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From Naples to Florence, culture fetes Valentine's Day

Italian cities hail ancient fest to celebrate their heritage

13 February, 13:23
From Naples to Florence, culture fetes Valentine's Day (By Elisa Cecchi) (ANSA) - Rome, February 13 - Valentine's Day is drawing closer and love is in the air.

A number of Italian cities have chosen to celebrate this ancient love fest through their cultural heritage, with special events planned on Friday all over the country to rediscover little-known artistic treasures along with trademark venues.

As American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said in his 1924 short story The Sensible Thing, "There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice".

And for happy couples, romantic singles, as well as those whose Facebook relationship status reads "it's complicated", there will be all kinds of ways to celebrate each kind of love across Italy this Valentine's Day.

In Naples, the municipality and local Academy of Fine Arts have organized a round of events befittingly called Notte degli innamorati a Napoli - A night of lovers in Naples - aimed at attracting visitors to the city's lesser-known locations.

The tour involves exhibits at the local Archaeological Museum, an itinerary through art and literature called Ancient Love as well as the show Duet for Naples dedicated to contemporary Austrian painters Christian Ludwig Attersee and Hermann Nitsch at the stunning Castle dell'Ovo.

It also offers the opportunity to explore the splendid astronomical observatory in Naples' Capodimonte neighbourhood, or to take a peek at the royal carriage which transported the newly married Umberto II di Savoia and Maria Josè at the National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa.

Other pearls to discover on Valentine's Day include the local toy museum and what is widely considered as one of the most romantic sights in the southern port city, Virgil's tomb, believed to be the burial place of the author of the epic work The Aeneid. Located inside an enchanting small park close to the church of Santa Maria di Piedigrotta, it is also the resting place of Giacomo Leopardi, the greatest Italian poet of the 19th century.

Further north, romance flies high in Florence where Palazzo Vecchio - the old home of the Medici clan and seat of the Florentine government, best known for its stunning interiors - will open its tower for the February 14th festival day.

Couples will be offered a glass of bubbly wine to help them brave the staircase of the tower of Arnolfo di Cambio, built around 1310, where Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola spent his last hours before being hanged and burned at the stake in the square in 1498.

A symbol of Florence's history, it reopened to the public only in 2012 and offers a stunning view of Piazza della Signoria and the city.

A tower is also the site chosen by the enchanting Emilia Romagna central town of Cervia to celebrate love.

With a special mention in Dante's Divine Comedy, this seaside resort will open to visitors its 18th century San Michele tower, bedecked in red lights for the occasion, for an hour-long romantic tour.

In the capital Rome, Valentine's Day will be an opportunity to investigate contemporary art or explore ancient treasures.

The four-year-old national museum for art of the 21st century, known as the MAXXI - a stunning structure designed by Zaha Hadid which is striving to become a focal point of contemporary culture in Italy - is offering couples a two tickets for the price of one deal.

With just one ticket, couples can enjoy a candle-lit night including seven exhibits and a performance by Vedovomazzei artists Stella Scala and Simeone Crispino, who work in sculpture, painting, installations and photography.

And for those who cannot resist the allure of some of the world's most famous ancient treasures, the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia offers a day to ponder the exhibition Love and other Demons. As well, the gallery lecture series Words and Images from East to West will enable visitors to engage directly with works of art at the museum.

One of the talks, by Sapienza University Professor Lorenzo Verderamo, will focus on the passion between Inanna and Dumuzid, two divinities of ancient Mesopotamia whose love inspired epic poems in Sumerian literature.

Finally, among initiatives to honour Valentine's Day, state museums across the north-western Piedmont region will offer each couple a free ticket; while Turin's splendid Royal Palace, Royal Armory and the Sabauda Gallery, featuring stunning art collected by the House of Savoy over the centuries, will remain open till midnight.