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.
– Romeo & Juliet
I was exposed to William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet when I was but a teen, studying in CHIJ Katong Secondary School. At the time, reading Romeo & Juliet was a chore! The text was in Early Modern English. Not as bad as if it were written in Old English or Middle English, but still, it was not easy to understand for a girl of just twelve or thirteen.
BGR – Boy, Girl, Relationships, was something of a new thing for me then coming from an all-girl’s school in Primary and Seconardy school. So Romeo & Juliet was strangely apt. Now this was just a year or two before Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. So the only Romeo & Juliet film we could watch was in black and white. Not really my cup of tea.
But, after spending a year studying the text of Romeo & Juliet, I had become enamored with the tale and fair Verona where the story is said to take place. So when my mum and I decided to go to Italy together, I was really looking forward to making a trip to Verona. Unfortunately, I was really too busy to plan the trip so we took the easy way out and booked ourselves on a Chan Brothers’ Italy tour. Verona, however, was not on the itinerary. So how then did I get photos of Verona?
Thankfully, the tour guide added Verona to the travel plans at the last minute provided everyone in the tour group was agreeable to the addition and was willing to pay for the extra costs it would incur. Most everyone agreed and off we went. We went to see Verona and Sienna. And I was so thrilled that I was going to get the chance to see Juliet’s balcony! I had watched Letters to Juliet the year before and was excited about seeing the actual site for myself!
So here’s a comparison between the film and the actual location of Juliet’s balcony.
The house in Verona known as Juliet’s house was owned by the family dell Capello, not Capulet. And was not the house or balcony Shakespeare based his story upon. Was I disappointed? Not really. Thank goodness for the internet.
I’m not sure if you can actually stand out in the balcony when you’re there. But my mum and I didn’t pay any money to go inside the building so we didn’t find out if you could. Anyway, in reality, this isn’t really Juliet’s balcony. Depsite the fact that the house dates back to the 13th century, the balcony was actually added in the 20th century. So in truth, it was just a window there until not so long ago. And well, it’s still a pretty famous window or balcony but why go into the specifics.
The window with the balcony of Juliet overlooks a tiny courtyard with a statue of Juliet near a arch gate. As you can see from the film’s screen grab, the gate is totally lock-less. Either the film crew cleared all the locks on the gate for the film, or they built a set to look exactly like the courtyard in Verona. I’d say it was likely a set. But I’d have to watch the special features of the film to find out. I don’t have a photo of the statue neither did I go touch her breasts. But I have heard that it’s something a lot of tourists do. Some of the people on my tour group did that as well. It’s been said to give you good luck if you rub her right breasts. Why specifically the right side I don’t know. Did she press the knife into her right bosom? I can’t remember if she did in the text.
Also, sadly I don’t remember if there were a lot of letters and notes stuck to the wall. I only remember being slightly underwhelmed. I knew not to expect what I saw in the film, but still, I was unimpressed.
In the film, the lead characters Amanda Seyfried and Christopher Egan toured a bit of Siena. I too visited Siena on the way to Verona so I managed to get a few photos of the city.
There is a sweeping shot of Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico and Piazza del Campo. I too visited the same spot and while it was gloomy on the day I was there, when re-watching the film for this entry, I was brought back to the city and I remember how much I enjoyed getting lost in the streets of Siena with my mum. The steep pathway where Amanda Seyfried and Christopher Egan were in the film is not the exact same one in the photo I took. But I do remember the high arched walkways and the steep climb of the roads there.
Notice the flags at the side of the wall. Our guide in Siena told us about the horse races in Palio di Siena, where the 17 contrade of Siena will compete twice a year. Each contrade (district) is named after an animal or symbol and each with its own long history and set of heraldic and semi-mythological associations. And according to our guide, each contrade is quite passionate about the races and the winner gets to flaunt their win by placing their flags around the city for the whole year. No wonder the districts take the Palio di Siena so seriously.
While Verona was not as exciting as I thought it would be, Siena more than compensate for this little detour to Siena & Verona. And I love that I got to “see” these two cities again through the film Letters To Juliet. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Siena and Verona. If I do, I’ll be sure to stay longer, be more observant and take more photos of the city.
What do you think?
Have you been to Verona or Siena? What is your take on the fact that this attraction that tourists flock to is actually just a window with a balcony constructed around it and deemed Juliet’s balcony? Would you want to visit Juliet’s balcony when you visit Verona? Have you attended the Palio di Siena? Is it an event you would recommend people travel to Siena to attend?
- Letters to Juliet trailer (youtube.com)
- A Word A Week Photograph Challenge – Window (suellewellyn2011.wordpress.com)
- Windows With A View : A Word A Week Photo Challenge (joanfrankham.wordpress.com)
- Heart of Tuscany (thegospelaccordingtoshaina.weebly.com)
- Where was “Letters to Juliet” Filmed (jerrygarrett.wordpress.com)
- Letters To Juliet : A Travelogue for Italophiles (mymelange.net)
- The Palio in Siena (discovertuscany.com)
- Il Palio di Siena (traditionscustoms.com)
- The 17 Contrades Of The Palio Of Siena (aboutsiena.com)
* Please note that the stills from the film are screen grabs, I don’t own the rights to them.
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