In 2010 a movie came out starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave called “Letters to Juliet.” In this movie, an idealistic American girl (Amanda Seyfried) visits Verona, where she finds a letter to Juliet from the 1950s that was never answered. She tracks down the sender of the letter (Vanessa Redgrave), who arrives on the scene with her incredibly attractive grandson, and together all three search all of Tuscany for Vanessa Redgrave’s long-lost love, Lorenzo.
It was a very cute movie, but just like hollywood simplifies and idealizes things like love, redemption, and road trips through the Italian countryside, the film’s picture of Verona as a quiet, sleepy town is not quite accurate.
In this beautiful screenshot, a handful of composed, meditative people sit quietly and compose their heartfelt letters to Juliet by hand in a picturesque Italian courtyard.
Here’s what it really looks like:
But really, the place is so crammed with people it was hard to get from one end of the courtyard to another. The people are loud, and the gimmicks are… gimmicky. Everyone was stampeding each other to participate in the various traditions that have grown up around the Casa di Giulietta.
Tradition 1: Scrawl the name of your lover on the walls in sharpie.
Tradition 2: Stick a piece of gum on the wall, then have someone take a picture of you stretching it out between your fingers. This means that the walls around Juliet’s courtyard actually look like this:
Tradition 3: Write the name of you and your boyfriend on a padlock, and lock it somewhere. Anywhere. It means your love is eternal because no one can unlock a padlock, right…
I snark, but actually I kind of like this tradition. There’s something very un-graffiti-like about a padlock. Also they sell them in lots of pretty colors 🙂 But it does lead to some obnoxious tourist stunts…
Tradition 4: Juliet’s breasts bring good luck/fertility/longevity/better orgasms. We must touch them and take pictures of it!!!
No but actually, they sell breast-shaped keychains in the massive giftshop just off the courtyard. Maybe it’s the modern equivalent of a holy relic… makes about as much sense as the idea that rubbing Woolsey’s toe will help you get into Yale. Not that it stopped me from doing so. Multiple times.
The “Letters to Juliet” is a real thing, though. People all write letters to Juliet discussing their happiness, their unhappiness, their luck, their bad luck in love, and a group of volunteers called Juliet’s Secretaries answer every single letter. There’s a box in the courtyard where people can drop their letters (not a beautiful billboard of artsy love notes, like in the movie), but most people opt to email theirs in.
After the chaos in the courtyard, Juliet’s house was actually pretty nice. It was five floors of a house furnished to look like that of a Renaissance merchant, and decorated with various artistic representations of Romeo and Juliet through the centuries. The house, of course, is not actually Juliet’s house or Capulet’s house or anything – some guy in the 19th century thought the little balcony over the courtyard looked pretty and started calling it “Juliet’s balcony” as a tourist gimmick. And how it has endured.
Probably the only *genuine* piece of Romeo and Juliet memorabilia in this whole city, is the actual bed from the Zeffirelli movie. You have to admit, that’s kind of neat: