I won’t ask you if your history, that has distinguished Verona over time as the city of love, is true or a legend. The magic, strength and power that your history has in keeping love alive for me is enough. For centuries you have shown yourself to be a good listener, attentive to the sorrows of the heart, the friend who never fail and perhaps the last hope for those who no longer have anyone to share their dreams or confide their secrets. Dear friend, surely this year too on Valentine’s day you will hear “there is mail for Juliet!”
Your city breathes (and sighs) love.
Many seek exactly your warmth to unburden themselves. They tell you about their sadness looking for a word of comfort, they ask for a suggestion on how to express their love (yes, dear Juliet, there are many Romeo who cannot speak of love). There are also those who want your advice on how to find their Romeo or their Juliet or either those who just want to tell you their story or a lived moment of happiness. The truth is that sooner or later that thing happens to everyone, we fall in love, and it doesn’t matter if for Matteo, Lorenzo, Andrews or Romeo, the question remains the same as yours “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
The mail for Juliet became a tradition
As long as there are questions, there will also be “Juliet’s secretaries” to answer them. Certainly, there is no shortage of questions for the team of volunteers in charge of picking up the mail for Juliet and answer every letter, even those addressed simply “Juliet, Verona”. Surely magic exists, considering that the letters for Juliet add up to 50.000 every year and they come from all around the world, written by the most varied senders, I mean, from the teenager that has her first crush in France or the businessman in love from New York.
The tradition of these letters goes back to 1937 when “the first Juliet’s secretary” Ettore Solimani, keeper of Juliet’s tomb, touched by the content of the letters left by visitors, started to collect and answer them. For 20 years, he had been carrying out this task alone solely for the pleasure of doing it. Ettore always had a word of comfort to offer and has signed each letter as “your Juliet” until 1957, when he was forced to retire. After that the task was left to some volunteers, inhabitants of Verona, until 1972 when Giulio Tamassia followed by a group of friends had the idea of creating the Juliet Club, a non-profit cultural association whose sole purpose is to keep alive the story of the Veronese lovers, spreading their love around the world.
The Juliet Club makes every effort to support its daily task and if the story requires more attention, it seeks help from a local psychologist or from the institution capable of making their help concrete and meaningful. In addition to looking after the mail for Juliet, the Club organizes the “Dear Juliet” prize on the week of Valentine’s day in February, with the choice of the most beautiful letter written in the previous year. Besides, it sets up the international literary prize “Writing for love” also with the choice of the best love book published in Italy and the “Juliet’s Birthday” party, in September, in the squares of Verona.
Verona – city of Romeo and Juliet
On Valentine’s Day, love is waiting for us in Verona, city of Romeo and Juliet. Ten years ago, I found myself by chance involved in this appointment and I must say that the air you breathe in the city on Valentine’s Day is different. It is possible to feel the magic along Cappello road where Juliet’s house is, and especially within its walls with the reenactment of the legendary balcony scene by the actors who revived the two lovers. In Verona there is a lot to see. After crossing the gates of the medieval walls that surround the city, we find ourselves in front of the Arena, a roman amphitheater that today hosts many cultural events. Following the romantic itinerary, we arrive in the Piazza delle Erbe, at Juliet’s house and after some steps at Romeo’s house. It’s also possible to go for a visit at the tomb of Juliet located in the Museo degli Affreschi [Fresco Museum].
In the city some people say that Juliet’s house belonged to the Cappelletti family, that probably became Capulet in the Shakespearean legend, as well as that of Romeo Montecchi was the home of the Monticoli family. Nobody knows for sure. A mystery remains about the existence of the two Veronese lovers. For some the Montecchi and the Capulet existed; for others instead Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, originally published on 1596, is only a fantasy. By now, it’s on us to keep their story alive and to believe that true love exists. It’s on us to keep alive our heart wherever we go in the world even if the words of Romeo imprinted on a plaque placed next to a small bust of Shakespeare at the entrance to the city says that “there is no world outside the walls of Verona”, as if to tell us: love lives here.
To the cinema lovers there are two movies not to be missed or to be seen again: Romeo and Juliet, by Franco Zeffirelli, and Letters to Juliet, by Gary Winick.
Is Romeo and Juliet a true story or a legend? What do you think?
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