‘Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene”.
These iconic opening words set up one of William Shakespeare’s most tragic plays, Romeo and Juliet. Though these two lovers never existed in real life something in their story resonates with people. The tale continues to be told from generation to generation. People travel from far and wide to visit Verona and pay homage to Shakespeare’s work. One spot in particular has become a pilgrimage site. The location is known as Juliet’s balcony.
No one knows why this particular balcony became the tourist attraction it is today. Some suggest the owner’s surname, Cappelletti sounded similar to Capulet and therefore people mistakenly believed there was some connection. The owners must have enjoyed the attention; they added a balcony along with a bronze statue of Juliet to complete the atmosphere.
It is said if you rub the statue of Juliet she will bring you love and fertility. This tradition became so popular the original statue was recently removed to a museum for preservation. A replica has since been installed so visitors could carry on the practice.
Additionally, couples and those seeking love will write a note to Juliet and hang it on the brick walls beneath the balcony. The topics of the letters vary. Most ask for love advice, while others give thanks for finding their soulmates. Every year, hundreds of people visit this site to deliver their letters. Some may even get a response.
The Secretaries of Juliet have been working since the 1950s to send responses to some of the people who left letters behind. This began with a former custodian who took it upon himself to send out the replies. It has now progressed into the Club di Giulietta, The Juliet Club. According to a few club members, some of the letter writers appear to genuinely believe they are writing to a real person.
In 2012, Verona authorities tried to end the letter writing by instating a 500 euro fine for offenders. People would use chewing gum to attach their notes to the walls, while others left graffiti. Verona wanted to preserve the site, but almost ten years later the practice persists.
For those tourists who wish to obey Verona’s laws, the site does have a museum inside the house that tourists can visit. It has an array of furniture, paintings, and other 16th-century items to help recreate Shakespeare’s story.
“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo”.
- Verona bans Letters to Juliet [Daily Mail]
- Juliet’s House [Italyguides.it]
- Juliet’s Balcony [No Sweat Shakespeare]
- Feature Picture [Wikimedia]