There is mail for Juliet!

Image by Adriano Gadini from Pixabay

Dear Juliet,

I won’t ask you if your history, which 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 are enough. For centuries you have shown to be a good listener, attentive to the sorrows of the heart, the friend who’s always there, 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 Romeos 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 Mathew, Antony, Frank 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 answering 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 teenagers that have their first crush or the businessman in love.

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. He carried out this task alone for 20 years, 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 on the week of Valentine’s Day, the “Dear Juliet” prize which reaches its 30th edition and includes the choice of the most beautiful letters written in the previous year. Besides, it sets up the international literary prize “Writing for love” which includes the choice of the best love book published in Italy and “Juliet’s Birthday” party, in September, in the squares of Verona. The slogan this year (2022) is “Verona in Love – If you love someone, take them to Verona”. We join the choir “Love. (All we need is)”.

The identification of the noble Cappello family with the Capulets gave rise to the belief that the house above is Juliet’s house. As soon as we pass the entrance porch, we have in front of us the lovers’ balcony. Within walking distance of Juliet’s house, we find Romeo’s house.

Verona - city of Romeo and Juliet

On Valentine’s Day, love is waiting for us in Verona, the 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 square called “Piazza delle Erbe”, at Juliet’s house and, after some steps, at Romeo’s house. It’s also possible to go for a visit to 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, which probably became Capulet in the Shakespearean legend, as well as that of Romeo Montecchi was the home of the Monticoli (in the Shakespearean works Montague) 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 in 1596, is only a fantasy. By now, it’s up to us to keep their story alive and to believe that true love exists. It’s up to us to keep it alive in 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.

arena de verona

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.


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And so, the story of Befana was born

La Befana
La Befana

“Epiphany takes all holidays away” is an old saying in Italy. Actually, January 6th marks the end of the holiday season. Christmas and New Year celebrations passed and everything turnover into normal daily life again. It’s the beginning of a new year and Befana (a term derived from the epiphany that means manifestation) strives to comfort us in this transition. The tradition says that in the early morning hours between January 5th and 6th, Befana, the old lady, stops by our houses to fill the socks hanging in the fireplace with candies, sweets, cookies, and chocolate, but be careful because you can also find your sock full of coal, which symbolizes the misdeeds of the past year. The Epiphany or Kings Day is also Befana’s party,  a public holiday in Italy, time to take the Christmas tree down. New Year, New Life!

So, what has Befana brought you this year? Candy or coal? Ok, I know, you claim you behaved well, so you sure got candies or maybe some nice gifts. But, let me guess, if you were a naughty boy, this year you only got COAL! You want to know what I found inside my stocking… Hmmm! Befana’s party is a typical Italian tradition, and the charismatic old woman is always eagerly awaited by children. Riding on her flying broom, she crosses the sky carrying her basket full of goodies. The origins of all this come from pre-Christian magical traditions.

The legend says that when the three Wise Men made their way to Bethlehem to bring gifts to Jesus, they had difficulties finding their way, so they asked an old woman for help. Being grateful for her help and kindness, they invited her to come with them. The old woman, who was too busy cleaning the house, declined, but soon later she realized it was a mistake. So, Befana puts some gifts in a basket and left, trying to reach the Wise Men. Despite following the same star as they did, she never arrived at the stable where Jesus was born, and so she went into the houses and left gifts for the children in the hope that one of them was the baby Jesus.  Therefore, always on the same day, she rides on her broom going around the world, entering houses, and leaving gifts for children expecting to be forgiven.

That’s why anyone nice in the past year found sweets inside their socks. The naughty ones do not! They found only coal! But don’t worry, she’ll be back next year! And believe me, she is a mix of witch, fairy, and magician, sometimes generous sometimes severe, but never bad… and her coal is made of sugar, but you didn’t hear it from me! So, start singing:

“Befana comes at night
her shoes are not a pretty sight
she comes with stitches covering her dress
Bafana we shall bless!”


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Pending coffee: a cup of kindness

coffee break kindness generates kindness

coffee break kindness generates kindness

“When someone is happy in Naples, he pays for two coffees:
one for himself and another for anyone else.
It’s like offering a coffee to the rest of the world.”
Luciano De Crescenzo, in his book entitled “Il caffè sospeso”.

The coffee break has always been a moment of fun so now I’ll give you a taste of the drink that boasts having so many fans in Italy. I offer it to you with a curiosity: the pending coffee (caffè sospeso). This cup of kindness is an ancient tradition of solidarity that originated in Naples that has inspired documentaries, books, and literary competitions. There are those who say: only after a coffee I can… express”. The truth is that coffee and good humor are part of Italian life. There is no day without a coffee… and much less without a good laugh.

But I don’t mean just one! In fact, each day in Italy, 80 thousand  cups of coffee are served, and many times are accompanied by  

jokes, some intelligent, others not so much, which when told in a coffee shop can draw a smile on our face. It doesn’t matter how gray is your day, just a coffee break is enough to trigger a good moment. Some cups have printed caffè al volo (quick coffee) and there are coffee shops that also offer quick challenges such as writing a small story in just the time of a coffee which in Italy is almost always very fast. In others, we can take and/or exchange books or come across DJs that invite the clients to leave shyness apart and sing a song live on the radio. In Radio Padova’s morning program I listened to great talents. If the ‘macchiato’ is sweetened with love everything becomes possible.

pausa caffè

Pending coffee

Coffee and creativity are always present and are prepared to satisfy any taste. Short black, long black, cappuccino, hot macchiato, cold macchiato, with milk on the side, in a large cup (long), spiked coffee… the list is long. But what was that story about the pending coffee becoming a documentary? Well, the customer orders a coffee and pays for two leaving the second one to be given to anyone more unfortunate, which perhaps just that day would not even have a coin in his pocket to treat himself with that little pleasure. So, when the craving for coffee is too strong or the cold freezes to the bones the best course of action is to take refuge in a coffee shop and ask for a pending coffee. If so, a cup of coffee will be immediately served.

Although these days it’s no longer a habit, many go out of their way to keep this tradition alive. Some reserve a special day to remember it, and, fortunately, many take the initiative and continue to promote it, as recently happened at the Milan Fair, where seven thousand pending coffees were served. The idea also became an appCaffè pagato conviene a Tutti (Paid coffee suits everyone) whose community grows every day. The Caffè Pagato app has already 9.000 subscribers and around 100 affiliated bars. A concrete gesture of friendship that spreads through Italian cities. The application can be downloaded for free at  App Store or Google Play.

The practice of pending coffee is an act of kindness or charity towards others. This gesture so natural and friendly has crossed the boundaries of Naples conquering other Italian cities, such as Rome and Milan, and arrived abroad: United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Brazil have already embraced it. Thus, without much clamor, prepaid coffee goes around helping to warm the body and the heart of many people, especially on the coldest winter days.

pausa caffè
cartaz com preços do café

Coffee with good manners

It’s not just kindness that counts when it’s time for a coffee break. If one does not save on good manners, he probably will be able to save money. It’s not rare to find as a joke on the balcony a notice showing the price of coffee may vary depending on how you ask for it: ‘a coffee = € 3; ‘a coffee please = € 2 and ‘good morning, could you make me a coffee, please? = €1. “Kindness generates kindness“, as said José Datrino, a Brazilian urban personality known in Rio de Janeiro as the Gentle Prophet. For those who want to know more about this character beloved by Cariocas (people born in Rio), the links are here and here.

caffè sospeso


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