Juliet’s House (Casa di Giulietta) in Verona

It’s hard to believe now, but the first overseas vacation Mark and I ever took together was way back in 2006 to Italy! Man, planning that first holiday together was terrifying. I’m sure the arm rests at the AMA in Edmonton still have my fingernail marks in them. But Italy was a good country to start our adventures in. We did a group tour (Contiki though – that’s a story for another day) so we had all the accommodations and transportation covered, it was out of our comfort zone without undergoing complete culture shock, and because the areas we visited were so touristy, there was little to no language barrier unless you went off the beaten track.

One of the smaller towns we stopped in was Verona. They have a small-ish (well, small compared to Rome) but wonderfully preserved Roman amphitheater that’s still used for festivals and musical performances. But their real claim to fame is Juliet’s House. You know, that Juliet. Romeo’s Juliet.

Well, okay, there may be some question as to whether Romeo and Juliet were real people that Shakespeare based his play upon. However, this Juliet’s name was Juliet Cappello, or, in Italian, Giulietta Cappelletti. Kind of similar to Shakepeare’s Juliet Capulet, yes? Hmmm. Makes you wonder….

Actually, it would seem the tale works the other way around: the city decided that the Cappello name was similar enough to Shakespeare’s Capulet family that they decided to dub this “Juliet’s House.”

The house itself was built sometime in the 13th Century, and has a wonderful courtyard:

Juliet's House courtyard, Verona

You can see in the upper right hand corner, the balcony. THE balcony, where Shakespeare had Romeo pledge his undying love to Juliet. Except that the actual word “balcony” doesn’t show up anywhere in Romeo and Juliet. (Read it again and see if you can find it!)

Another harsh fact that sucks the romance right out of the story: this balcony wasn’t even added until 1936. In fact, the balcony was actually taken from an ancient sarcophagus and re-purposed to match the Medieval architecture. All together now: ewwwwwww.

Juliet's balcony, Verona

Romantic, or morbid and creepy? You decide!

So there’s a lot of misinformation and twisted history going on here. There is one piece of information that has truth to it though: the house was originally used as an inn. So I’m sure that many of the rooms here saw “romance” in one form or another back in the day. *wink wink*

The interior of the house itself is quite lovely, with walls covered in colorful frescoes and Gothic-style arched windows.

Juliet's House interior, Verona

Even the ceiling is remarkably decorated. (It’s a bit dark due to lack of flash)

Juliet's House ceiling, Verona

The house also has the original bed and costumes used in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet. So they play up this connection from every possible angle, and it works. Even when you know that Romeo and Juliet is just a made up tale, coming here makes you want to believe it’s all true. This is most evident in two spots here: The statue of Juliet, where hopeful romantics and wishful thinkers grope her chest for good luck:

Statue of Juliet, Verona

Juliet’s bosom was the shiniest in all the land….

And the infamous love note wall, where people stick their notes and pleas in the hopes that Juliet will help them find their true loves:

Love note wall, Juliet's house, Verona

The rules around sticking these notes on the brick wall changed a few years ago in order to help preserve the building. People often used chewing gum or tape to stick notes to the wall, and as of 2012 this came with a 500 Euro fine. Graffiti was also banned, except on specifically-marked removable panels.

If this doesn’t satisfy your need to express your love, you can also write letters to Juliet, and a group of volunteers called “Juliet’s Secretaries” will pen a response. I just hope they respond in Italian to make it more authentic.

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