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Romeo and Juliet in Verona: The Biggest Tourist Fraud?

I believe I am not a grumpy traveler. Some travelers are. They travel far and wide and complain all the way through about the awfulness of it all. I don’t think I am that kind of traveler.

Until I got to Verona – one of the biggest tests for my happy-go-lucky traveler self.

Romeo and Juliet is a play written by Shakespeare in late 1500s. Since then the lovebirds have turned into the ultimate symbol of tragic love around the world. Who doesn’t know Romeo and Juliet? Everybody does.

So this Shakespeare guy wrote a play that is set in Verona, Italy, unknowingly that he was about to set the stage for the biggest fake attraction in history.

Now to be entirely sure, I just want to say out loud that Romeo and Juliet is fiction. It is a story made up by an English man.

Before we get there, I’d like to mention a movie that I believe contributed to the more recent popularity of Verona, and that is Letters to Juliet, a 2010 movie starring Amanda Seyfried, about a young girl who travels to Verona and finds out about a group of volunteers who answer letters from lovers around the world. Hence, letters to Juliet. (What would you write to Juliet? Does he love me, does he not? I don’t get it.)

In the movie, Amanda Seyfried character accidentally stumbled upon this lovely courtyard that is claimed to be Juliet’s house. Love messages decorating the walls of the tunnel to the courtyard, the air is soft and romantic, and the courtyard looking quaint and breezy, with a few young people scattered around, writing on their notebooks. A couple of lovebirds dotted the courtyard and played Romeo and Juliet at the balcony.

Well in real life, Amanda Seyfried character couldn’t possibly miss the courtyard even if she tried for her life. The hustle and bustle of the place has already started from the mouth of the tunnel. What I found at the courtyard was this:

Verona, Italy
Lots of people
Verona, Italy
People, people everywhere
Verona, Italy
And even more people

Every year thousands of Japanese tour groups break their Venice-to-Milan ride for an hour-long stop in Verona just to stand in a courtyard. That’s a lot of tourists. I saw them with my own eyes.

At one point the courtyard was so full, that we just decided to sit down for a bit at the edge and just do this sport called tourist-watching (while eating yummy fruits bought at the market earlier, so that wasn’t so bad).

Verona, Italy
Playing Juliet at the balcony. I was already there, why not? Seems like my imaginary Romeo was in the wrong direction, oops.
Verona, Italy
The view from the balcony. Aah, nothing brings you back to reality faster than a bunch of tourists.
Verona, Italy
Rubbing the breast of Juliet’s statue is said to bring good luck in love (not that I still need it)

I had to fight to take this picture with Juliet’s statue, as a few obnoxious men kept jumping up and down the platform to take pictures of them groping Juliet, while some shy girls were waiting patiently for their turns on the side. It was chaotic and very noisy – just the least romantic situation you could think about. After a few of these stupid guys, I snapped at one guy who cut the queue not once, but two times. “Excuse me!” I raised my voice and gave him a deadly stare. “Excuse me!” was his response too. But that’s the end of our banter, because he couldn’t speak English.

Verona, Italy
Love messages and love locks
Verona, Italy
The Letters to Juliet mailbox. It crossed my mind to try writing a letter just to see if the volunteers are really going to reply. But couldn’t be bothered at the end.

Did you notice that Juliet is called Giulietta in Italy? It took me a while to get it. I studied the city map, skimmed Casa di Giulietta a few times, all the way wondering where Juliet’s courtyard is. I knew that Casa means house, but it didn’t register in my head that Giulietta is indeed our Juliet. So there you go, one thing to note.

Since I was seemingly longing for more tourist torture, I went to this place marked as Juliet’s Tomb (Tomba di Giulietta) the next day, first thing in the morning, before we left Verona.

Verona, Italy
The entrance to Juliet’s tomb
Verona, Italy
“For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes this vault a feasting presence full of light.” Aaaw.

If you have been following so far, you know that of course there can’t possibly be the tomb of Juliet, because she never existed.

Verona, Italy
So we got to this empty tomb-like space, guarded by this poor guy
Verona, Italy
He mainly guarded the place so it’s not vandalized by lovebirds randomly needing to make their love marks

To be fair, the courtyard around Juliet’s tomb is really lovely and green. I guess the experience would’ve been better if there’s a purpose to it all.

Now that I’ve laid everything bare, do you still to want to visit this legendary place of Verona, where a star-crossed lovers meet their deadly fate? Or do you now think it’s the biggest tourist fraud in history?

Verona itself is a nice little city that is declared UNESCO World Heritage in 2000. There’s a big Roman amphitheater in the middle of the city (the second biggest after Rome’s Colosseum) hosting a famous yearly Opera event and other Roman ruins. The whole city has lovely structure and architecture, and it’s a great city to unwind and to just have leisurely walk around.

And sure, pop by to Juliet’s house if you want, but you’d have better luck finding romance at any other parts of the city!

Top view of Verona
Top view of Verona

By mee

Blog about travel, culture, lifestyle and books from London at http://www.wanderingmee.com and http://www.meexia.com/bookie

20 replies on “Romeo and Juliet in Verona: The Biggest Tourist Fraud?”

When I backpacked through Europe in 2005, I really wanted to visit Verona because of the R&J tie in. But the only hostel my friend and I could find was well outside of the city and it seemed like a real hassle to visit, so we wound up cutting it from our itinerary. Sounds like that wasn’t really a mistake! Maybe it would be more charming to visit these fakey fake attractions during low season?

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Steph, I stayed at a place outside the city wall too, about 10-15 minutes walk, but it wasn’t too bad. And anyway the train station is also outside of the city wall, so our place was about halfway between the train station and the city wall. I visited Verona in October, so it wasn’t even the high season. I imagine the courtyard is even more crowded during the high season (and hot!). Some really popular places in Europe are still very crowded regardless the season, e.g. it still took us 2 hours to queue to get up the Eiffel Tower, in the deep of winter -_-, and the queue outside de Louvre was 3-4 hours long -_-

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Romeo and Juliet is not entirely fake. Some of it did exist and some of did not. There was two rival families in Verona even before Shakespeare made it famous.

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[…] As I mentioned I tried to pick just one site from each country, but I’m not immune to favoritism. I love some region or country more than the others. I could easily put Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Pamukkale in that list, or Toledo, Cordoba, and Seville, or Florence, Rome, and Verona. […]

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In 1854, English artist George Price Boyce painted a watercolour of Juliet’s Tomb. At that time the sarcophagus was in a courtyard being used as a water trough for cattle. Later it was moved to the crypt location to satisfy tourists, but even as a pig trough, “Juliet’s Tomb” attracted the gullible or curious.

Thanks for this piece 🙂

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Actually, if you would do your research, the capulets and montagues were very real people. The story of romeo and juliet was not originally written by shakespeare. It has been written and rewritten many times throughout history.

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You do realize that the houses are from the Capulet’s and Montigues which were actual real life families from the 11th century. Juliet House was actually the Capulet’s family house which in the actual story is also the same and Romeos house is not far which was a Montigues family house. These houses are literally from these real families and are also in the story. In fact, the 1968 Romeo and Juliet film was filmed partly in the Capulet’s family home,

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Actually the story is not a total fraud. It was written by several Italian authors before Shakespeare who himself adapted it from an Italian writer.
Marketing around it sure sucks though.

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