One thing is for sure! He was never loitering around the “Casa di Guilietta” (Juliet’s house) in Verona in Northern Italy, in spite of thousands of tourists flocking every year to visit the house, either out of idle curiosity, or in the hope of inspiration for spicing up their own love affairs. And yet it is all complete fiction. Worth a visit? You bet!
Romeo and Juliet, as I’m sure you are aware, are the two tragic, star crossed lovers caught up in a family feud in William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Shakespeare himself never visited Italy, although Verona is the exotic setting for three of his plays.
TOURISM OPPORTUNITY FOR VERONA!
However, back in the early 1900s the wise men of Verona recognised the travel tourism potential of purchasing the 14th century house from the Cappello family (Juliet’s family name was Capulet) and declaring it “Juliet’s house!”
Over the years they set up a museum devoted to Juliet inside the house, used the marble left overs from another house from the 1400s to built an actual balcony, and somehow started the tradition that if you write a note with the names of yourself and your lover and stick it to the wall (with chewing gum!) your love would last forever.
Unfortunately, over the years, the mass of notes and chewing gum was causing the walls to deteriorate and now there are “boards” placed around the walls to pin your names.
And then there are the padlocks with couples initials on them that are padlocked wherever they can be squeezed in.
In the 1960s the Lions Club had a bronze statue of Juliet made and placed in the courtyard and the tradition started that if one rubbed her right breast one would have luck in love. The original statue has undergone such wear and tear from the rubbing and people cuddling up to the statue to take their selfies, that a copy had to be made and the original stored inside the house museum.
Another tradition also started up around the 1930’s with letters to Juliet being sent to a local monastery, where it was thought her tomb was situated, and the local guardian of the tomb, Ettore Solimani, took it upon himself to reply to the letters. In the 1970’s The Juliet Club began with volunteer Juliet secretaries working in Juliet’s house replying to the thousands of letters about love problems to Juliet- some addressed just to “Juliet, Verona.”In 2010 a film was made called “Letters to Juliet” that was based on the secretaries of Juliet and the letters they receive and this created a new surge of travel tourists and even more letters!
VERONA TOOK US BY SURPRISE!
There is so much much more to Verona than Juliet’s house and all the ‘love’ memorabilia it has created. We were staying in Venice and had aching feet and tired legs from constantly walking up and down, and over and under the bridges constantly for a couple of days. A friend had recommended that we take a day trip to travel to see Verona.
It’s less than an hour by train from Venice. “This will be a quiet relaxing day,” we thought and we had no great expectations! But once we arrived and started walking, we kept on discovering something interesting around every corner, and ended up totally exhausted again at the end of the day!
Verona is a popular, medium-sized university town and has that youthful energetic vibe. It’s very easy to walk around. I’m not a shopper, but I was so very impressed by the range of stunning women’s fashion shops and beautiful and elegant items on display in the specialty shops on the Via Mazzini, the main shopping street in the old town.
There was so much to see in the Piazza del Erbe, the fruit and vegetable market in the historic old town square, with its interesting medieval buildings. The Lamberti Tower, 84m high, with its bells and clock face is also a popular place. It has 368 stairs and an elevator that gives access to great city views.
OUR FAVOURITE- VERONA ARENA
One of the most stunning sights though, is the well preserved Verona Arena, which is a Roman amphitheatre that was built in the first century. Yes! The FIRST century! And is still well used today! Every year over 500,000 people attend popular opera productions and concerts. It is near the top of ‘My Things to Do’ list, to travel and return to watch an opera in this magnificent setting. It is huge, so impressive and is the third largest Roman amphitheatre in the world.
We wandered across the impressive Ponte Pietra- a Roman arch bridge- the oldest bridge in Verona dating back to 100BC. Tragically in 1945 retreating German troops blew it up, but the locals rallied round and recovered all the fragments and rebuilt it piece by piece.
We made our way to the funicular railway that took us up to the Piazzale Castel San Pietro, a medieval fortress surrounded by the very Italian looking Cyprus trees and located high on the hill. Visitors are unable to go inside the fortress but what stunning views! We loitered there for a long time admiring the views across the Adige River as it winds its way around and through the city.
The other major attractions for travelers include the Castle Vecchio and its bridge and some magnificent churches, the Roman theatre, The Piazza Bra with its great cafes and restaurants. Just so much to see and do. We look forward to returning and spending a few days exploring the area further.