Italy’s most romantic stories

February, 06 2020 ( Updated February, 06 2020)

Lake Lugano
Lake Como
St Valentine's Day

Love that transcends the age...

A couple enjoy a romantic picnic amongst an olive grove

It’s no surprise to learn that the beautiful country of Italy has been the backdrop to some truly romantic love stories. The most famous from history have been immortalised in writing. Feel the love this month and read our favourites ~

Dante & Beatrice: A tale of courtly love

‘In that book, which is my memory,

On the first page that is the chapter,

When I first met you, appear the words,

Here begins a new life’.

- Excerpt from ‘La Vita Nuova’, Dante Alighieri

A scenic view over Florence and the River Arno

Since the age of time, many have known the lonely depths of unrequited love. One of the most celebrated tales of ‘courtly love’ harks back to the middle ages. It is the love revered by Italian poet Dante Alighieri for his Florentine muse, Beatrice. His idealism of Beatrice is one that will resonate with any born romantic and has since inspired artists and writers the world over (including the pre-Raphaelite painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti).


Who was Beatrice? Dante’s greatest love is believed to have been the Italian, Beatrice di Folco Portinari (1265 – 1290). Her family were bankers, and she herself was married at a young age to the banker Simone dei Bardi. Her beauty and virtues enraptured Dante on first sight, providing the catalyst behind many of his greatest literary works, including ‘Vita Nuova’ (written to honour Beatrice after her death, at just 25). The young lady Beatrice also appears as one of the guides in the ‘La Divina Commedia’ (the Divine Comedy), during the Paradise tale, as well as appearing within the last four stanzas of the Purgatory tale. The power she (unknowingly) held over Dante was truly divine, being courtly love, so it was never acted upon. Dante only encountered Beatrice a couple of times in his life, the first time at a May Day party as 9-year old children and a second time 9 years later, passing by on a Florentine street. She greeted him with such civility that he locked himself away and dreamt a vivid encounter, that would inspire some of his greatest literary works. Although both were married, these chance encounters left an impression of admiration so deep on Dante’s heart, that her goodness and ‘emerald eyes’ remained with him for the rest of his life.


Petrarch & Laura: Romance personified


‘I freeze and burn, love is bitter and sweet, my sighs are tempests and my tears are floods, I am in ecstasy and agony, I am possessed by memories of her and I am in exile from myself’. – Excerpt from ‘Canzoniere’, Francesco Petrarch

A statue of Laura de Noves


The celebrated Italian writer, poet laureate and humanist Francesco Petrarch (1304 - 1374) immortalised his amorous feelings for Laura de Noves in his most celebrated work, ‘Canzoniere’, a vast collection of 366 poems dedicated to Laura. Like Dante, it was love at first sight for Petrarch. He first spotted Laura whilst at Easter Mass on Good Friday. A young wife and mother at 15, she had been married just 2 years to Count Hugues de Sade, when Petrarch first encountered her presence.

By his own vivid recollection, ‘Laura, illustrated by her virtues and well-celebrated in my verse, appeared to me for the first time during my youth in 1327, on April 6, in the Church of St Claire in Avignon, in the first hour of the day; and in the same city, in the same month, on the same 6th day at the same first hour in the year of 1348, withdrew from life, while I was at Verona, unconscious of my loss…Her chaste and lovely body was interred on the evening of the same day in the Church of the Minorities: her soul, as I believe, returned from heaven, from whence it came’.

Moved to put pen to paper, his greatest literary work ‘Canzoniere’ celebrated his love for her. Being a pious and virtuous wife, the writer’s advances were never reciprocated. This does not mean that he did not have her heart. Several years later, when Laura’s tomb was reopened by humanist Maurice Sceve, a lead box was found inside. It contained a medal with a woman ripping out her heart, and under it, a sonnet written by the one-and-only Petrarch. A true revelation and twist in the story. A story of ‘unobtainable love’, in which Laura was forced to forsake Petrarch, for duty’s sake.


‘The Betrothed’ – An iconic tale by Alessandro Manzoni


‘The heart tells me that we will meet again soon. Of course, the heart, who listens to him, always has something to say about what will be. But what does the heart know? Just a little bit of what has already happened’.

 Excerpt from ‘The Betrothed’, Alessandro Manzoni

A beautiful Lake Como view 

One of the most well-read historical novels in Italy, ‘I promessi sposi’ (The Betrothed) is by Alessandro Manzoni (1785 – 1813). First published in 1842 but set during the 17th century, the story is about a betrothed couple Renzo and Lucia, who live in a Lombardy village near Lecco, on Lake Como. The epic tale sees the pair forcefully separated, only to overcome the odds to finally marry, having succeeded a string of challenges along the way (from defying Don Rodrigo who wants Lucia all for himself, to kidnap, a meeting with the disgruntled ‘nun of Monza’, famine, war and scenes of a plague-ridden Milan). The famous tale of romance and endurance has even struck a chord with the Pope and Catholic Church, who back in 2015, advised engaged couples listening in St Peter’s square to read the famous novel, before embarking on the journey of marriage. For literary fans travelling to Lake Como, reading this classic story and taking a trip to the local Villa Manzoni museum in Lecco is a must!


‘The Little World of the Past’ – An atmospheric tale by Antonio Fogazzaro


‘It was the hour that troubled the heart; that hour in which, lacking the light, things and souls feel free…’

– Excerpt from 'The Little World of the Past’, Antonio Fogazzaro

 A scenic view of Lake Lugano

Set against the dramatic backdrop of Lake Lugano during the Austrian occupation, this turbulent story centres around the lives and minds of head-strong young couple, Franco and Luisa. It is not just their opposing religious views they must overcome and work through, but also a disapproving wealthy grandmother, their paternal conflicts in raising their daughter Maria, temporary madness, rebellion and oh, heart-breaking tragedy. Written by Italian novelist Antonio Fogazzaro (1842-1911), this classic tale is arguably Fogazzaro’s most famous work.

If you’re travelling to Lake Lugano, why not pop in and visit the writer’s house-museum, ‘Villa Fogazzaro Roi’, which is situated along the lakeshore in the timeless village of Oria.


‘Romeo and Juliet’ – The world-famous play by William Shakespeare


‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea. My love as deep; the more I give to thee.

The more I have, for both are infinite’.

 – A sonnet from ‘Rome & Juliet’, William Shakespeare


A view of Juliet's statue and balcony

Shakespeare’s greatest play was written between 1594-96. The backdrop for the world’s most romantic love story is set (of course) in ‘sweet Verona’, Italy. For this very reason, we are happily including Romeo and Juliet in our greatest-ever Italian love stories! Set during tumultuous times of bitter rivalry and vengeful feuds, where ‘two houses, both a like in dignity’ are brought to the edge, and back again, by the pure love between two star-crossed lovers, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet.

If you’re staying on Lake Garda, enjoy the ultimate sightseeing day trip in Verona, which is just 35km away.

You’ll be able to soak up the romantic tragedy within the city, as well as re-enact a balcony scene and even leave a love letter at Juliet’s House.


From all of us here at Happy Holiday Homes, Happy Valentine’s Day!


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