Sandra Lee and her boyfriend Ben Youcef kiss in Italy as they celebrate her 56th birthday


Sandra Lee and her boyfriend Ben Youcef kiss their way through Italy as they celebrate her 56th birthday with a ‘magical day’ in Verona followed by a ‘romantic’ sunset cruise on Lake Como

  • Lee took to Instagram on her birthday Sunday to post a photo of Youcef, 43, giving her a passionate smooch while enjoying a sunset cruise on Lake Como
  • The Food Network alum explained the snap was taken the day before during her ‘pre-party,’ saying, ‘I am making my years count instead of counting the years’
  • Hours before, Lee posted a photo of herself kissing Youcef on Juliet’s balcony in Verona, a tourist attraction inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet 
  • Lee and Youcef spent the day of her birthday visiting the neighboring village of Torno, where they stopped at a church for a blessing
  • She later enjoyed a party with her closest friends and got her ‘own fireworks display followed by an incredible birthday cake’
  • Lee had a hysterotomy four months prior to the romantic getaway after her gynecologists noticed a change in her cells that could have led to cancer 
  • She underwent a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and she started reconstructive surgery a year later 

Sandra Lee and her boyfriend Ben Youcef put their love on display while celebrating her 56th birthday in northern Italy

The television chef, who was rumored to be engaged to the actor, took to Instagram on her birthday Sunday to post a photo of Youcef, 43, giving her a passionate smooch while cruising around Lake Como. 

‘Romantic sunset cruise on Lake Como pre-party with my Ben,’ she captioned the image, which was taken the day before. ‘So romantic and special for my birthday!!’

Sandra Lee celebrated her 56th birthday in northern Italy with her boyfriend Ben Youcef, 43, who gave her a passionate kiss during a sunset cruise on Lake Como

Sandra Lee celebrated her 56th birthday in northern Italy with her boyfriend Ben Youcef, 43, who gave her a passionate kiss during a sunset cruise on Lake Como 

The couple also shared a romantic kiss on Juliet's balcony in Verona, a tourist attraction inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

The couple also shared a romantic kiss on Juliet’s balcony in Verona, a tourist attraction inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Lee and Youcef spent the day of her birthday visiting the village of Torno, where they stopped at a church for a blessing. She later enjoyed a party and fireworks with her closest friends

Lee and Youcef spent the day of her birthday visiting the village of Torno, where they stopped at a church for a blessing. She later enjoyed a party and fireworks with her closest friends

‘Happy birthday everyone — may your kisses be filled with love and passion,’ she added. ‘Loving 56 so far! So grateful…Xoxo Sandy.’ 

Lee had previously shared a photo of herself kissing Youcef on Juliet’s balcony while they enjoyed a ‘magical day’ in Verona ahead of their arrival in Lake Como. 

The renovated 13th-century residence was once occupied by the Cappello family, who locals believe inspired the fictional Capulets in William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. 

Lee, who battled breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy seven years ago, has spent the past four months recovering from a hysterectomy.

She explained on Instagram that she is focused on living her life to the fullest following her health scare, writing, ‘First and most importantly I am making my years count instead of counting the years.’ 

Lee underwent a hysterotomy in March and spent the past four months recovering before their trip to Italy

Lee underwent a hysterotomy in March and spent the past four months recovering before their trip to Italy 

The Food Network alum announced on Instagram that she was having a hysterectomy after her gynecologists noticed a change in her cells that could have led to cancer

The Food Network alum announced on Instagram that she was having a hysterectomy after her gynecologists noticed a change in her cells that could have led to cancer

Lee said Youcef was by her side when she underwent the procedure to remove her uterus

Lee said Youcef was by her side when she underwent the procedure to remove her uterus 

‘After this past year of health struggles, I know that life is too short not [to] celebrate every single chance I can get,’ she added. ‘So looking forward to Ben’s next surprise! Yay Birthdays, what a gift they are!!’ 

A few days after her birthday, Lee returned to Instagram to post a photo of herself posing with Youcef in what looked like an Italian courtyard, saying she is ‘having the brightest of [birthdays]’ in Lake Como. 

‘Villa d’Este is literally the most beautiful hotel I have [ever] seen,’ she gushed. ‘On my birthday Ben and I visited the neighboring village of Torno and made sure to stop at a gorgeous little church for a blessing before my July 3 party. 

‘A few of my very dearest friends flew over in to help me celebrate and I got my own fireworks display followed by an incredible birthday cake covered in glittering white gum paste roses. 

‘My wish for all is a peaceful and lovely life ahead full of health and happiness. Time to go make some more memories!’ 

Lee moved to Malibu, California, and fell for Youcef after she and her ex — disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo — split in September 2019. 

Youcef was rumored to have proposed to Lee in August 2021 during their whirlwind trip to France (pictured), but she has never referred to him as her fiancé

Youcef was rumored to have proposed to Lee in August 2021 during their whirlwind trip to France (pictured), but she has never referred to him as her fiancé  

Lee (pictured with her ex, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015

Lee (pictured with her ex, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012) was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015  

Cuomo was with her in the hospital when she underwent a double mastectomy in 2015 and started reconstructive surgery a year later

Cuomo was with her in the hospital when she underwent a double mastectomy in 2015 and started reconstructive surgery a year later 

She had dated the politician for 14 years and lived with him, but they never got engaged in their decade and a half as a couple. 

Lee and Youcef are believed to have met at a charity event in Santa Monica back in March 2021. He is a father to five-year-old twins with his soon-to-be ex-wife, California-based realtor Apryl Stephenson. 

Though the pair are still legally married, they separated in 2019 and they filed for divorce in January 2020. 

Youcef was rumored to have proposed to Lee in August 2021 during their whirlwind trip to France that coincided with the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Cuomo. 

‘Ben really wanted to distract Sandra from all the news, so he whisked her away to Paris,’ an unnamed source close to Youcef told the New York Post at the time.  

However, Lee has never referred to Youcef as her fiancé, and another unnamed source told People that reports they were engaged last summer were ‘just rumors.’

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