header photo

Being italian

Valentine’s Day in Italy looks almost nothing like in the US. The traditions of Valentine’s Day in Italy are embedded in a long history – long before Hallmark came along! We hope that you have a lovely Valentine’s Day with your sweetie and your loved ones!

History of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is an old tradition from the Roman Empire. Taking place on February 14, Valentine’s Day celebrates the Queen of Roman gods and goddesses – Juno, the Goddess of Women and Marriage. In Italy, Valentine’s Day is known as La Festa Degli Innamorati.

Traditions for Couples

Valentine’s Day in Italy was historically celebrated as a Spring Festival. They will celebrate the advent of spring together by spending time outdoors, strolling in parks, sitting under trees or in beautiful gardens, and listening to music or talking.

Contemporary Italian couples may present each other with small, chocolate-covered hazelnut candies by Perugina, which are filled with a sweet cherry liquid center. The inside wrapper of Perguina Baci candies boast romantic poetry.

Italian couples also follow the tradition of padlocking their love to a bridge or railing, and throwing the key away.

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

Traditions for Singles

For young, single girls in Italy in the past, it was believed that the first man they saw on Valentine’s Day would be the man they married – or at least a man who looked like him! As such, young girls would wake up early and look out their window at men who walked by.



New Years traditions in Italy

You may not be surprised to know that Italians ring in the new year with spumante or prosecco (sparkling wine) and with fireworks displays starting at midnight. Here are some more interesting Italian New Years Eve traditions, you may not have heard of:

To banish previous bad luck, particularly in southern Italy, there’s an attitude of out with the old and in with the new; however, this practice can be rather extreme, as old pots and pans, clothes or any old and unwanted items are thrown from upstairs windows. The act is seen to symbolize letting go of unhappiness in preparation for the future. If you’re out walking on New Year’s Eve in the south, it may be wise to borrow a crash helmet.  Similarly, in parts of northern Italy, it’s customary to banish malignant auras by smashing crockery outside the front of your house.

A big New Year's Dinner, called cenone, is another popular tradition in Rome and around Italy. This can be at someone's house or out at a restaurant. Many, many restaurants in Rome are open New Years Eve so they can offer this dinner menu. Often there is an earlier seating, for those who might want to ring in the New Year out in the piazzas or streets; and a later seating, for those who want to toast the new year with some prosecco and....

Lentils! This one is a biggie and a must. If you are out at a restaurant, or at someone's house, just after midnight, you simply must have some lentils. Doesn't matter if you don't like them, are too full from dinner, or just don't want to. You have to eat lentils after midnight on New Years, because it brings fortune for the coming year (the shape of those lentils is kinda like money, see?) No amount of backing away from this will save you. Have the lentils and get on with the evening. (Don't get me wrong, I love lentils, but I usually feel done eating and drinking by then. But of course I partake. When in Rome...)

An interesting Rome New Years Eve tradition is wearing red underwear (men and women alike). This is because in medieval times, the color red was used to ward off sickness and bad stuff in general. If you've arrived in Rome without your red underwear, you are in luck! You can find them being sold all around town.

Another favorite Rome New Years Eve tradition is the setting off of little firecrackers all around the city. This starts even a few days before New Years and goes until the 6th of January. People set them off at all times of day. It's generally not dangerous (unless you are the one doing it; accidents have happened).


The Christmas Witch Tradition

La Befana visits children with a bag of goodies on her back. She flies on a broomstick and enters houses through the chimney (sound familiar?) The Italian Christmas witch is covered in soot, remnants of her travels down Italy’s chimneys. If the children were good, they receive gifts or candy. If they were bad, they receive a lump of coal or inedible candy.

To appease La Befana, leave out a plate of food and a cup of wine and never spy on her lest you be thumped by her broomstick!

The tradition of La Befana has roots in ancient Rome and may correlate to a festival that celebrated two gods – Strenia and Ianus. The Romans exchanged gifts at this time, just as we exchange gifts at Christmas.


Halloween In Italy: Do Italians Celebrate It?

Halloween is referred to as All Saints’ Day in Italy and is filled with an array of events and costume parties. The Holiday begins on October 31 and goes through November 2 to include All Souls Day. Halloween celebrations vary throughout the many regions:

Halloween in Rome

There are various nightclubs throughout the city that offer costume parties. It isn’t big for everyone, though it is becoming popular amongst the younger adults. Visiting Rome’s ancient catacombs could be a perfect addition to your Roman Halloween! The trick or treat tradition is not known very well in the city, but there are jack-o-lanterns as well as bobbing for apples.

