The Italian city of Verona is famous around the world, mostly because of William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The romantic play is the reason many call Verona “the city of love.”
Whether the two lovers actually existed is much debated. According to some, the real Romeo and Juliet were in fact from Siena, but since Shakespeare was so fond of Verona, he placed the story there. A story of doomed lovers, Mariotto and Gianozzo, was published in 1476 by a writer of Siena who insisted it was based on real people who lived in a period within his lifetime, complete with an interfering friar and early death.
But the names of the families—the Montagues and the Capulets—were two real-life important aristocratic families from Verona. Dante Alighieri mentions them in his Divine Comedy. Similar names to Romeo and Juliet popped up in the 16th century. “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet,” a poem, was written by Arthur Brooke in 1562. William Painter, another writer who predates Shakespeare, crafted “The Goodly History of the True and Constant Love of Rhomeo and Julietta.”
Whether the fated lovers were real or not, they are considered icons of Verona.
The most famous spot in the city is the Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet’s House. As the story goes, this was the home of the Capulet family. It is here that Shakespeare’s heroine Juliet would have lived, and today it is a museum dedicated to her. Juliet’s house dates back to the 14th century, and the Capulets’ emblem can be seen on the external façade.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Juliet’s House was abandoned, leading the city to buy it from the dell Capello family. The house and the courtyard have since been restored with architectural designs inspired by the Middle Ages.
In the courtyard, the walls are completely covered by graffiti and love notes, written in many different languages. Couples believe if they write their names here, Juliet will cast a lucky spell and their love will be eternal. In the center of the internal court stands a bronze statue of the beautiful and faithful Juliet. According to legend, touching Juliet’s right breast will bring good luck in love.
From the courtyard, one can see the most famous balcony in the world—Juliet’s balcony. It is a tiny, pretty outcrop where Juliet stood while Romeo declared his love. It is also the balcony where Romeo and Juliet planned the events that led to their tragic deaths.
Rumors circulated that the balcony was added in 1936 by the government to attract tourists.
The bed in Juliet’s bedroom is the one used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film, starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting as the title characters. Other furniture and costumes used in that film can be found in Juliet’s home. Throughout the house, rooms and halls show fascinating frescoes and artwork, as well as a collection of antique engravings from the period in which Romeo and Juliet lived.
The courtyard walls are covered with love notes. A film, Letters to Juliet, starring Vanessa Redgrave, revolved around the idea of a woman seeking out her long-lost love after her letter left at Juliet’s House is belatedly discovered.
On Valentine’s day, February 14, and on Juliet’s birthday, September 17, special events take place, honoring Juliet and love. No one is much deterred by the possibility that Romeo and Juliet were products of writers’ imaginations. People from around the world only want to pay homage to the most powerful story of young love in Western culture.