When it comes to romanticism there is no other destination in the world that quite compares with Italy! It is a Mecca for lovers and synonymous to romance. Romance is filled in every nook and corner of the Italian peninsula. Its very location, with the Alps, Dolomites, lakes and the sea surrounding it makes it the top spot in Europe and one of the most desirable destinations in the world for romance. Its picturesque seaside villages, beautiful countryside and historical cities are filled with romantic settings, and restaurants. From the sensuous sound of water lapping against the walls of Venice's ancient palaces, to the captivating fragrance of Sicily's citrus blossoms, to the charming seaside villages of Cinqueterre, Italy is indeed a very special place for lovers. Here are the top favorite spots:
VENICE: There is no question that when you mention love and romance, Venice is on the top of the list among lovers and honeymooners and the number one choice in the world. This floating jewel of Italy is perhaps a perfect incarnation of romance. Stroll along its winding canals; lose yourself in its narrow streets or enjoy a lovely sunset gondola ride for two as you sip champagne and glide through the Grand Canal. It has a distinct captivating charm and a romantic, timeless tale to tell. Besides the spectacular Piazza San Marco and its cathedral, there are many small picturesque squares and churches. Venice has many romantic restaurants and cafes where you can linger. There is nothing quite like sitting in San Marco Square on a lovely evening enjoying a cappuccino or espresso at one of its outdoor cafés and listening to classical music.Not to be missed: For the most beautiful panoramic view of Venice be sure to stop to have a drink or a candlelight dinner on the rooftop of the Hotel Danieli, one of Venice's most luxurious hotel and truly one of the finest hotels in the world. I can assure you that this will be one of the main highlights of your visit to Venice!
FLORENCE: The most popular and most sought after destination in the world, Florence is a beautiful Renaissance city in the heart of Tuscany. This romantic and charming city has it all: great museums, magnificent cathedrals, elegant buildings, exquisite shopping -- especially for leather and gold - great restaurants and romantic walks along the Arno River.Not to be missed: Take your significant other up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a photo of the most beautiful panoramic view overlooking the entire city of Florence. Stay at my favorite romantic hotel in Florence, the luxurious Grand Hotel Villa Cora- a five star deluxe mansion dating back to the 19th century.
CAPRI: The island of Capri is a must-see destination for romantics. It has always been one of the most cherished places for romantic people visiting Italy. This tiny island has spectacular scenery and is surrounded by crystal waters that are easily reached from Sorrento or Naples. Once you reach Capri, be sure to go up to the main square the Piazza Umberto, also known as la piazetta. Sit and watch the world go by. The best way to enjoy a romantic twilight is by watching the sunset over the Mediterranean, either from a hired yacht or while walking along its cliffs. After your visit of Capri, take the bus up to the top of the island to visit Anacapri. This tiny village is famous for its master artisans of handicrafts and very contemporary fashion boutiques. The best place to unwind and recharge is at the garden of Villa San Michele. Anacapri is still the laid-back, rural village that it's always been. The other great attraction here is the Seggiovia del Monte Solaro, a chairlift that whisks you to the top of Monte Solaro in 12 minutes. The views from the top are breathtaking -- on a clear day you will be able to see the entire Bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and the islands of Ischia and Procida.Not to be missed: Be sure to take the boat tour to the Grotta Azzura (Blue Grotto). This is Capri's most visited sight and a must for lovers. It is a spectacular sea cave filled with refracted turquoise light. Tickets to the Blue Grotto can be purchased at the Grand Marina when you arrive.
RAVELLO: High above the coast east of the village of Amalfi and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea stands Ravello, offering the most beautiful views of the Amalfi coast. This charming village is known for its ravishing gardens and stupendous views -- the best in the world according to one of its former residents, Gore Vidal. The village hosts the Ravello Music Festival between June and mid-September, where the town transforms into a stage. Other events here range from orchestral concerts and chamber music to ballet performances, film screenings and various exhibitions are held in atmospheric outdoor venues, most notably the famous overhanging terrace in the Villa Rufolo gardens. Performances by top Italian and international musicians are world-class and the village's two venues, Villa Rufolo and the Convento di Santa Rosa in Conca dei Marini, are unforgettable. Ravello also served as the inspiration for Richard Wagner's Parsifal musical. Another reason to go here is the fact that Pompeii, Ercolano and the Greek temples of Paestum are just a short drive away. Not to be missed: Don't miss the Villa Rufolo, which is famous for its spectacular gardens and superb views of the Amalfi coast. The villa was built in the 13th century for the wealthy Rufolo dynasty and was home to several popes, as well as King Robert of Anjou. Also make sure to visit the Villa Cimbrone, now a luxurious hotel. Its gardens, also deemed the most beautiful in the world by Gore Vidal, can be best admired from the Belvedere of Infinity, an awe inspiring terrace lined with classical busts and overlooking the magnificent Amalfi Coast. Villa Cimbrone was used by Greta Garbo and her lover, Leopold Stokowski, as a secret hideaway. This is a great place to have lunch or dinner al fresco.