Halloween in Florence

Halloween in Tuscany can be a lot of fun. While there are plenty of vineyards throughout the region to provide liquid libations, Florence provides a lot of the partying aspects of Halloween and All Saints’ Day. The Renaissance City has a lot of history and much of it is believed to be haunted.

Halloween in Venice
When you are spending Halloween in Italy, Venice has a lot to offer. In addition to Italian Halloween costumes, there is Poveglia Island, which has a lot of myths due to the Black Plague. Many say it is haunted and a ghostly mist can be seen coming off the water from time to time. All around Venice, there are also some incredible villas where you can escape from the creepy entertainment found around Halloween.

Halloween in Marche

Corinaldo is the medieval town found in Le Marche region. It calls itself the Italian Capital of Halloween and features spooky attractions as well as a festival of fire, lights, and music to take place on October 31. A Marche Halloween can be especially fun to partake in while staying in one of the beautiful villas along the coastline.

Halloween in Palermo
Halloween in Palermo can be a lot of fun as many of the Italian Halloween traditions can be found. This includes watching horror movies in the local theaters as well as visiting some of the spooky place.  In Palermo, there is the Capuchin Crypt, which is decorated with 4,000 skeletons’ worth of bones. It is bone chilling for anyone who wants to enjoy a scary Italian Halloween.



Snake Handlers' Procession

On the first Thursday in May, in the town of Cocullo, Italy, a statue of St. Dominic, the town's patron saint, is carried through town covered with live snakes. According to lore, the festival dates back thousands of years to pre-Christian times. To appease the Vatican, the event was adapted to additionally honor St. Dominic, who is believed to provide protection against snakebites for people working in the fields. Also, St. Dominic can intercede on your behalf for relieving toothaches and wolf bites.


Easter Celebrations in Italy

If you're lucky enough to be in Italy for Easter, you won't see the famous bunny or go for an Easter egg hunt. But Easter in Italy is a huge holiday, second only to Christmas in its importance for Italians. While the days leading up to Easter include solemn processions and masses, Pasqua is a joyous celebration marked with rituals and traditions. La Pasquetta, the Monday after Easter Sunday, is also a public holiday throughout the country.

On Good Friday, the pope celebrates the Via Crucis, or Stations of the Cross, in Rome near the Colosseum. A huge cross with burning torches lights the sky as the stations of the cross are described in several languages, and the pope gives a blessing at the end. Easter mass is held in every church in Italy, with the biggest and most popular celebrated by the pope at St. Peter's Basilica.

Solemn religious processions are held in Italian cities and towns on the Friday or Saturday before Easter and sometimes on the Sunday holiday. Many churches have special statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that may be paraded through the city or displayed in the main square (piazza).


Participants are often dressed in traditional ancient costumes, and olive branches are frequently used along with palm fronds in the processions and to decorate churches.


Sicily has elaborate and dramatic processions. Enna holds a large event on Good Friday, with about 2,000 friars dressed in ancient costumes walking through the streets of the city. Trapani is another interesting place to see processions, held for several days during Holy Week. The Good Friday procession there, Misteri di Trapani, lasts 24 hours.


What's believed to be the oldest Good Friday procession in Italy is in Chieti in the Abruzzo region; it's very moving with Secchi's "Miserere" played by 100 violins.


Some towns, such as Montefalco and Gualdo Tadino in Umbria, hold live passion plays during the night of Good Friday. Others put on plays acting out the stations of the Cross.  Beautiful torchlight processions are held in Umbria in hill towns such as Orvieto and Assisi..


Food is traditionally a primary element of Italian life. Work patterns in Italy revolve around the midday meal, though the leisurely two-hour-long lunch break is disappearing. Bars and trattorie cater cheaply and quickly to the casual diner. The culinary traditions of Italy proudly bear several ancestries, chiefly Etruscan, Greek, and Saracen: to the Etruscans is owed the heavy use of grain, to the Greeks the widespread presence of herb-cooked fish, and to the Saracens the country’s love of pastries, rice, and citrus fruits.

Although there is no one style of Italian cooking, there being a wide variety of regional differences, Italians everywhere share a love of noodles, and pastas bear such euphonious names as spaghetti (“little strings”), penne (“feathers”), macaroni (“little dear things”), and orecchiette (“little ears”). In the south, noodles are often dressed with sauces made of olive oil, tomatoes, and spices. In the north, especially in Piedmont, they are coated in cream, butter, and cheese. Many foreigners have grown accustomed to these regional variations, as Italian cuisine has become a popular cultural export.