L’amore! It’s no secret that Italy oozes all things love – it’s the home of the romance languages, and San Valentino was a Roman martyr. Clear from the amount of people who chose to honeymoon here each year, Italians don’t reserve their displays of affection for one day in February. So how to celebrate our holiday in a city that makes a living out of loving love? We’ve got two options of free outings for you to spend the day.
Meg’s Ti Voglio Bene Walk
Spending Valentine’s Day in Italy without a significant other does not mean you’re doomed to despise February 14th this year. Italians say “Ti voglio bene” to express love between family and friends. It’s a sweet phrase that wishes the person you love well, but is not a profession of soul-crushing passion. So when it feels like you’re the only single guy or gal left in town, ring a few friends and head out on this platonic adventure.
Distance: 5.0 km
Time: A leisurely evening out
*Side note: This walk is free, but I highly recommend investing in a few bottles of prosecco while in town. Nothing’s better for a sunset toast than Italian bubbly.
2:45 p.m. Have your group of friends assembled near Piazza della Repubblica for the start of your outing. Get things off to a swinging start by partaking in a flash mob (UPDATE: in 2014 this event is held in Piazza Santa Maria Novella). It might feel silly but consider 1. when will you join in another flash mob? 2. this one is for a good cause and 3. add it to your only-while-abroad list (a free pass for doing ridiculous things). Plus, you’ll get your endorphins going and heart pumping in a piazza full of people. Could your next love be beside you, unable to resist your killer dance moves? If so, jump to Hannah’s walk below.
4 p.m. Walk leisurely from Piazza della Repubblica down to the Arno (hand-holding not required) and make your way towards San Miniato al Monte. The hike will take you above the city with multiple stops for stunning views. Pace yourself and plan to hit the top around 5 p.m. Sunset will be around 5:40 p.m., and you want plenty of time to pour the prosecco, soak up the view, and enjoy the company of your fellow adventurers. As the sun sinks behind the hills, no one will blame you if a “Ti voglio bene, bro” escapes from your lips.
5:45 p.m. Time to head back down into town. Using Brunelleschi’s dome as your compass, head towards the Oblate, a Florentine library often teeming with hip Italian students and scholars. Make your way to the top floor to the al fresco café. Whereas just minutes ago you had panoramic views of the entire Florentine skyline, here you’re eye level with the dome, and it looks close enough to touch.
6:30 p.m. The Oblate Café hosts a free aperitivo and live music each Thursday in February starting at 6:30 p.m. This week’s theme is Ireland, so get ready for comfort food and toe-tapping folk tunes. Throw back a few pints and end the day how it began – dancing! Your future lover could be in the crowd, but even if (s)he isn’t, it’s been a pretty stellar day celebrating friendships in some of the city’s most picturesque spots.
9 p.m. If you’re not ready to call it a night just yet, bring your leftover prosecco to the Loggia dei Lanzi and take turns tellings love stories about the iconic statues (historical accuracy not important). Rape of the Sabine is a classic love triangle, and Perseus could be any hero out to win hearts. Whoever has the best fantasy wins one genuine compliment from each of the others.
After such a charming love fest, I dare anyone to assert that a fidanzato/a is better than a fist full of friends.
Hannah’s Ti Amo Walk
I’ll take that challenge Meg! While I can’t deny the love that I have for my friends, Italy is undeniably, unequivocally, overwhelmingly romantic. And if you do deny that you have never had a fantasy about finding love on the back of a vespa in the hills of Tuscany (and excuse me for being harsh) then you’re lying to yourself. You can’t help it, and it’s ok, because as you watch the sunset over the Arno, stroll under the soft glow of the street lamps, and listen to the old man on the street corner listlessly strum “That’s Amore,” on his guitar, how could you? For this romantic love Italians have reserved the term Ti Amo. If you’re a cynic about love, then let Florence change your mind. So grab that special someone, and let’s go for a walk through the city of love (back off Paris, you can’t have dibs on that title forever).
