Not just a pretty destination for a romantic weekend, Rome is the perfect place to spend Valentine's Day as it's the very city that started this celebration.
Many early Christian Martyrs were named Valentine, and the one we honour on February 14th was known as called Valentine of Terni, a Roman saint. Saint Valentine is thought to have performed secret marriage ceremonies, which is why we link him to romance, though the real reason was so that the husbands wouldn't have to go to war.
He was martyred in 269 and buried on February 14th on the Via Flaminia, a road leading to Rome. His relics are now kept at the Church of Santa Prassede in Rome, and his flower-crowned skull is shown at the Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome.
Some legends say that before he was executed, Valentine sent the first ever Valentine's card to his jailer's daughter, whose blindness he had healed.
But despite its gloomy origins, Valentine's Day has become a time to celebrate all things soppy and romantic, and while it hasn't caught on quite as much in Italy as in the US or UK for example, it's fitting to spend the day in the place where it all began.
Here are five ideas for a perfect Rome-antic date.
1. Rent a Vespa
Recreate the scenes of “Roman Holiday” starring Audrey Hepburn and rent a Vespa for you and your loved one to explore Rome together.
Ride around the Colosseum, the narrow alleys and take in the fountains and monuments, just like in the movies.
If you aren’t qualified to drive, or are terrified of the Roman traffic, there are plenty of alternative options. Rent a bike, take a seat in a chauffeured Fiat 500 or have a private guide in a 3 wheeled buggy. Anyone can join!
File photo: Pexels
2. Have a picnic on Aventine Hill
The Aventine Hill is one of the seven on which ancient Rome was built and it boasts a beautiful panorama of the city, perfect for sunset-watching with your amore.
Get away from the city, bring some local food, a blanket and your loved one and have a picnic in the secluded Giardino degli Aranci (Orange Garden) atop the Aventine.
Photo: Hannah Cook/Flickr
3. Visit the Trevi Fountain
This staple of any tourist itinerary in Rome shouldn't be forgotten just because it's Valentine's Day. The most romantic scene of classic film La Dolce Vita was filmed in the fountain – but don't try to recreate it, as the city has stepped up police presence in the area and has been known to come down hard on tourists who get splash-happy in the fountains.
What you can do is throw three coins into the fountain. According to local tradition – and the film Three Coins in the Fountain – each coin you throw has a different meaning. The first guarantees a return to Rome, the second signifies new romance, and the third means marriage.
4. Have dinner in Trastevere
Head across the river to get a perfect chance of escaping the crowded city centre and finding some hidden gems in the Trastevere neighbourhood, home to plenty of hotels, eateries, and secluded streets to discover.
This charming district of Rome, along with its winding streets, makes it the perfect place for a romantic evening.
Photo: Larry Koester/Flickr
5. Walk around Villa Borghese
During the day, take a walk around one of the biggest public parks in Rome. What makes this park different? It has a perfect mixture of English landscape nature and Roman architecture, while providing a quiet haven just minutes from the bustle of the Spanish Steps.
You'll find buildings, fountains and monuments created by different architects and artists. Walking around Rome can take its toll on you, so sit down here to take a break with your loved one and watch the old city from one of the many lookouts.
You can also rent a boat in the lake or take a look in the gallery.
Alone on Valentine's Day and cursing your bad luck at being in the most romantic country? There's no need to feel left out! , Forget San Valentino, you can celebrate San Faustino the following day instead – in 2001, Italians adopted the Feast of Saint Faustino on February 15th as a day to celebrate people who aren't coupled up.
The day is marked with social events in local bars and squares, and while it was originally created as a bit of a joke, the tradition has stuck!