Verona from TripAdvisor

The Ponte Milvio is a narrow bridge across the Tiber in the north of Rome, close to the Stadio Olimpico football ground
The Ponte Milvio is a narrow bridge across the Tiber in the
north of Rome, close to the Stadio Olimpico football ground
Travel tip:

Ponte Milvio in Rome, where the tradition of attaching padlocks as a symbol of love started, is a bridge over the Tiber in northern Rome that was strategically important in the era of the Roman Empire and was the site of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in October 312.The lamp post featured in the novel, Ho voglia di te, partially collapsed under the weight of all the padlocks in 2007 and afterwards all parts of the bridge were used by couples. Rome’s city council has now introduced a 50 euro fine for anyone seen attaching a love lock. The bridge is also a notorious place for A S Roma fans to gather to attack fans of the opposing team on match days.

Hotels in Rome from Hotels.com

More reading:

San Valentino and Sant'Antonino

Also on this day:

1963: Fellini's masterpiece Otto e mezzo goes on release in Italian cinemas

1974: The birth of Olympic fencing champion Valentina Vezzali

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