LAKE COMO: Lake Como, the most beautiful of all the Italian Lakes, is ringed with spectacular villas and resort villages and has long been a top romantic travel destination. It's made up of pretty villages, ports villas in exotic gardens, which succeed one another along this Pre-Alpine lake. Take a day trip to visit the beautiful villages of Bellagio, known as the pearl of the lake and the most romantic village. Bellagio occupies a magnificent site on a promontory dividing Lake Lecco from the southern arm of Lake Como. It has a worldwide reputation for friendliness and excellent restaurants. Visit the splendid lakeside gardens of the Villa Serbelloni. The village of Cernobbio is famous for the Villa D'Este, the opulent 16th century residence that has been transformed into one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Not to be missed: A candlelight dinner on the terrace of the Villa D'este. Who knows you may be lucky enough to see George Clooney!
TAORMINA, SICILY: Taormina draws visitors from all over the world, attracted by its fantastic location. It tumbles down steep cliffs to a clutch of tiny beaches and enchanting islets and headlands, while to the southwest rises the graceful Mount Etna, a fitting backdrop for the town's lush subtropical vegetation, palm trees and cascading bougainvillea. It's an ideal spot for lovers and a chance to unwind and experience its charm and beauty. Walk down the main street of Corso Umberto where you will find some of the finest designer shops, great restaurants with breathtaking views of the Ionion Sea, particularly along the Piazza 9 Aprile, which forms a terrace with splendid panoramic views of the gulf. Not to be missed: The Greek outdoor theatre that dates back to the 3rd century BC and was remodeled by the Romans who used it as an area for their theatrical performances. During the summer months some of the world's greatest artists perform here. From the upper tiers there is a fantastic view of the coastline and Mount Etna.
VERONA: Verona stands on the banks of the Adige against a hilly backdrop. It is the second most important art center in the Veneto region after Venice. This city is best known for the house and balcony said to belong to Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Romantics from the world over come to Verona to visit Juliet's house. The Roman amphitheatre here is among the largest in the Roman world and can accommodate 25,000 spectators. Not to be missed: For a romantic there is nothing quite like attending an outdoor opera in this 2,000 year-old open-air Roman arena. Take a romantic walk with memorable views along the river. Verona is often referred to as the Florence of the North for its magnificent art.
SPELLO: If you are looking to fall in love or re-kindle your romance, Spello is the town to visit and spend the day in. Known as the "Jewel of Umbria," this picturesque little town will captivate you and you will immediately fall in love with its charm and warm hospitality. Spello, often overlooked by many tourists, is situated between Assisi and Perugia. Just when you think you have seen it all along comes Spello. The beauty of this town is the proliferation of arched stone walkways and thousands of hanging flowerpots make this a very special and romantic place to visit, especially from May to the end of September when the entire town is covered with flowers. Not to be missed: Visitors to Spello should be sure to experience the festival of L'Infiorata del Corpus Domini, which is usually held in June. This is the most beautiful and best smelling festival in Spello. It takes place on Corpus Domini, the Sunday 60 days after Easter. Streets are lined with flower carpets decorated in colorful artistic motifs. Go the Saturday before when these floral fantasies are being laid out and participate in the festive atmosphere.
CINQUETERRE: There aren't enough words to describe the extraordinary beauty and magical captivating charm of Cinque Terre, five spectacular seaside villages lying northwest of the Gulf of La Spezia. Best reached by train or boat, Cinque Terre known as the Five Lands and is made up of smaller, more intimate towns on the Golfo dei Poeti. The coastline is magnificent with cascading vineyards and small fishing villages where its people remain strongly attached to old customs and tradition. Not to be missed: A one kilometer walk with that special person in your life along the coastal path of the Via del Amore, linking the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola.
Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy and cherish it with those you love most.
Peter D'Attoma is president of DaVinci Custom Travel & Tours. He has over 30 years of planning and designing independent, premium custom and escorted tours exclusively of Italy for individuals, groups and incentives. For more information visit: www.davincicustomtravel.com