When I was undertaking a bit of research for Anna in Tuscany, a novelette I published in the fall about a female magazine writer who leaves American to live in Italy for a year and cover the regions of Italy (much like Stanley Tucci does in his television show Searching for Italy), I had to learn the differences between Valentine’s Day here and there. Ultimately, the novelette takes off when Anna discovers a love story unlike any she has heard between her neighbor, Matteo, and his late wife. And maybe, just maybe, Anna finds a little love of her own in Tuscany. So, I had to know how Italy celebrates this “love” holiday.
One main difference is in the name. We call it Valentine’s Day, and while some Italians call it La Festa di San Valentino, it is also called La Festa Degli Innamorati, the name I use in the novel. In America, we give Valentines to classmates (remember the cute little Valentines we would bring in a paper bag and give to our friends and fellow students?), friends, neighbors, children, and wanna-be lovers. In Italy, the holiday is celebrated ONLY between lovers and sweethearts. As well, the trend to connect a padlock or “lucchetti” to a bridge and throw away the key (a tradition that started about 20 years ago), is something lovers do to proclaim their love for another, as is mentioned in Anna in Tuscany.
Interestingly enough, according to my research, the huge celebration that Valentine’s Day is today was imported from America to Italy, despite it having its origins in Roman history. Apparently, it was a nod to the Queen of Roman gods and goddesses, a queen named Juno, who was known to be the goddess Queen of Women and Marriage. Another legend links it to the legend of the priest, St. Valentine, who defied the Romans who banned marriage between lovers during wartime. St. Valentine, that little romantic sneak, would marry them. Let love reign.
If you ever want to spend time in Italy during Valentine’s Day, you may want to hit the two spots known to be the most romantic: Florence or Venice. Or, if Shakespeare worked his magic on you enjoy tragic romantic stories, as was the case in Romeo & Juliet, the city of Verona hosts a 4-day celebration of lovers. I tease. Hopeless romantics love it, too.
But if you, like me, can’t get to Italy right now, you can escape into a sweet story about young love, old love, and everlasting love in Anna in Tuscany. Settle in with some pasta and a nice glass of wine, and let Anna take you to Siena, where you’ll hear more and see what she uncovers.