Saint Valentine's Day in Italy

Saint Valentine’s Day in Italy

Culture News

As people across the globe buy gifts, flowers and chocolates for their loved ones on Saint Valentine’s Day, we take at look at the saint himself.

Some see Saint Valentine’s Day as a commercial enterprise best left to the romantics. Indeed in 2024, the average cost of St Valentine’s Day is estimated at an average €85 per person. Others eagerly await a gift from a loved one or secret admirer, while others plan a romantic getaway. Either way, in Italy 14th February is festa degli innamorati or the feast of lovers.

St. Valentine is the patron saint of lovers, beekeepers and sufferers of epilepsy, among a few others. He is represented with birds, flowers and bees.  

A Roman priest or bishop of Terni?

By some accounts, St. Valentine was a Roman priest and physician who suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Christians by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus about 270. Buried on the Via Flaminia, reportedly, Pope Julius I built a basilica over his grave.

Others identify him as the bishop of Terni, martyred in Rome and whose body returned to Terni. It is possible these are different versions of the same original account and refer to only one person.

Relics of St. Valentine are all over the world. A flower-crowned skull of St. Valentine is in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. In 1836, other relics were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina and identified as Valentine’s.

According to legend, St. Valentine signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness. Another common legend states that he defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war.

Italian traditions

Contemporary Italian couples may present each other with chocolates. Younger couples also follow the tradition of padlocking their love to a bridge or railing, and throwing the key away. (This is against the law in many cities as it causes damage.)

In Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, – there is a four-day Valentine’s celebration. Heart lanterns line the city and free concerts take place in the Piazza dei Signori. There is also a love-letter writing contest and romantic dinner specials in restaurants around town.

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