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feb 09 2010

Finding the romantic side of Rome

Boxes from La Bottega del Cioccolato make beautiful, tasty gifts (Katie Parla)

It's not hard! Chocolate truffles, a leisurely hilltop stroll, and an intimate meal are key ingredients for Valentine's Day in Rome, the hometown of martyr San Valentino. Couples who work up an appetite browsing museums and archaeological sites—offering 2-for-1 admission on Valentine's—can break for an afternoon treat of fine handmade chocolates.

La Bottega del Cioccolato does a lovely rich and bitter ultra-dark chocolate as well as legendary marrons glacés, chestnuts candied in syrup. The small red shop has glass displays of unwrapped chocolates (dark and milk, only) and glass containers with pieces individually wrapped in colored foil (via Leonina 82).

Said, an 80-year-old chocolatier with a café and restaurant, makes decadent truffles and thick, creamy hot chocolate that you can savor indoors—or take to go (per portare via). Chocolates are sold by weight; expect to pay around €7.50-10 for a box with 8-10 pieces (via Tiburtina 135).

There's no shortage of paths and lookout points for a hand-in-hand stroll.

The Janiculum Hill above Trastevere is home to the Villa Pamphilj, a vast public park dotted with fountains, botanical gardens, and 17th-century pavilions. After wandering the grounds, leave through the Porta San Pancrazio exit, and make for the vantage points dotted along the winding Via Garibaldi and leafy Passegiatata del Gianicolo.

The Capitoline Hill is a more central option. Climb the hill from the via dei Fori Imperiali, following the snaky path up to the viewing deck for sweeping views over the Forum. Pause in Michelangelo's Piazza del Campidoglio, with three elegant 16th-century buildings, and then follow the path to the left of the Palazzo dei Conservatori and climb the stairs to the Café Capitolino, the Capitoline Museum café with a terrace overlooking the domes, towers, and rooftops of the city. It's a perfect spot to steal a kiss or to linger over an aperitivo before dinner.

Make a restaurant reservation as soon as possible if you'll be in Rome for Valentine's Day. Hedonists should consider Cantina Lucifero, an intimate family-run wine bar and restaurant specializing in luscious, melt-in-your-mouth steak tartare and in fondue. Bubbling cauldrons of cheese are served tableside with cubes of bread and iron skewers. Polish off a meal with chocolate fondue with fresh fruit (via del Pellegrino 53; about €20 per person, plus wine).

La Campana sticks to seasonal Roman fare, such as tender roasted meats, tagliolini with anchovies and pecorino, and pasta with artichokes (vicolo della Campana, 18; about €30 per person, plus wine). For something lighter, find a cozy table in the wood-paneled wine bar Giulio Passami L'Olio, where you can share cured meats and cheeses over a bottle of wine (via di Montegiordano 28; about €15, plus wine).

And if you feel it just isn't Valentine's without a bouquet, swing by the flower vendors at Campo de' Fiori or Piazza Madonna dei Monti. Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday, Rome's traditional day of rest, so do your shopping early to avoid coming up empty handed!

Read more recommendations—and ask trip-planning questions—on our Rome city page.

Get Inspired with more from BudgetTravel.com


Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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