Italy must be one of the most romantic places in the world. But to make your romantic break super-special, you have to know not just where to go in Italy, but what to do, too.
Hoping to make this Valentine’s Day, or any other wintertime occasion, unforgettable? Here are seven of our suggestions for the most romantic experiences in Italy!
Take a hot air balloon ride in Tuscany
You haven’t seen the famed rolling hills until you’ve experienced them… from a mile high. It’s one of the most unforgettable things you can do anywhere—never mind in Italy! Tuscany Ballooning offers hour-long flights, including on Valentine’s Day, followed by a breakfast of prosecco, local cheeses and snacks; for a truly romantic (and exclusive) adventure, they also offer rides for just two people.
Cuddle by the fireside in an Alpine village
Embrace the winter—and each other—over cups of vin brulé (mulled wine) in Italy’s enchanting Alps. During the day, go skiing, ice-caving, or ice-skating; at night, share a fondue and bask by the fireplace. It’s the ultimate in seclusion and romance. We especially like the towns in the lovely, little-known Valle d’Aosta region or in the sun-dappled Dolomites.
Sleep in “Juliet’s courtyard” in Verona
Few places could be more romantic than Verona, the medieval city on the River Adige where Shakespeare set his play of the star-crossed lovers. “Romeo and Juliet” aside, Verona has everything you need for the perfect romantic break: secluded courtyards, delicious food, crumbling ruins, even the opera. And there’s no more romantic place to stay than at Il Sogno di Giulietta, located in a medieval palazzo right on the courtyard where Juliet (according to legend) once lived. Better yet, the 16 suites are as romantic as you can get, with touches like wood-beamed ceilings, balconies, even a canopy bed.
Pamper yourself at one of Italy’s best thermal spas
Ever since the ancient Romans started relaxing in thermal baths and saunas, Italy’s been the place for pampering. Two of our favorites just happen to be in Tuscany, one of Italy’s most romantic regions.
For its top facilities (including four thermal pools), treatments, and cuisine (the restaurant just got its first Michelin star in 2011), the Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort has won a slew of awards, including being rated the #1 medical, thermal or natural spa in the world in the 2011 Reader’s Choice Awards by Conde Nast Traveller. (Book the couple’s candle massage for the maximum in relaxation and romance).
Also in Tuscany, the Fonteverde Natural Spa, built by a 17th-century duke on hot springs, landed in the same contest’s top 15 worldwide for destination spas. Right now, there’s a Valentine’s Day promotion with romantic offerings like a vanilla face massage for two, cocktails, and a personalized dinner.
Drive the Sagrantino Wine Road in Umbria
Some of Italy’s best wines are made in Umbria, Tuscany’s equally-romantic and lesser-known neighbor. Explore the region, and one of its most famous wines, by driving the Strada del Sagrantino. The 40-mile drive heads through some of Umbria’s most tranquil, beautiful, and romantic places: Montefalco, with its spectacular views and art-filled churches; Bevagna, with its Roman ruins and medieval buildings; Castel Ritaldi, a 13th-century castle; and Gualdo Cattaneo, a town with an imposing castle.
Along the way, stop at the local wineries and other food shops—the region also is renowned for its truffles, olive oil, and honey—and delight your taste buds. One of our favorite spots for a stop: the main piazza of Montefalco, a lovely and quiet space to enjoy a bottle of wine with your loved one. (To make sure that your drive remains romantic, invest in a GPS and some patience—crucial, when driving in Italy, for not losing yourself, or your temper).
Stay at a castle in Emilia-Romagna
Treat him, or her, like royalty: Stay in a medieval castle. Believe it or not, there are options a-plenty in Italy, where every noble family worth their salt (and army) had some serious fortifications. But thanks to its conflict-heavy history, Emilia-Romagna may have the most castles of all. Bonus: The area also has gorgeous countryside, some can’t-miss towns (Bologna and Ferrara among them), and, many Italians say, possibly the best food in the country. Some of our favorites include the Castello di Montegridolfo, a medieval manor that has modern-day amenities like a spa and restaurant (bonus: right now, rooms available are just 100 euros/night over Valentine’s Day), and the Castello di Vigoleno, a huge castle, complete with battlements, crenellations, and high stone walls, whose rooms look like something out of a picture book.
Listen to live music in Naples
Few cities feature the raw passion that Naples does. And the place to find that is, undoubtedly, in Neapolitan music. Don’t believe us? Just check this trailer for Passione, John Turturo’s film about (you guessed it) the Naples music scene. Different bars and restaurants around the city feature live music, but for a sure thing, head to a theater like the Teatro Augusteo.