As Valentine's Day approaches, my mind is on romance. I've been working on a romantic Valentine's dinner menu. One where each course includes chocolate. Try as I might to focus on the menu, even a chocolate menu, my mind keeps wandering to Italy. I know I'm not the only one that connects romance and Italy, right? There are, however, particular places in Italy that are more enchanting than others.
Those places are etched in my mind as spots I want to return with that someone special. Spots that induced "oohs" and caused heavy breathing from long inhales and deep sighs. So magical, they deserve their own stories that start "Once upon a time" and end "happily ever after;" the place where the prince first kisses the princess.
Is this a cheesy, goofy, girly post? Yes, I guess so! I'm a hopeless romantic. Remember, I'm the one that rejected a gondola ride that included an offer to steer the gondola, to wait and ride with my anima gemella (twin of my soul/soulmate). Although this post may tilt way on the side of "for the girls" hopefully, my dear male readers, I haven't lost you. If you're planning to whisk someone away on a romantic trip to Italy, for Valentine's Day or any other occasion, these little wanderings of mine could certainly be of help.
Here are my picks for ten best places to kiss in Italy. You'll see a pattern in my choices. For me, water - be it an ocean, lake or river, along with long stretches of beach or promenades, and evening lights qualify as molto romantico. I know there are far more than ten, but I'm hoping you, my fellow Italophiles and romantics, will help by adding your favorite(s) to the comments:
Rome - Castel Sant' Angelo on the Terrace of the Angel
Rome has many breathtaking hilltop views, but this is my favorite and, for me, the most romantic. At the top of a castle with the Archangel Michael above, sword in hand, standing guard, your "prince charming" (principe azzurro) beside you, the Eternal City all aglow below, and the hills of Rome twinkling in the distance.
Taormina - Piazza IX Aprile
Most of Taormina rests on the seaside cliffs of Sicily's eastern coast. The lower part of the city is home to two beach areas. Of course it's a city for romance. The bustling Piazza 9 April is midway along the long, mainly pedestrian street, corso Umberto I. You can snuggle in a corner along the railing at the rim of the piazza and look onto the eastern coastline of Sicily and the sprawling Ionian Sea. The clock tower (Torre dell'Orologio) and St. Agostino Church are at the other end of the piazza. While I was in Taormina, every night I saw countless brides and grooms strolling hand-in-hand out of St. Agostino and the other churches in the city.
The Aeolian Islands - A boat ride around Stromboli
Definitely a spot for romance are all of the Aeolian Islands. A boat ride around Stromboli at dusk and an evening ride back to Lipari stands out in my mind as the most romantic part of the trip. Stromboli erupted and spewed it flames of lava. (If only I were with my "one true love" instead of being bothered continually by a pesky marinaio.) The pesky sailor did point out La Stella di Venere ("star" of Venus, actually the planet), which I had never seen before. On the night ride back to Lipari, you could clearly spot the Big and Little Dippers, called Orsa Maggiore and Minore in Italian. (If the sailor wasn't good for romance at least he was good for learning a few new words in Italian.)
Vernazza - From Above or Along the Harbor
I couldn't leave "my happy place" off the list. At dusk atop the hill overlooking Vernazza, you will certainly be alone. I would suggest bringing a bottle of wine AND a flashlight. Winding your way down in the dark, can be a struggle, even without having had any wine. For those who don't want to climb, the harbor is just as romantic.
Anywhere in Venice
I believe the water and the reflections of the city - its lights, its buidings, its glass - flickering above the water's surface does something to your senses. How can you not feel amorous here? Kiss on bridges, in a quiet calle, along the small canals, on the steps of Santa Maria della Salute, on Giudecca - looking out at the Doge's Palace and the Campanile, in the back seats of an empty vaporetto. Possibly the best place of all is St. Mark's Square when it's virtually empty, very late at night.
Florence - Ponte Santa Trinita: Looking onto the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio
While students, tourists and young lovers pack the Ponte Vecchio, take a stroll along the Santa Trinita bridge for a bit of quiet, and a view of the Ponte Vecchio and the lights along the Arno.
Camogli - The Beach at Dusk
Camogli, one of the many picturesque towns in Liguria, has a long stretch of beach. After the daytime crowds depart, this stretch of beach allows you to carve out a private spot for smooching and watching the sun set on the Ligurian Sea. To top it off, Camogli celebrates lovers during St. Valentine's Day and the week preceding it. The festival is called "Innamorati a Camogli." Hotels have special deals for couples, there are art and poetry competitions dedicated to love, and hearts are strung everywhere in the city. You can add your heart to the fishing nets along the harbor.
Sorrento - Belvedere di Sorrento
Behind the Convent and Cloister of San Franceso is the terrace called Belvedere di Sorrento. You have sweeping views of the coastline, a look down the cliffs onto the Marinas Grande and Piccolo of Sorrento, and out onto the Bay of Naples. Many couples end their walks through Sorrento here, cuddled together against the terrace railing or along the park benches.
Lago Maggiore - The Terraced Gardens on Isola Bella
The island on Lake Maggiore houses Palazzo Borromeo and one of the most spectacular gardens in all of Italy. The terraced gardens lush with greenery, flowers and statues are a sight all by themselves. Adding to the beauty are the white peacocks that roam the gardens, the views of Lake Maggiore and of the mountains, snow-capped in Winter and Spring. The variety of plants in the garden provide color from March to October. The beauty of both the gardens and the surrounding views make it a perfect place for a prince and his princess. Actually, legend has it that the ladies of Count Borromeo's household asked him to build the palace on the island because they didn't want to hear the prisoners' cries from the dungeons in the mainland's castle.
Napoli - Via Partenope
Via Partenope is part of a long stretch of road that edges along the sea, the lungomare, in Naples. It runs from the neighborhoods of Santa Lucia to Mergellina. Along the Via Partenope stretch is a long promenade with views of Castel d'Ovo and Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Other lovers have left their mark along this classic lovers' stroll. Along the promendade, look out for padlocks, painted with couples' names and locked around poles.
Where are your picks for most romantic spots and the best places to kiss in Italy?