Okay, so Juliet might have been a fictional character, but that didn’t stop her from having a house and a balcony. Supposedly this house really did belong to a 14th century Veronese family which just might have been one of the families Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote his play Romeo and Juliet in 1594.
All sorts of lovely people from all over the world come here to take photos of Juliet’s balcony with their digital cameras. Rumor has it that the balcony was added onto this house in the 1930s, so it’s unlikely that Juliet ever stood on it in the 14th century and said anything to the effect of “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?“ — but you never know.
There is a small museum in Juliet’s house, but young couples usually save half the price of admission because just the girl goes in so she can stand on the balcony while her boyfriend takes a picture of her from down in the courtyard.
In 2011 the Arena di Verona made a flash mob video which includes Juliet singing a few bars of Gounod’s opera Roméo et Juliette from this very balcony.
In this view from the top floor of the house, Juliet’s balcony is on the right. The red chairs on the terrace (off to the left) are for spectators who come to see an abridged version of — you guessed it — Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
This is a view that Juliet might have had, perhaps, from one of the upper windows of her house. That’s Castel San Pietro in the background.
This is it, Juliet’s original, absolutely genuine bed.
Not from the fourteenth century, of course, but from the twentieth, when it was built and used for the love scene in Zeffirelli’s film Romeo and Juliet in 1968.
This film won two Oscars, for the Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. Zeffirelli was also nominated for Best Director, and the film was nominated for Best Picture, but both of these awards actually went to Oliver!, directed by Carol Reed, which was a musical based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.
Next to Juliet’s bed is a printed explanation and a photo from Zeffirelli’s film. Supposedly the actor and actress who played Romeo and Juliet couldn’t stand each other in real life, and when she later tried to see the film in England she was refused admission to the cinema because she was too young.
“Juliet lives here, write to her!” So it says in five languages, right above her mailbox. Evidently people have been writing to Juliet for years, and the letters are answered by her volunteer “secretaries” who are members of the Juliet Club in Verona.
There is even a contest every year in February (on Valentine’s Day) to choose the move moving and heartfelt letters. And on September 16th every year they celebrate Juliet’s birthday.
For those who don’t like writing letters with pen and paper, there are four computers in her house so people can write to her in Italian or English. These are obviously historical computers from a bygone century, the twentieth.
After encountering amazing numbers of tourists at Juliet’s House, I expected there would also be crowds at her tomb — or at least four or five lovelorn teen-age girls of various nationalities gazing photogenically at the tomb and barely holding back their tears.
But no, I had the place to myself when I was there, which just goes to show that most tourists are more selective about their sightseeing than I am.
A grave? O no! a lantern, slaughter’d youth,
For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes
This vault a feasting presence full of light.
Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! and, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
No, none of these are Juliet, just sculptures of other people that are on display in the small museum upstairs from her tomb.
With the help of some friends from the now-defunct website VirtualTourist, I was able to figure out that Vero and Giada are girls’ names (Vero is short for Veronica), and that the person who loves Giada does so in two ways: erotically (ti amo) and selflessly (ti agapo, which turns out to be Greek and not Italian).
My photos in this post are from 2006. I revised the text in 2018.