What the Heart Wants: The Romance of Italy

Julie Jurden

Florence Italy BridgeThe Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi wrote, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.”

With Valentine’s Day just weeks away and the inevitable inundation of red roses, chocolate boxes, and big romantic gestures, here at Modigliani, our hearts return to Italy.

What is it about Italy? What makes it such a romantic destination? Why does it move us in a way no other place can? How it transposes us to another time or how it somehow manages to turn us into gushing teenagers, smitten with our very first love. It’s as if there’s something in the air, or maybe in the wine. Whatever it is, it leaves an indelible mark that consistently makes this country one of the top destinations for romance.

To begin with, Italy is simply one of the most beautiful places to experience. From the architecture to the art, and in the food and wine, it inspires the heart and feeds the soul.  With its evocative landscapes and impassioned people it stays true to the many stories unfolding in literature and on film. Whether you’re lost in a Shakespearean play or entranced by a Fellini film, Italy becomes the main character in any narrative.

With so many picturesque locations, refining the choices seems almost cruel. But the reality is, you simply can’t go wrong no matter where you go.


Venice Italy BoatVenice is considered one of the more romantic locations in all of Italy. With its narrow streets, winding canals, and scenic bridges, it’s the perfect spot for love’s embrace. Take an evening gondola ride or get lost in the modest lanes, only to wind up in the Piazza San Marco every time. Surrounded by water, escape seems inconceivable. And then the romance of the moment captivates and you never want to leave.

And then there is Verona, best known for Romeo and Juliet, earning its nickname “City of Love”.  It’s no surprise that the most visited attraction here is the Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s House, where you can see the famous balcony and imagine the star-crossed lovers exchanging verse and poetry. Nearby, there’s a small wall in a narrow alley where legend says if couples write their names and add them to the wall, Juliet will give them eternal love.

When in Rome, there are couples at every turn. Town squares are important for social exchange and you’ll always find lovers gathered at nearby fountains, like Trevi Fountain. Spend a few hours with your special someone gazing upon Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. The enforced silence as you’re awe inspired demands quiet contemplation, but best shared with another. Get lost together as you walk the sprawling ruins of the Roman Forum and then on to the Pantheon where in the evening the subtle glow of the lights sets the mood.

In the city of Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, you can get lost in art museums soaking up as much Botticelli, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and da Vinci as your heart desires. Take in the city view from the top of the Duomo or gaze down the Arno River from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. End your evening at a quiet café enjoying an espresso or sharing a carafe of wine over candlelight. The romance of Florence is undeniable.

If a more intimate experience is what you crave, try the Gulf of Poets, Golfo dei Poeti, made popular by the romantic poets such as Byron and Shelley. Tourists tend to stick to nearby Cinque Terre, which is less busy and more romantic at night, making this the perfect spot for privacy and amour.

The Amalfi Coast and Lake Como are always lovely options. Both have their share of sparkling waters and breathtaking views. And both are top destinations for honeymooners of all ages.

No matter which location you select, bustling city or countryside village, every nook and cranny seems to evoke the ambience of romance. It never feels out of place or unwanted, and it always feels as essential as breath. Ask any Italian and they’ll probably agree and tell you that life without love has no reason for breath – it is that necessary. Or maybe they’ll say that romance is breathing.

Italians are serious about having a good life, but do not take life too seriously. They believe in living the best they possibly can, which for them means embracing those things that make them most happy. Meals are, by design, long and social. Food is not simply for fuel but instead a sensual experience, where every bite is to be tasted and enjoyed. Wine is not for intoxication but for the palette and pairing with food, heightening the experience. Art is to be shared, with as many as possible as often as possible. Architecture is to be preserved so that generations to come can live amongst the beauty and history, embracing their past, while still creating and innovating for the future.

If at home or lost abroad, we hope you find a little romance this Valentine’s Day. There’s no need to dine out – cook a great meal together at home. Italians even shop together first, extending their romantic experience. Light some candles, put on some music, embrace the moment, and enjoy the company of the one you love.


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Death By Chocolate, Italian Style

Julie Jurden

This past week has officially introduced the inevitable arctic cold that comes with the New Year. The “bomb cyclone” and the brutal cold that follows is enough to drive us all indoors, prisoners to our heaters and blankets. I’m okay with the cold weather and bouts of snow—don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of lounging through the evenings and weekends in cozy sweaters, squishy socks, and curled up with a good book in front of a crackling fire. But the combination of the icy blast and the post-holiday blues may require a bit more incentive to get one excited for the wintry months ahead.

Well, Valentine’s Day is just weeks away. And that means love… and chocolate…and love of chocolate. Okay, I admit it. I’m more excited for the chocolate.
The impact to our brains and the elevation of our mood when we indulge in this little pleasure is simply unmatched. The sweet, creamy, sometimes bitter, decadence of a luscious piece of dark chocolate melting across the tongue is nirvana. The better the chocolate, the greater the experience. The anticipation, the heavy smell of cocoa, and then the moment you bite into a rich and silky piece of chocolate is the trifecta of our senses kicking in and we feel instantly happy.

Across the world, chocolate is a unifier. It takes prominence during holidays, festivals and family celebrations. In every country, it evokes the same response – pure joy and delight. You simply cannot be sad when eating a good piece of chocolate.

You may not know this, but Italy takes chocolate and chocolate making quite seriously. As a matter of fact, it’s reported that in the Piemonte region of Italy alone, there are more master chocolatiers than in Belgium and France combined. And in the area between Florence and Pisa, the concentration of fine chocolate makers is so high that it’s been named the Chocolate Valley. 

