I love you is such a simple phrase in English. It’s pretty simple in Italian too; it’s just a matter of which I love you to use…
Ti amo and ti voglio bene both have the equivalent meaning as I love you in Italian, but I wouldn’t say ti amo (the romantic I love you) to my children and I wouldn’t say ti volgio bene (the platonic I love you) to my Italian husband.
I’ve learned from other bilingual Smartlings that there are similar nuances to I love you in Spanish, Japanese, German, and several other languages. I think it’s lovely to be able to express the subtle differences in I love you, like the hot, fiery passion of te amo to the soft, affectionate te quiero. (Or the funny scenario of saying like when you mean to say love –Google Translate will tell you Ich hab dich gerne is I love you but it’s meaning is coser to I like you according to my German colleague.)
With all these I love you’s in the air, us Smartlings made Valentine’s Day cards to highlight the subtlety of language. Which goes back to the idea that language is thought.
If you can’t speak in another language, then you can’t think in that language. It makes sense to Italians of course that ti amo in reserved for romantic thoughts – it’s special, and contextual. If you only speak and think in one language, you’re missing out on the layers of language and the unique knowledge set that’s contained within that language.