Italy: Where you’ll be swept away by quaint seaside villages, pastoral countryside, idyllic islands, dramatic mountains, and ancient historic cities. It’s easy to understand why this country is one of the most romantic destinations in the world.
If sharing a margarita pizza or a plate of spaghetti-like the dogs do in “Lady and the Tramp” isn’t enough of a date night in itself, then there are plenty of villages, cities, and islands that are sure to juice up the romance.
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Venice is a given. There’s something about the love birds gliding along the canals in old-school gondolas and the colorful waterfront shops that make this city so outrageously charming. Couples have been coming here to romance with each other since the beginning of time, it seems. Be sure to escape the tourist hustle and bustle by whisking your date away to the small, quieter squares while you’re there. Share a gelato and admire (or stay in) the Danieli Hotel of “The Tourist” fame.
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Lake Como, ringed with beautiful villas and resort villages and surrounded by hills and mountains, is about as picturesque as it gets. This idyllic sliver of coastline was once only frequented by world leaders, royalty, and their most artistic friends, but now it’s Italy’s version of Hollywood, constantly beckoning celebrities like George Clooney to its cobbled lanes and darling villas. Bellagio, known as the pearl of the lake, is one of the most romantic villages, with elegant architecture and terraces gardens. Take a stroll along the lakeshore, or catch the funicular from Como up to Brunate to enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner for two.
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Positano is an Instagram-famous town on the Amalfi Coast. People come to admire the colorful buildings that are stacked like stairs on a cliff face, each competing for a higher view of the sea below. Follow Lover’s Walk (Sentiero degli Innamorati) from beautiful Spiaggia Grande beach to the coves at Fornillo. Go for a cooling dip in the blue Mediterranean with your honey or admire dramatic sunrises with a pesca gelato in hand.
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This enchanting island is almost magical in the evenings when daytrippers depart on ferries back to Naples and you’re left with just your sweetheart and the splendor of Capri. Brimming with inspirational vistas and secluded coves, the island is awash with fragrant flowers scenting the air. Anacapri, the smaller of the two main towns on the island, is the perfect place for lovers (and lovers of long walks, vibrant sunsets, and excellent seafood, too).
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Portofino, a half-moon-shaped seaside village with pastel-colored houses, waterfront restaurants, and crystalline water, is a paradise for honeymooners. Located on the Italian Riviera, sentimental Portofino has a 16th-century castle, a tiny Romanesque-style church, and panoramic views of the Ligurian Sea to die for. Walk hand-and-hand along a scenic path through a pine forest out to the lighthouse on the point. You may also want to look into the other romantic Italian Riviera villages of Camogli and Portovenere.
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Verona is home to the very balcony associated with Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. Romantics flock to the medieval town to see the famed spot and to rub the right breast of Juliet’s statue for luck. While there’s no real evidence that links Shakespeare to Verona, the tale still makes for a fun and romantic trip. While you’re at it, see an opera in the 2,000-year-old, open-air Roman arena, stroll along the Adige River, or relax at an outdoor cafe on Piazza delle Erbe.
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Sicily’s top travel destination since it became part of the European Grand Tour in the 19th century, chic Taormina is perched on the side of Monte Tauro and offers spectacular views of the coastline and Mt. Etna (one of only three active volcanoes in Italy). It boasts excellent beaches of clean, clear waters, a medieval quarter, castle ruins, and an ancient Greek theater used for outdoor summer performances.
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What’s more romantic than a spa soak? Tuscany’s historic spas and natural thermal baths (terme), many of which are free to the public, such as Saturnia, Fosso Bianco, and Bagno Vignoni, are said to have healing, therapeutic waters. Spend a little extra and treat yourself to one that doubles as a hotel, restaurant, and wine bar, like Monteverdi in the 900-year-old village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro.
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If you’d prefer a more intimate coastal vibe, you’ll like the Gulf of Poets (Golfo dei Poeti), a destination once popular with such poets as Byron and Shelley. You won’t find many tourists, but if you can brave the crowds, nearby Cinque Terre is a delightful clutch of five villages connected by footpaths.
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Matera’s fascinating old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits on the edge of a deep ravine with a series of ancient caves (sassi) carved out of the rock. For the best view, walk along the Strada Panoramica dei Sassi and then spend an amorous night in a sassi hotel to experience what it would have been like to be a cave dweller.
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Florence’s Renaissance past evokes romance at every turn. Visit the 13th-century cathedral, marvel at the vast collection of Italian masterpieces at the Galleria Uffizi, and fall for Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Outside the main tourist areas, you’ll find less-crowded streets, romantic views, and quiet piazzas.
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In “Roman Holiday,” Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn fell in love while scooting around Rome on a Vespa. Follow in the footsteps of these iconic lovers by walking across a bridge over the Tiber river with views of St. Peter’s dome in the distance; throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain; sitting on the Spanish Steps; eating a gelato on Baroque Piazza Navona, then climbing atop Gianocolo hill for the best panorama in all the city. That’s amore!
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There are romantic towns dotted all over Italy that provide relief from the crush of tourists, allowing you to enjoy Italy at a slower pace. Check out towns like Pienza, Assisi, Orvieto and Civita Bagnoregio in central Italy, or head south to Puglia’s Alberobello with its cute Trulli houses, Reggio Calabria with its seaside promenade, and Sicily’s Noto, a baroque jewel.