Distance: 3.6 km
Time: to your heart’s content
5:30 p.m. Let’s start things off real mushy at the Church of Santa Margherita dei Cerci, where the heart-wrenching romance between Dante and his beloved Beatrice began. The quaint church is tucked away off of Via del Corso. Head east on the Corso from Via Calzaiouli. Take a right on the covered Via Santa Margherita and immediately stumble upon the romantic chiesa to your left. A small stone plaque outside the church marks the spot, but for the real romance head inside. At first, the now deconsecrated church doesn’t seem to have much on its grandiose neighbors. That is, until you make it to the tomb of the Portinari family where it is believed that Beatrice is buried. Here lie hundreds of letters from hopeless romantics all over the world who have come to pay homage to the ultimate story of unrequited love. They write to Beatrice with tales of loss, heartache, and happiness. If you think Beatrice may have some advice for you, bring a pen and paper to share your love story.
6:30 p.m. Next stop, the Ponte Vecchio of course! With breathtaking sunsets, whimsical street performers filling the air with iconic love songs, and locked up treasure chests lining the bridge, it would be a sin to skip this poetic ponte. Thousands of locks cling to every gate, grate, and post on the bridge. These are the locks of the thousands of lovers who visited the bridge on their romantic walks. And where are the keys? Dramatically tossed into the Arno, of course, symbolizing their undying love.
7:30 p.m. From the Ponte Vecchio stroll through the Oltrarno to Piazza San Niccolo. This pocket-sized piazza is enough to inspire any artist. In fact, it has. Peer into the window of artist Clet Abraham’s studio. You have probably seen his interpretive street signs around Florence, many with a romantic twist. Inside his workshop you can see samples of his more PG-13 projects. Follow his art up the cobblestone, tree-lined path to, yes you guessed it, Piazza Michelangelo.
8:00 p.m. Piazza Michelangelo is cliché and crowded. It’s where rose vendors swarm and hormone-crazed youth have no shame about their PDA. It’s a piazza practically built for lovers. And there’s something perfectly charming about it. I love Piazza Michelangelo the same way I love a box of Lisa Frank Valentines and candy hearts. Am I making sense? If my head is too far in the clouds ask any Italian crooner. They’ll tell you that every first date ends here…I mean how couldn’t you win her over with a view like this? Snag a spot on the steps in your lover’s arms for a postcard perfect view of Florence.
10:00 p.m. Want to see the city from a more exciting perspective while adding a splash of danger into your love life?
WARNING: Before you read on please promise that if you do this you will be safe and also kind of sneaky, as the Carabinieri are not fans of this tradition. Just don’t be dumb, ok?
Stroll down the hill and west along the Arno until you reach the Ponte Santa Trinita (one past the Ponte Vecchio). Once on the bridge look over the east ledges to find distinct piers which jut out from the bridge. It isn’t uncommon to find adventurous youth picnicking or PDA-ing on the piers. Such activity is understandably frowned upon by the Florentine Carabinieri, but a blind eye is typically turned if you’re behaving. At this hour, one of the piers will surely be waiting for you. Hop over the edge of the bridge and grab a seat with your lover for a view to boot, and a little privacy in the very heart of the bustling city.
11:30 p.m. Don’t forget to stroll the tiny curving alleys under the soft glow of the street lamps. Such simple details in Florence can be taken for granted, when in all actuality they are what make this city so very perfect. As Lord Byron swooned about Italy, “Thy very weeds are beautiful.”
12:00 a.m. Let the romantic evening come to a close with a midnight visit to Piazza della Signoria to see this place as you never have before. Tourists are long gone, street performers are packed up, and the parties are winding down. One of the most romantic spots in the entire world is all yours. How does that feel? Dance, run, spin, lay down, laugh, and take in the pure beauty of the piazza knowing that when you wake up, this place will be very different.
There you have it. Whether you took the walk with your lover or Dean Martin’s Italian Love Songs album playing on your iPod, we hope that Florence has made you a believer in love, that perfect, romantic moments do exist. Need proof? Check out the locks one more time on the Ponte Vecchio. Whether the couples are still together or not, the locks represent a perfect romantic moment in Florence.
While we walked you through Ti Voglio Bene and Ti Amo, we saved the best kind of love for last. And that is falling totally, madly, in love with Florence. We won’t deny that Florence has been our Valentine a year or two, and I don’t believe any Casanova or Romeo could have made for a better one.