Roses resist recession on Valentine's Day in Italy

State museums offer discounts, events on lovers' holiday

Roses resist recession on Valentine's Day in Italy

Rome, February 14 - Flowers are proving recession-proof in Italy on Valentine's Day as nearly 13 million bouquets and arrangements are expected to sell by the end of Thursday, according to Italian farmers group Cia. Despite the flagging economy, couples on the most romantic of holidays are still eager to buy flowers, mostly roses, with over 10 million expected to burst out of flower shops. Yet florists expect to sell more economically priced bundles this year, priced between five and 10 euros. Nevertheless, sales are expected to reach 70 million euros, Cia said, thanks to the classic gift's austerity-busting appeal. In addition to affordability, experts point to ubiquity, with 65% of all purchases coming from corner florists, while roughly 30% will get their flowers from neighborhood markets and street vendors. Cia said that one in three arrangements originate in countries such as Thailand, Colombia and Kenya due to high energy costs in Italy, which have discouraged domestic producers from growing more flowers. Bouquets are sure to be abundant outside St Valentine's birthplace at Terni in Umbria, where each year lovers swear undying passion in the cathedral that houses the saint's head. Couples also flock each year to the small Sardinian town of Sadali near Nuoro to ask the saint to look kindly on them and bless engagements. The ritual has been going on for centuries in the town's 15th-century church, only the second in Italy to be devoted to St Valentine. Those are just a couple of the sites destined to beckon lovebirds. From the Uffizi and Pompeii to the temples of Paestum and the Brera art gallery, state museums, monuments and historical sites across Italy are offering two-for-one discounts on Valentine's Day. The traditional promotion on the romantic holiday also includes a number of events inside museums and galleries, such as gourmet meals and chocolate tastings at MAXXI, Italy's contemporary art museum in Rome, aimed at bridging the gap between the visual and the gastronomic. Visitors need only be in pairs to get the discount, regardless of gender, age or relation: grandchildren and grandparents are welcome, for example. But romantics are encouraged to visit Torrechiara castle in Parma, where couples can hunt for images of Cupid depicted in the numerous frescoes that adorn the walls. Later this weekend, Parma's Teatro Verdi is offering guided tours accompanied by the music of the 19th-century composer with free pastries and sweets at the end of the walk. In Rome, the Biblioteca Casanatense has opened its 18th-century Monumental Hall to free guided tours with a focus on miniature printed manuscripts, from Catullus to Petrarch. In Campobasso, southern Italy, the town has opened an exhibit devoted to love letters from the 19th century. In Turin the Museum of Antiquity is offering a tour devoted to love in ancient Greece and Rome. The Museo Tattile in Ancona is offering tango lessons for couples and those who come alone. And for an ironic take on the lovers' holiday, the Museo Nazionale Concordiense in Portogruaro has organized an exhibit on romances that ended in violence and crime, dating from the Roman era up until modern times.

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