Let’s say that it was possible to type the word romance into Google Maps, where would it send you? Where would you end up? Many of our notions of what romance is come from Italian culture. During an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia, a Roman priest named St. Valentine was first honored launching our collective celebration of Valentine’s Day. Even the tradition of ‘something old, something new’ was a part of Roman ceremony as well. If you are in the mood for a little rekindling of the love & romance in your life, look no further than romantic Italy.
A whole 12 years into our marriage, Anthony and I were standing in my grandfather’s backyard during a cookout chatting with my Grandpa Nick Rossi. Grandpa Nick was Italian and was talking about his experience traveling to Italy to discover his roots. This conversation lead us to discover that Anthony’s and my paternal sides were from the very same, tiny town in Italy. A town of a few thousand people. You could say “love was in the air” even discovering this simple fact 12-years later.
Yet on an average day, I’m anything but romantic. I am oriented to the monotony of daily tasks and pretty practical in tackling those tasks. As a wife and mom (and “young” grandmother;)) the reality is that I’m more accustomed and comfortable with running a home–the tasks, schedules, decorating, hosting, cooking, cleaning—all that it takes to manage our life and home—than I am even talking about romance (ladies- can I get a witness?). Lots of weeks, months and years in that mode can build a neuropath in the brain (am I right?). It’s tricky to pull oneself out of the “auto-pilot” groove that’s developed from monotony.
I do love, though, stealing a moment from our everyday grind to reconnect with the romantic in me that’s buried somewhere underneath the laundry, teenage boys and the dog poop that somehow finds its way into our house. But when I pour a red blend into my overpriced wine glass from TJ Maxx and laugh with my husband (or at my husband), the dreamer in me is still alive. She lives somewhere in between this ‘business-as-usual,’ Monday night grilled chicken in the oven, vet visits for our sweet Goldendoodle, Molly, doctor visits for the in-laws kind of day…But even while I love my family and feel comfortable in my groove of our daily life, I forget how much life is meant to be lived in the inbetween. My husband too. His nemesis? An unending list of business meetings and gym workouts…finding the time to rekindle the romance in our marriage takes time, intentionality and commitment. Even before we were married, it was as if our grandparents were reminding us of the romance of our Italian roots…the very place the concept was even born.
So how does this dreamer find the romance of Italy? There’s an exchange that takes place as you hit the ground in Italy. Your romantic alter ego comes to the surface. Something shifts in your mind and your heart simply because Italy is endlessly romantic. It’s the nerve center, if you will, of infectious and expressive passion. The language, the astonishing beauty, the commitment to true human connection, the unique tradition of delicious meals are its power.
Let’s go back to that Google Map question. Let’s type ROMANCE & see where it takes us…
First destination: Verona
Our perfect romantic date would begin as you stroll by beautiful balconies hanging over you, surrounding you on the street. Mr. Romance & you walk hand-in-hand with cobblestones under foot to an enchanting shop called Pezzo Unico Legatoria where old books are restored and book-bindings are handsewn. The shop is colorful and especially on Valentine’s Day, textured paper hearts are everywhere. In the city where you can visit Romeo and Juliet’s houses, the Shakespearean-poet within you awakens as you pick out a handmade, hand stitched book with blank pages, yearning to be written on. Leaving this cozy nook behind, you head to Piazza del Duomo, the square with the beautiful Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral. An older Italian gentleman hands you a red heart-shaped balloon and you notice the street lamps of the square are adorned with hearts as well. You both see the gold sign of
Pasticceria al Duomo, an aged apricot-colored stucco building, and you tuck yourselves inside for a yummy cappuccino and pastry. Sitting among the locals in the lush garden area you hear the guitarist passionately performing from the square. The most romantic Piazza dei Signori draws you in as does Juliet’s love-locked courtyard.
2nd destination: Venice
Mr. Romance and you are traveling across the Adriatic sea in a private water taxi sailing toward the island of Venice from the mainland. Neither of you will ever forget how your breath was taken away as you approached the island of Venice from a distance. The magnificent architecture, the sheer impossibility of the design & engineer of place! Your vantage point gives you an astounding picture of the scope & brilliance of the City of Canals. Your hair blows in the wind as you and Mr. Romance collaborate on your plan of getting lost down the little alleys and over tiny bridges of the island. After having landed and seen St. Mark’s Square for yourselves, you go the opposite way of the big crowds to wander in the very quiet and narrow streets of Calle Lunge & Santa Maria Formosa, stumbling upon Angela & father Victor who painstakingly make each remarkable Venetian carnivale mask by hand.
They invite you in and you realize quickly that Italians love to tell you their story, even if it is with broken English. There is much magic to behad in Venice. Skipping over to the neighboring islands of Murano & Burano, the
setting is nothing short of captivating & enchanting.
3rd destination: Rome
Rome is the eternal city. It beckons you & Mr. Romance to have your senses awakened to resilience and timelessness. The ancient civilization has a story to tell. If Verona is a lady of a city, Rome is a man. It guides you. It leads you. It is strong and rough. Together you marvel at the mighty sight of the Roman Colosseum and the striking way the Partheon can just “happened upon” as you are strolling by. Mr. Romance is inspired (and hungry) and takes the lead in this masculine town to guide you into the vibrant Trastevere area, a funky and picturesque section outside of the gritty chaos of historic center. Roscioli Salumeria con Cucina is part deli and part restaurant and this is a great spot for one of Rome’s specialties, Cacio e Pepe (fresh pasta with roman pecorino cheese and black grounded pepper). Roman food is sensual. Elegant artichokes, earthy eggplant, briny olives, tender hand rolled pasta, salty divine cheeses. It is a hearty, exciting meal that for Italians is the expression of love and passion.
Part 2 coming soon…to be continued…❤️🇮🇹
~ Denise 🌻