A few of Italy’s most famous chocolate brands include Perugina, maker of Baci chocolates, and Caffarel, inventor of Gianduiotto, chocolates shaped like an upturned boat made with a mixture of cocoa and hazelnut paste, a specialty of Turin.

Hazelnuts are quite common in a lot of Italian chocolate. It began with Napoléon’s reign when he prevented British goods from entering European harbors, which made access to cocoa more difficult. A Turin chocolatier mixed hazelnuts with his chocolate to make it go further and now you can buy sweet chocolate spreads like Nutella at every grocery store in America.

If you’re a country with this level of chocolate talent, then it’s only appropriate that you host multiple chocolate festivals for chocoholics near and far to indulge in the most delectable innovations.

Let’s start with the largest and most well known, EuroChocolate. This annual festival is held every mid-October in Perugia, the capital of Umbria. Now attracting more than a million visitors each year, this year will officially mark its 25th anniversary.

You’ll see representation not only from Italy’s most recognizable chocolate brands, but also individual artisans and chocolatiers alike.
Stroll the streets and sample chocolate concoctions of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. Lose yourself in a liquid heaven with chocolate liqueurs or cioccolata calda, an Italian style hot chocolate. And while you’re gorging on your favorite treat, don’t forget to learn from the masters themselves with chocolate classes, tastings, and cooking demonstrations. You can even soothe your soul in a chocolate spa if you like.

The chocolate in Modica is slightly different than the creamy, smooth consistency we Americans are used to. This Sicilian method draws from the Spanish influence using a cold technique that doesn’t allow the sugar to melt instead creating a grainy texture to the chocolate. Modica has it’s own chocolate festival as well called Chocomodica which is held in December.

Other top Italian chocolate festivals to add to your bucket list include Turin’s CioccolaTÓ in November, Cioccoshow in Bologna, also in November, and the Fiera del Cioccolato Artiginale held in Florence each February, which coincides quite nicely with Valentine’s Day.

But no matter which festival you choose, or where you travel in Italy, you must try a decadent cup of cioccolata calda. This Italian hot chocolate is nothing like our American watered down version. This irresistible cup of heaven is thicker, and with the addition of cornstarch, has more of the consistency of a pudding making it the perfect dessert. Sip it while it’s steaming hot or spoon it to the bottom to get every last drop.

The wonderful thing is, even if you don’t plan on being in Italy anytime soon, you can make this luxurious ambrosia at home. You simply need to get your hands on the best Italian cocoa you can and follow the recipe to the letter. In less than 30 minutes, you can cozy up to the fire with the one you love and transcend yourself to the great chocolate festivals of Italy.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, try this recipe for Cioccolata Calda from Domenica Cooks, one of our favorite Italian cookbook authors. After growing up in Italy and sharing this chocolate treat with her own children for the first time while in Umbria, she created the perfect recipe to make it at home whenever the kids needed to come in from the cold.


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Drinking Chocolate, Italian Style

Julie Jurden

Warm up with an extra special cup of Italian hot chocolate this winter. This isn’t your typical instant hot chocolate, but instead a rich and thick drinking chocolate that is everything hot chocolate should be. In Italy, drinking chocolate is commonly known as cioccolata calda or cioccolata densa for its dense pudding like texture that can be enjoyed with a spoon. Add an extra Italian flair by serving in a handmade ceramic mug from Modigliani. Available in a variety of colors, styles, and patterns, one is sure to fit your style.


Cook Time - 15 mins

Time to Make It - 15 mins

This hot chocolate isn't for the faint of heart. It is rich, thick, and full of real chocolate. This is the kind of hot chocolate you make when you want to truly indulge!

Author: Rachel Farnsworth of Blog The Stay At Home Chef

Yield: Serves 2 to 4


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips


  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.
  2. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and melty. If you want the hot chocolate thicker, use the maximum amount of cornstarch.
  3. Add in milk and sugar. Increase the heat gradually to medium-high. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Mixture will start to thicken.
  4. Once the mixture begins to thicken, turn the heat down to low and add in the chocolate chips. Stir constantly until well melted.
  5. Serve hot. Keep the leftovers because it is also amazing, if not better cold!


For this recipe, you can adjust the darkness of the chocolate by what kind of chocolate you put in. I like to do a mixture of semi-sweet and milk chocolate, but you can go lighter with all milk chocolate, or darker with a combination of semi-sweet and bittersweet.

This recipe is in courtesy of: The Stay at Home Chef

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Enjoy a Valentine's Date at Home

Julie Jurden
It’s that time of year again, when love is in the air! While many people are making reservations at that swanky restaurant and planning their celebration out on the town for Valentine’s Day, why not plan a dinner date night in? Here are suggestions to make it an extra special occasion.

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That's Amore! - Valentine's Day Gifts to Delight

Julie Jurden

Amore Italian Ceramic Heart BoxesThe hustle and bustle of the holiday season is now behind us! Here at Modigliani Italian Ceramics, we love the hope and promise the new year brings. We are also fond of our next upcoming holiday, Valentine's Day. With Italy being a powerful inspiration for love of family and romance, it comes as no surprise that our artisans have handcrafted a selection of lovely ceramic heart boxes to commemorate the season. 

The Amore Collection features five different heart designs in two sizes.  These playful designs feature a red heart motif with accents of flowers, polka dots and more. The large box is perfectly suited to fill with your loved one's favorite candy or treat. The smaller box is perfect for jewelry, or perhaps even an engagement ring!

No matter which ceramic heart box you choose, it will be cherished long after Valentine's Day is over.  These beautiful ceramic boxes make a lovely gift for teachers, friends, daughters, or that certain someone special in your life! We invite you to shop the Amore Collection. Each heart box is available for purchase individually or as a set.

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