Travel

The Book Meddler’s Guide to Charming Verona 2019

What’s there to know about Verona other than Shakespeare?

First of all, Verona is the Capital of the Verona Province. It’s a charming city with a bunch of history from a Roman amphitheater to the set of one of the world’s most famous tragedies, Romeo and Juliet. Therefore, this is a city that attracts a ton of tourists all year long, specially during the summer!

In the year 2000, Verona was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site due to its historical importance. It actually contains one of the most valuable collections of Roman remains in all Northern Italy, such as:

  • Porta Leoni
  • Porta Borsari
  • Arco dei Gavi
  • Ponte Pietra
  • Verona Arena

This city grew great importance under the rule of Della Scala family between the 13th and 14th centuries. This family is also known as Scaliger. The ruling founder of this dynasty was Mastino I Della Scala who became the first Podesta (Chief Magistrate)!

During the period of time in which Romeo & Juliet loved each other and died, it’s probable that it was under the rule of Bartolomeo Della Scala. Also, these people were also known for their numerous splendid parties where they could get the support of people. It’s very possible that Romeo and Juliet met at one of these parties!

You can learn more about this family by reading this extract by Brittanica: Della Scala Family.

Verona Arena

This is one of Verona’s most famous sites! It consists of a roman amphitheater, that’s still used for large scale performances such as classical concerts and opera!

An interesting fact, the opera productions did not use microphones or loudspeakers until 2011!

Here you can see a concert by famous Croatian duo, 2Cellos at the Verona Arena in 2016:

Castelvecchio

Also known as “Old Castle” is a gothic fortress castle built by Lord Cangrande Della Scala between 1354-1356. It’s purpose was to protect themselves from any possible attack. Also, during the Venetian rule over Verona, the infrastructure was adjusted to install canons in the premises.

Moreover, this is where Napoleon used to stay during his visits to Verona!

Although this castle got run down after World War II, it was restored in 1923. Today, it holds the Castelvecchio Museum. Here you can appreciate a large collection of sculptures and religious art surrounding the city’s history. Plus, you can walk around the fortress and admire the view it has to offer.

Casa di Giullieta

Now what you all were waiting for: Juliet’s House!

I’m sorry to say that we are not certain if this was Shakespeare’s Juliet’s house at all. It could’ve been any Juliet for all we know. However, being there myself, I could experience the hope in people’s eyes for this to be true. You might be wondering why is that?

Well if you’ve seen Letters to Juliet, you know what I’m talking about! if you didn’t, I’ll explain a little. You see, when you visit this place, there’s a mailbox where you can deliver letters to Shakespeare’s Juliet for love advice. This film centers around this matter. There are volunteers that answer these letters in the upstairs room of the house. They’re known as Juliet’s Secretaries!

During your visit you can go inside and regard costumes used in the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet! You can also appreciate the bed portrayed in the film.

More importantly there are desktop computers available where you can actually email Juliet for advice…although I’m still waiting for my response!

If you ever visit Juliet’s house, don’t forget to touch the statue’s right breast! The legend says that if you do, you’ll get good luck in finding or keeping your one true love.

There’s also a balcony where you can pose for a picture and pretend to be Juliet calling for Romeo!

Obviously, it’s always handy to go with someone so that he/she can wait below to take your picture!

Is Romeo & Juliet a true story?

We know as a fact that Shakespeare did not go to Verona. So how did he portray this city in such detail? There are a lot of texts describing the story of these star-crossed lovers! So this means that Shakespeare based his tragedy on:

  • Historia Novellamente Ritrovata di due Nobili Amanti (Newly Found Story of Two Noble Lovers) by Luigi Da Porto in 1530
  • Novelle by Matteo Bandello in 1554
  • The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, published in 1562 by poet Arthur Brookes.

These all tell different versions of the story. Yet, we still don’t know if it’s a true story or not. Dante Alighieri mentioned in Purgatory family names such as Montecci (Montague) and Capelletti (Capulets) proving the existence of both families during the 1300s, although he doesn’t mention anything about lovers or feud between them.

I’ve met people that do believe this is a true story. A lot of the details related in Shakespeare’s play coincide with many customs from that period of time such as Juliet’s father deciding who she was to marry, duels, the parties etc.

I’m of the opinion that this could be a true story eventually if more evidence of their existence is found. On the other hand, regarding the truth of this story doesn’t change the fact that Verona is indeed a romantic place. The vibe of positivity you experience at Juliet’s house can even be overwhelming, so go ahead and give it chance!

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