One of the top tourist locations in the Italian city of Verona – the house and balcony of Shakespeare’s Juliet – is about to become a whole lot more popular.
A new film, Letters To Juliet, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Amanda Seyfried, uncovers the work of a small army of secretaries who answer letters sent to the house from lovers, star-crossed or otherwise.
The volunteers work out of an upstairs office overlooking the balcony on which Juliet was supposedly wooed by her Romeo. The letters arrive by the sack load, seeking advice on relationships and imploring Juliet to cast lucky spells on their love lives.
Some are written on paper meant to look like medieval parchment, while others are accompanied by photographs and drawings. Many are addressed simply to: ‘Juliet, Verona, Italy.’
“When the film comes out: help!” said Giovanna Tamassia, who has spent the past 16 years writing replies. “Almost all of the letters contain the phrase, ‘Juliet, I can only tell you. Only you can help me,’” said Mrs Tamassia. “Even if she is a literary figure, she has become real.”
Verona earns a small fortune from its association with the legend of Romeo and Juliet, despite the fact that there is little evidence that the couple ever existed. The 14th century palace known as Juliet’s House was once the home of the Cappello family – who may or may not have been the model for the Capulets of Shakespeare’s play.
by Andy Moreton
See the film, then visit the city! Luxique can help you arrange accommodation at two luxury hotels in Verona – the impressive Due Torri Baglioni, which is close to the Juliet Balcony, and the elegant Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amista.
The city council in Verona is giving couples the chance to get married on the stone balcony where Romeo is said to have wooed Juliet in Shakespeare’s play.
The 14th-century Casa di Giulietta, or House of Juliet, is one of the top tourist spots in Verona, drawing more than a million people every year.
It was once the home of the Cappello family - possibly the model for the Capulets of Shakespeare’s play; however, historians say there is little evidence linking it to the tragic love story.
Mary Handley, an English businesswoman who’s been organising weddings for foreigners in Italy for the past six years, said she was sure the Juliet weddings would be popular. “It’s extremely romantic, the weather is usually co-operative and your photos are going to be wonderful,” she said. But she gave a warning that the bureaucracy could sometimes be complex and an interpreter was required by law if the couple didn’t speak Italian.
A balcony wedding will cost citizens of Verona 600 euros (£556 / $775). Couples from elsewhere in the European Union will have to pay 700 euros (£648 / $905), while non-EU couples will face a bill of 1,000 euros (£926 / $1,293).
Tourism councillor Daniele Polato said: “We’ll be offering tourist packages just like Las Vegas does, with wedding and honeymoon. It’s a way of using the city’s artistic heritage to boost tourism.”
Despite the lack of historical fact, the courtyard beneath the balcony contains a bronze statue of Juliet. It’s the custom for visitors hoping to be lucky in love to stroke her right breast, which is now highly polished.
‘Fair Verona,’ as Shakespeare called the city, is in north-east Italy and, as well as the Romeo and Juliet connection, is famous for its summer opera season. This takes place outdoors in the Roman amphitheatre called The Arena.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can help you arrange accommodation at two luxury hotels in Verona – the impressive Due Torri Baglioni, which is close to the Juliet Balcony, and the elegant Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amista.