More than often, places become their people. Rarely places become their fictional people. There is no better example for this than the city of Verona in Italy where we head to Juliet’s House also known as Casa di Giulietta.
When you walk out of Verona Porto Nuova station, it looks like any other city. People rush around, taxis and buses depart, arrive. People line in front of Bancomats or in front of automatic ticket machines.
But as you walk into the centro, into Piazza Bra, an arena very similar to the Colosseum in Roma looks at you. The streets are cobbled, tourists with maps everywhere, people posing in front of its ruins. It’s ruins are well kept, marked by entrata and uscita. It doesn’t interest us. We were on the lookout of Casa di Giulietta – Juliet’s House.
“Two households, both alike in dignity
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare has gained name and fame for its star-cross’d lovers of opposing families. Their relationship which is looked down upon by several critics has become immortalised as a symbol of love just as the Taj Mahal.
23, Via Cappello. Casa di Giuletta is a revelation. A passage with white walls leads us to the house. These white walls are spread with messages. Notes of love. People crowd near the walls writing more. There is barely any place to move, lest stand and write love notes. But people do it very meticulously. There are couples kissing in front of their declarations of love, even dry humping.
By the time Juliet’s balcony is in view, your heart will tug at you – especially if you are not with the man or woman you love. Worse, if you don’t know whether you love and if you don’t love at all.
A faded bronze statue of Juliet is near the entrance to her house. People take turns to rub her right breast for luck, pose next to her. Close to her is a gate of locks. Locks with people’s names on it, locked in love, wishing for love. Very close to it, is a wall filled with bubble gums. On each of these is written names, hearts, hopes.
Then, above us is the famous balcony of Juliet where she’s stood eyes glazed with love, looking down to Romeo. I try to deny it. But as I look up and around at all the star-cross’d lovers, I feel quiet, even lost.
But it all comes crashing down – the balcony above us is not where Juliet stood – it was built only in the 20th century, ages after Shakespeare himself. Juliet’s house was built in the 13th century and belonged to a family called dell Cappello. The house is only an association, an assumption. To be very outright, a lie. Juliet and Romeo were only fictional characters. Even in fiction, their love was tragic: “For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” But the people here don’t seem to let it get in the way of their hopes. They are even oblivious of it.
As I begin to walk out of Juliet’s House, I remember a man from some time ago who I’ve missed. I remember his smile, his kisses. Turning to the walls I’ve condemned, I quickly write down his name next to mine and look around in embarrassment.
Location: Juliet’s House, Via Cappello, 23, 37121 Verona, Italy