There’s a place in Verona where the broken-hearted travel to. Down on their luck in love individuals can venture into the heart of the city of Love in search of advice. In fact, anyone can. All you must do is wander down the little cobbled lane that leads to the Casa di Giulietta. There, the brokenhearted can send messages to the Real Life Letters to Juliet Secretaries and see the world-famous Juliet Balcony.
The Real Life Letters to Juliet
If you’ve already seen the film ‘Letters to Juliet’, then you’ll know the premise. Each year thousands of individuals send letters addressed simply to ‘Juliet, Verona’. Once in the city, the messages end up in the hands of a dedicated team of self-appointed volunteers known simply as the ‘secretaries of Juliet’. The team works round the clock to ensure that each and every message is answered and the best advice is administered.
But what you may not know, is that the letters to Juliet are real. The plot of the film may be fictitious, but the premise is not. There really are secretaries of Juliet based in Verona, ready to answer the many messages of those who have lost loves or are lost in love. And in the little courtyard, opposite the statue of Juliet and the Juliet Balcony, you’ll find a small red letterbox affixed to the wall. This is how you contact Giulietta.
The Juliet Balcony, Casa di Giulietta
In the very heart of Verona, wander down the little road of 23 Via Capello and you’ll find it, the Casa di Giulietta. The covered passageway you’ll pass under to reach the medieval house is covered in graffiti, post-it notes, and old school handwritten letters.
This love wall is covered in the many messages sent to Giulietta, with many more arriving on a daily basis (especially so since the release of the Hollywood Hit). The tradition of leaving letters to Shakespeare’s character dates back to the 19th-century (perhaps even before) when people would leave letters on ‘Juliet’s Tomb’, a small statue and memorial to the fictional character a little way away on the other side of the city.
Casa di Giulietta
Facing you directly upon entry to the small courtyard that houses Juliet’s House you’ll see a golden statue, representing the star-cross’d lover of Juliet herself. This is actually a facsimile of the original; legend tells that if you rub the right breast of this statue, you’ll find your love misfortunes turned around.
One too many brushes of the statue were leading to enormous wear and tear of the original bronze statue. A new replica is now in its place, ready to welcome head in the clouds couples and unlucky in love individuals alike into this space of love in central Verona.
Further inside the courtyard, you’ll see the 14th-Century building, that legend has it was home to the Capulet family. The romantic in you may not want to read this: but the pretty little balcony was actually added to the building in the 1930s in order to keep the Shakespeare tale alive and to attract more tourism to the city. Still, it makes for a lovely story…
Frank Dicksee, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, 1884, oil on Canvas
A Very Brief History of the Secretaries of Juliet
The story of the first ‘secretary of Juliet’ dates all the way back to the 1930s. Back then, people would leave letters to Juliet in Juliet’s Tomb. Guardian of the time, Ettore Solimani, began replying to the letters dishing out advice and thus beginning the secretaries of Juliet tradition. The official ‘Juliet Club’ was founded in 1972, with the mission to reply to all of Juliet’s mail. The agony aunt role played by the secretaries had found a permanent position…
Tips for visiting the Juliet Balcony
Thanks to Valentine’s Day, the Juliet Balcony has a totally different high season to the rest of Europe. While much of the continent enjoys a quiet time over the Christmas and pre-Spring period, Verona experience something of an upsurge in rental bookings and hotel stays. In fact, Verona even holds a love festival during February and the slogan is:
“If you love someone, bring them to Verona”
Frederic Leighton, 1855, “The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets over the Dead Bodies of Romeo and Juliet”
Head to the balcony of Giulietta earlier in the day in order to avoid the throngs of tourists, photographers and love-struck couples who inevitably flock to the area soon after sunrise. Low season for Verona is from October through to the end of December.
Entrance to the courtyard is free. For an extra five euro or so, you can even venture into the Casa di Giulietta and stand on the Juliet Balcony for yourself. In spite of the fact that both Romeo and Juliet never existed, up to 250,000 people head to Verona specifically to see the journey of the misfortunate lovers for themselves…