Learn to fall in love again with a Valentine’s inspired getaway. From laid-back lovers to long-term soul mates, Sarah Marshall rounds up a selection of breaks to suit every type of couple.
Best for... die-hard romantics
:: Rome Cavalieri, Rome, Italy
Most suitors seek a key to their loved one’s heart, but couples in Rome take the opposite approach. As a declaration of eternal love, they attach a padlock to a railing on the Ponte Milvio in Rome, tossing the key into the River Tiber below.
The famous bridge, dating back to 207BC, is now covered with bunches of colourful locks, each one emblazoned with the initials of hopeful young lovers. And despite attempts by authorities to quell the phenomenon, it’s now more popular than ever.
For Valentine’s Day, five-star hotel Rome Cavalieri is offering guests an opportunity to take part in the ritual, which was originally inspired by author Federico Moccia in his 2006 bestseller Ho Voglia di Te (I Want You).
Couples will be taken on a champagne drive to the bridge, where they’ll have an opportunity to attach their own bespoke padlock to one of the many steel columns.
But the romance doesn’t end there. The hotel, which sits atop one of Rome’s famous hills and is surrounded by umbrella pine trees, offers some of the best views in the city. Wake up to see the pretty lights twinkling over St Peter’s Basilica, or watch a romantic sunset against a silky, pink sky.
Although managed by the Waldorf Astoria group, Cavalieri is still owned by an Italian family and their impressive private art collection decorates the public areas.
The large hotel spa is one of the best in Europe, while the two fine dining restaurants live up to Rome’s gastronomic reputation. In February, artichokes are in season and the L’Uliveto restaurant offers some inventive dishes.
Of course, simply meandering through the backstreets of Trastevere or climbing the Spanish Steps is a romantic experience. And while it’s impossible to explore Rome in a day, unlike the padlocks on Ponte Milvio, its treasures are much easier to unlock.
:: The Ponte Milvio package costs 680 Euros per couple and includes one night DBB, spa package with cocktails and engraved padlock. Valid February 1-19 . Visit www.romecavalieri.com or call +39 06 3509 1.
:: EasyJet now flies to Rome up to five times daily, from £59 return in February. Visit www.easyjet.co.uk.
Best for... close-knit couples
:: Horse & Groom Inn, Charlton, Wiltshire
Stressful lives and hectic work schedules often put a strain on a relationship, and sometimes the best way to rekindle romance is to get away from it all.
The idyllic Horse & Groom Inn, located in the sleepy village of Charlton, on the edge of the Cotswolds, ticks along at a wonderfully slow pace.
Passing ramblers are drawn into the cosy bar, attracted by an open log fire and a fine selection of real ales, while foodies from further afield come to sample the restaurant’s carefully crafted menu.
The 16th century, Grade II-listed inn has five rooms, each bursting with historic character but benefiting from tasteful modern touches, such as roll top baths.
The nearby market town of Malmesbury is ideal for an afternoon of idle window shopping, while the Westonbirt Arboretum offers several relaxing walking trails.
But it won’t be long before you’re yearning for the warm fires - and even warmer company - back at the Horse & Groom.
After a hearty meal of British fare, spend an evening relaxing in the comfortable surroundings, before crawling upstairs to a night of good, old-fashioned peace and quiet.
:: The Valentine’s package costs from £50 per person and includes one night B&B. A four-course dinner for two with champagne cocktails costs from £35 per person. Valid February 11-14. Visit www.bespokehotels.com or call 01666 823 904.
Best for... laid-back lovers
:: Hotel Hermitage Gantois, Lille, France
Paris may be the obvious choice for a romantic getaway, but lesser-known Lille is a chic alternative, with the added bonus of being closer to home.
Near the Belgium border, it’s just an hour and 20 minutes by Eurostar from London St Pancras, making it an easy option for a weekend break.
Reached along a red carpet, the five-star former medieval hospital Hotel Hermitage Gantois is cosy enough for couples without being overbearingly sickly sweet. Rooms tucked into the wooden eaves are perfect for discreet lovers, while a lively bar can provide some welcome relief.
Breakfast is served in front of a roaring fire, with piles of croissants and pain au chocolat to munch on, while the hotel’s L’Estaminet Gantois restaurant is a great introduction to dishes from the local area.
Just a stone’s throw from the hotel is the old gate of Porte de Paris, which is just as impressive as the Arc de Triomphe. Lille’s main square is surrounded by cute little side streets, packed with history; and the cathedral, which looks unfinished from the outside, has an amazing glowing wall of yellow marble.
Culture lovers will enjoy the Palace of Fine Arts, which looks like a fairytale castle and displays work by a number of famous artists, including Rembrandt. It’s the second biggest art collection in France after the Louvre in Paris.
Finish your visit with an aphrodisiac-fuelled meal of oysters and champagne at locals’ favourite haunt, L’Huitriere. Whether they have the desired effect or not, you’ll definitely go home satisfied by a relaxing weekend away.
:: Double rooms at Hotel Hermitage Gantois start from 159 Euros and breakfast is 19 Euros. Visit www.hotelhermitagegantois.com
:: Eurostar operates up to nine daily services from London St Pancras International to Lille, with return fares from £69. Visit www.eurostar.com or call 08432 186 186.
Best for... serial honeymooners
:: Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua
It’s not often a celebrity chooses to buy a villa next door to an all-inclusive holiday resort; but such is the appeal of Galley Bay on Antigua’s west coast, even Giorgio Armani couldn’t turn it down.
Attracted by the sandy, white stretch of beach, the Italian designer shares his view with the Galley Bay Resort & Spa, which has been welcoming honeymooners and holidaymakers since the early Sixties.
Originally a surfers’ shack, the five-star resort has blossomed into a romantic 100-room hideaway where guests can fulfil the Caribbean dream of walking ten steps from their beachfront villa into the turquoise sea.
With 365 beaches to choose from, there’s no shortage of hotels and resorts in Antigua. What makes Galley Bay Resort so special is it’s strict ‘adults only’ policy. There are no baby buggies next to the pool or children running riot in the restaurants late at night, making it the perfect option for a romantic getaway.
All food and drink (even champagne!) is included in the price, meaning there are no nasty hidden extras. Of the three restaurants available, Gauguin is the most romantic, with fresh fish served in simple thatched huts on the beach.
The Indulge Spa features several tree house treatment rooms, with only white gauze curtains separating guests from the surrounding forest as massages are performed to a soundtrack of gentle birdsong.
It’s easy to see why some guests have been coming here for almost 14 years on the trot; like any good relationship, Galley Bay just gets better as the years go by.
:: Kuoni offers seven nights all-inclusive at Galley Bay from £1,885 per person (based on two sharing), including flights and transfers. Visit www.kuoni.co.uk or call 01306 747 008.