Now don't get me wrong. I love Romeo & Juliette. It's one of Shakespeare's best works, illustrating what many young lovers go through when their families reject their choice of lover. The best version on film was the 1968 version by Franco Zeffirelli Starring Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey (who gets my all-time Heaving Bosom award for her balcony scene).
Casa di Giulietta (Juliette's House) on their must see list when they visit the beautiful Renaissance city of Verona. Here's a reality check so you don't waste your time
(and € 6.00) on #faketourist stuff when there is so much amazing history and beauty all over Italy:
- Juliette was a character in a play. Not real.
- Juliette never lived. Never loved. Never died.
- Juliette's family never owned the house being marketed as la Casa di Giulietta.
- In 1905, the mayor of Verona, in a tourism marketing campaign bought the house from the Cappello family. He thought the name sounded like Capulet (Juliet's surname) and declared it as the one and only Juliette's House.
- Tourists write letters to Juliet asking for her advice in love, even though she wasn't exactly an expert on the subject herself, and in the play both lovers die.
- The bronze statue of Juliette was placed in the courtyard under the balcony only in 1972 and had to be removed in 2014 and replaced by a replica because of the damage caused by the groping by countless tourists, thinking her right breast might bring them luck in love. Hint: It won't.
- The thousands of love notes stuck with bubble gum are actually doing so much damage to the building (and surrounding structures) that Verona will now fine you 500 euros if they catch you in the act.
- The "love locks" that young couples lock to the gate at the entrance to the courtyard are periodically cut off and recycled. So much for "eternity".
- Even the balcony is fake: It was made in the 20th century, using parts from a 17th century sarcophagus (coffin), and attached to the wall specifically to create a bogus balcony.
- The bed and other furniture and costumes in Juliet’s bedroom were used in the making of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film--remember, films are fake--so are their props.
- The names of the families—the Montagues and the Capulets--were in fact two real-life aristocratic families from Verona, but they were first mentioned by Dante Alighieri his Divine Comedy. Shakespeare, like Billy Joel, borrowed a lot from artists that went before him.
- The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet, a poem, was written by Arthur Brooke in 1562--before Shakespeare lifted his pen.
- William Painter, another writer who predates Shakespeare, wrote The Goodly History of the True and Constant Love of Rhomeo and Julietta.
- The Romeo and Juliette story can be traced back to antiquity in Ovids' Pyramus and Thisbe, who lived as neighbors and professed their love though a crack in the wall shared by their rivaling parents' houses. Agreeing to meet in a secret place, Pyramus arrives first and sees a lion with blood on its mouth. Thinking that Thisbe was killed, he falls on his sword. Thisbe shows up, sees him dead, and kills herself. Sound familiar?
- As it turns out, there is no scholarly evidence that Shakespeare ever stepped foot in Verona--or Italy, for that matter.
But Romeo & Juliette in Verona? Go see their amphitheater instead--or re-read the play.
Probably a factor in making the so-called Juliette's House even more popular, the 2010 film, Letters to Juliet (starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave), presented a far-fetched romantic plot in which a young, modern Juliette finds an old love letter hidden behind a brick in the wall. She sets out to find the older woman who wrote the letter, and then both go on an odyssey to find the older woman's lost love. A bit schmaltzy, but I tend to watch any movie with the real Italy as a backdrop. --JF