‘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.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.’
We hadn’t come on this trip with any firm plans at all, fearing that in doing so we might be disappointed in not fulfilling them. Instead we would normally wake, see what the weather had in store and then make our way to wherever.
On this morning I was checking Google Earth, seeing what was around or within a reasonable driving distance at least. We gave the children a one hour challenge to come up with research on Romeo and Juliet. We were off to Verona.
As we made our way to find Juliette’s balcony from the famous scene in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, we passed by the Church of Santa Anastasia, built in the most ancient part of the town. Construction began in 1280 and wasn’t completed until 1400. The nine bells of the 72 belltower are rung by Veronese bellringing art, a style of bellringing developed in the 18th century.
We walked until we came upon the Town Hall, known as the Palazzo della Ragione or the Palace of the Old Market…
The three-storey building was used by the courts, and it has undergone considerable restoration in order to bring it to its present condition. And I have to say, it is very impressive!
The Lamberti Tower rises from Piazza Erbe and reaches an impressive 84 metres in height. Named after the family who had it built, the public can reach the belltower by lift or stairs to experience the far-reaching views of Verona.
In the paved courtyard is the Scala del Ragione and it seemed that everyone stopped to have their photograph taken there. So we did it too!
We walked through to the Piazzo del Erbe, a square considered to be one of the most popular in Italy – and there are quite a few of them! At the back of this photograph you can see the Palazzo Maffei complete with the Greek gods Jupiter, Hercules, Minerva, Venus, Mercury and Apollo. In front of the Palazzo Maffei stands the lion of St Mark upon its white marble column, which acts as a symbol of Venice’s might.
In the middle of the Piazza del Erbe stands the Fountain of Madonna Verona, the statue of which dates back to 380AD but the fountain itself was not built until 1368. The creator Cansignorio used marble from the ancient Roman forum and thermal baths on which the piazza is built. The banner which the Madonna holds is said to represent the beauty of Verona.
And so we continued on our way, passing through the prettily paved streets packed with old, towering houses and apartments. Balconys would be adorned with hanging plants and trailing flowers, just as you would have imagined Juliet’s balcony to be.
Oh, and there it is!
Juliet’s house – or Casa di Giulietta – is situated just off the Piazza delle Erbe on via Cappello.
Yes, the trailing plants, the stone balcony, the ironwork – just as I imagined it.
In the courtyard stands a statue of Juliet, which attracts a never-ending stream of admirers queuing to have their photograph taken with their hand on her breast.
This was by far the busiest part of Verona! It took a while to get through to see it, and it took even longer to get back out. Seems my invisibility super-powers kick in at the most inconvenient times.
The ironic thing is that Romeo and Juliet is a story, and there is nothing – nothing – which links this house – named as the Casa di Giulietta – or its balcony to the characters. In fact, the balcony wasn’t even built until 1936, no doubt to take advantage of the great tourist interest in the area. It was a good idea which has paid off, given the heave of tourists eager to visit the house, and the vast number of surrounding shops named with a nod to Shakespeare.
Still, it is a lovely way of bringing the story to life a little, and a great way of raising the children’s interest in the works of Shakespeare. Anything at all which makes education and learning fun is fine by me!
The wall leading into Casa di Giulietta’s courtyard is completely covered by the scribbles left by lovers all over the world. Finding a space to leave our own mark of our visit was difficult to say the least!
But we all tried our best to leave some kind of scrawl!
Height obviously gives you an advantage when seeking a spot to leave your love-lorn message for your lover…
Okay, so not very imaginative. It kind of takes me back to the days of absent-mindedly writing our initials in my old school books. Can you spot the proof of our visit?
Once we managed to prise our way through the crowds we headed back to the Palazzo della Ragione and decided to stop at this restaurant for a late lunch. The waited seated us and very shortly after came over to us accompanied by the manager. The manager spoke in Italian and thankfully for us the waiter translated: ‘My manager is pleased to see your beautiful big family and would like to welcome you, so all your drinks are on the house!’
We didn’t take advantage but stuck to our usual water, although Mike and I were treated to a local drink called a Spritz Aperol. Overall, we found the food fairly priced with a good, varied menu on offer which tasted great too!
All that was left to do was to round it off with a much needed cappuccino…
… but not before taking one last look at the houses lining the Adige.