CAN YOU believe it is nearly Valentine’s Day?

In less than two weeks it will be February 14 and we will all be showing our loved ones exactly how much they mean to us on what is supposed to be the most romantic day of the year.

If you’re looking for romantic inspiration, look no further than Italy, because if there’s one thing Italians are well-known for, it is romance.

In Italy, San Valentino – or La Festa degli Innamorati (the festival of lovers) – is also celebrated on February 14.

Valentine’s Day is named after St Valentine and, as always, there are many stories surrounding who he was and what he did.

The most popular and widely accepted story about St Valentine is that he was a priest from Rome in the third century AD.

The story says that Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage, because he thought married men made bad soldiers.

Valentine, feeling that this was unfair, decided that he would break the rules and arranged marriages for couples in love, to be conducted in secret.

When Emperor Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death but – would you believe it – Valentine managed to find love in prison, falling for the jailor’s daughter.

On the day he was executed (February 14) he sent her a love letter signed “from your Valentine”.

I can’t quite make my mind up whether or not this is the most or least romantic origin story for the most romantic day of the year.

Valentine’s Day has been celebrated for a very long time, and is thought to date back to Roman times.

The Romans celebrated the start of spring with a festival called Lupercalia.

At this festival, boys drew girls names from a box and they would be boyfriend and girlfriend for the festival – sometimes they would even get married!

Later on, the church decided that the celebration should be used to celebrate St Valentine too.

Italians are well known for being romantic but Italy itself is known for being a romantic place.

From the beautiful cities to the stunning countryside and beaches, Italy is not only a great destination for romantic holidays, but it is also the backdrop for many famous love stories, from movies to books to plays.

One of the most famous love stories, without a doubt, is Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which is set in Verona, Italy.

They say that the best way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, so I started thinking about dishes you can make for your valentine this year and, inspired by Romeo and Juliet, I opted for a dish said to originate in Verona.

Gnocchi are small dumplings made from potato, semolina, or flour, most often served with a sauce – which, in Verona, is usually tomato.

In order to help you impress your loved one this year, I’ll be talking you through how to make your own gnocchi at home, accompanied by a delicious tomato sauce.

One thing is for sure though, if you are planning on kissing your loved one later in the evening, probably skip the garlic.