Verona Story 01: Letters To Juliet at Casa Di Giulietta
“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” – William Shakespeare
The first time I was introduced to a town called Verona was from reading the famous Shakespeare’s play “Romeo & Juliet” in an English Literature GCSE class. At the time, I did not think much of Verona. After all, it was just an Italian city in a fictional play, with the most unappealing storyline. A story of star-crossed lovers tragedy was just completely alien to me, I could not really relate to the inflatuation nor the agonies that the protagonists were going through. Verona was no more than a name of an ordinary Italian town, far… far… away… with nothing of particular interest. Fast forward a few decades, Verona was reintroduced to me again, this time via a movie called “Letters To Juliet” starring Amanda Seyfried, which happened to be one of my favourite movies ever since. This was when I realised what a wonderful and picturesque Roman city Verona really was. Other than the architecture and the scenery portrayed in the film, I also fell in love with its romantic storyline. I finally understood all the joys and heartbreaks that came with different types of love. It was intriguing to learn that there was a real Juliet Capulet’s house in Verona with a balcony to her bedroom just like how Shakespeare described in his play. Whether the play was fictional and this Casa Di Giulietta was merely a tourist attraction designed to capitalise on the famous literature, or indeed the play was based on a real life love story of tragic star-crossed lovers in 14th century Verona, I would never know. One thing was certain though, Casa Di Giulietta had become a mecca of romantics from all over the world. They came to leave letters to Juliet on the walls in her courtyard… To pray about their loved ones, to express their unrequited love, to ask for guidance about their relationship problems, to confide in her their deepest desires, their hopes and their fears. In fact, this house had been the destination for travellers and pilgrims since the 1800s, including luminaries such as Charles Dickens who recorded his impressions of the picturesque residence in written words. Ever since then, Verona had been on my travel destination list. One day, I wanted to visit Casa Di Giulietta, walk the cobbled streets, experience the charm of this ancient Roman city, look at those walls of love letters and read them for myself.
Casa Di Giulietta, with its modest stone archway signifying the entrance to the courtyard from the busy high street did not have any signage, but could be easily identified by all the declarations of love in a form of graffiti all over the stone walls. Inside, the courtyard walls were completely covered with layers and layers of love notes… love letters… love locks… It was hard to imagine how the Secretaries of Juliet could reply them all. (Yep, the secretaries were real too!) Even harder still was how the Municipality of Verona could manage to keep the courtyard clean! Although I find this whole notion of leaving love notes romantic and touching, it is a pity that people also ruined the exquisite medieval architecture by using chewing gum to stick their notes to the stone walls.
According to one of the tour guides at Casa Di Giulietta, the house and surrounding buildings officially belonged to the Dal Capello family from 1200s. From this derived the name “Capuleti”, the noble house of Juliet. Today the stone coat of arms in a form of a hat (Cappello) could be seen adorning the keystones of the vaults and fireplaces throughout the house.
Standing in the middle of the courtyard was a life-size bronze statue of Juliet herself. I was told that touching her right breast was supposed to bring good luck in love… It was also one of the most popular tourist photo spot, so I did the cheesy tourist thing and took photos and videos with Lady Juliet too! \(^-^)/
The interior of Casa Di Giulietta, however, might be rather disappointing for most people especially if they had no particular interest in architecture because the house was rather bare, and its art collection was modest to say the least. As for me, I found the stone and timber balconies as well as its medieval construction fascinating and inspiring. But if you are not an architecture-nerd like me, you might want to skip paying 6 euros for the entrance fee, and move on to other sights in the city – which there are plenty and I will be writing about them in my next blog post. For now, here are some more photos of my visit to Casa Di Giulietta… Enjoy!