In Italy, St. Valentine’s Day is called La Festa Degli Innamorati – meaning ‘the feast of lovers’.
From hearts and flowers to chocolates and kisses, there are many different ways to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. In the UK and America, it’s quite common to send a romantic card anonymously to someone who has caught your eye, or for children to send fun cards to their parents or each other. This isn’t the case in Italy, where tradition dictates this feast day is strictly for lovers only.
And it’s a day that has historical roots and many different myths and legends surrounding it. But first, add a little romance to your vocabulary with some Italian words and phrases. Italian is the language of love after all!
Amore a prima vista – love at first sight
Buon San Valentino – Happy Valentine’s Day
Amo te oggi e sempre – I love you today and always
Ti amo – I love you
Now that you are fluent in the language of love, and can sprinkle some suitable phrases into your conversation, or whisper words of romance into the ear of your tua dolce metà (your sweet half), it’s time to learn about the history and traditions of this special day.
St. Valentine’s Day actually originated in Italy, during the days of the Roman Empire. Some people say that the date, 14 February, was the day when Juno, the queen of Roman gods and goddesses, and of women and marriage, was celebrated.
Then, of course, there’s the legend of the man called St. Valentine. This priest was said to have defied Roman emperors’ orders to ban marriage during times of war, but St Valentine, it is said, secretly married them.
Once this secret practice was discovered he was put to death – on 14 February, hence the significance of the date. That’s just one of the legends surrounding him. In fact, there were several Saint Valentines and no-one is quite sure how to came to be associated with love and lovers.
You may be aware of a more recent Italian tradition, the locks of love. It’s no longer unusual to see bridges and railings covered in locks, as young lovers attach padlocks – or ‘lucchetti dell’ amore’ – and then throw away the key, to show the eternal and unbreakable nature of their everlasting love for each other.
The giving of flowers and gifts is another traditional aspect of Valentine’s Day in Italy, while chocolate – cioccolato – also plays an important part in the celebrations.
Each year, anticipation builds in the days before Valentine’s Day as Baci chocolates created by the famous Italian chocolate maker, Perugina, are gifted. It’s a lot of fun to open up the wrapper and look for the romantic phrase printed inside. It also help add to the theme of the day that ‘baci’ is the Italian word for kisses.
If you’re planning on creating a special meal for the one you love, then don’t forget to buy some delicious Prosciutto di San Daniele for the ultimate Italian treat.
Take inspiration from our St. Valentine’s Day recipe suggestions…
Prosciutto and melon is a classic pairing, simple and easy to make it means you won’t be spending all evening working over a hot stove in the kitchen. Alternatively, you could lightly drizzle fresh asparagus spears with olive oil before roasting them in the oven and wrapping them in thin slices of Prosciutto di San Daniele before serving.
Tagliolini al San Daniele. Boil tagliolini pasta in a large pot then cut Prosciutto di San Daniele into strips, sauté in a pan, add a splash of brandy and cook in its own fat until crispy. Add some single cream and a touch of the boiling pasta water to the mixture. Once cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce, then add poppy seeds. Pour it out onto a warm plate and place an extra slice of prosciutto on the top, right at the very end.
Finish off your romantic dinner for two with a cheese board, with a selection of Italian cheeses, grapes, slices of figs and fresh Prosciutto di San Daniele.