The best relationship advice I’ve ever received came from a lovesick suicidal teenager- she died over 400 years ago AND she’s fictional! Nearly everyone knows Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but few know that this play offered me travel inspiration. Juliet’s hometown of Verona is a Venetian city uniting a historic land with a fairytale. Motivated by literature class memories and watching “Letters to Juliet,” I said good-bye to my family and headed alone to Italy to seek the wisdom of this legendary Juliet.
Seen the Movie? You’ll Love the Destination!
In the 2010 film “Letters to Juliet,” Sophie meets friends while on her Northern Italian vacation known as Secretaries of Juliet. Their mission is to act on behalf of Shakespeare’s Juliet by responding to letters written from women all around the world asking the fictional character for advice on love.
I watched this movie while planning a solo trip to Italy, and immediately made plans to include Verona in my itinerary! Because I hadn’t heard much else about this city, I was unsure at first if it offered enough to justify the trip. Verona did not disappoint. My only mistake was booking a mere two nights with my train arriving late the first day and departing early the final day, leaving me with just one full day to enjoy all this town has to offer!
Fantasy Meets Reality
Verona served as the setting for three of Shakespeare’s works, including Romeo and Juliet. The real-life Verona looks like a historic fairy tale, featuring castles, cobblestone streets, topiary gardens, and ancient ruins. After waking up at a local B and B, I strolled to the center of the town. Between the piazzas, pizzerias, and local shops was what appeared to be an alleyway covered in graffiti. Following that alley transported me into the fictional realm of Verona.
This is the entryway to Juliet’s courtyard, looking like it’s straight out of the 16th century. At the far end is a statue of Juliet herself and an ideal photo opportunity. (If you’re traveling with your kids, you may want to skip the awkward folklore that touching her bronze breast will bring luck and love.)
To the right of Juliet’s statue is her house. It’s actually a museum filled with movie props and historic artifacts, but the highlight for all ages is being able to stand on Juliet’s balcony, where she uttered the famous words “Romeo, O Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?” While visiting the courtyard is free, the museum does have an entrance fee. However, I scored a discount by purchasing admission to both Juliet’s House and Juliet’s Tomb, which is located in an art museum just outside of town.
On the other side of the courtyard is one of the few areas in Europe where it’s actually encouraged to leave a love lock. (The fencing with the locks are removed every few months to contribute to an art piece.) Next to the love locks is the wall that plays an integral role in “Letters to Juliet.” There are always pieces of paper here, shoved in the cracks or stuck to the wall with tape or gum. Each one is a letter written to Juliet.
How to Write to Juliet
With the increase of letter writing since the movie’s release, the Secretaries of Juliet have established a more efficient way to receive mail. While you can still leave a note in the wall, a more guaranteed way is to drop your letter in the red mailbox near the front of the courtyard. An additional mailbox is located at the entrance to the museum with Juliet’s Tomb. If you go inside Juliet’s House, you’ll even find a room set up with computer kiosks, so you can e-mail Juliet!
For many years, the tradition has been to ask Juliet questions about love. This is most popular with teenage girls and single women, but don’t be surprised if your husband or sons want to participate as well. However, they’ll probably be a bit more interested in writing on the graffiti wall that leads into Juliet’s courtyard. Here, it’s actually encouraged to tag your name.
Can’t make it to Verona? You can mail your letter to Juliet. If you simply address the envelope to “Juliet, Verona, Italy,” the Secretaries of Juliet will receive it. Whether you mail your letter or drop it off in person, make sure to include your home address in your letter. How else will Juliet’s secretary be able to write back?
Free Souvenir from Verona
The Secretaries of Juliet have a lot of letters to go through, all written in various languages. Between that and the notoriously slow Italian postal system, you may begin to believe that you’ll never receive a response to your burning questions about love.
I thought the same thing, too. For weeks I checked the mailbox, hoping to find something friendlier than a bill. Nope! One day several months later, Verona was only a distant memory when I headed to the mailbox. Imagine my surprise when I discovered an international postmark, with a return address from Verona!
It only took 171 days.
Juliet had finally given me her response, in the form of a beautifully handwritten letter. Some of her words of wisdom were profound, such as “Take the plunge- and live it, not dream it.” Juliet’s letter and envelope are now on display in the center of our home’s travel shelf. Where else can you get a personalized souvenir that doesn’t cost a cent?