Looking for Juliet

Dexter Rodrigo Matilla (The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2013 - 7:18am

In fair Verona there is a balcony that people go to see. And a maiden made of bronze whose beauty has defied time. A rub of her right breast promises to make one lucky—in one’s search of love beyond her courtyard where promises of love are enshrined.

I will admit that I’ve never read Shakespeare’s tale of the famous star-crossed lovers (or any Shakespeare for that matter) but when I found myself staring up at Juliet’s supposed balcony, I couldn’t help but feel like Leonardo di Caprio and start spewing out rhymes.

The visit to Verona came as a whim. Having gone around the usual historical tourist spots in Italy, how could one pass up the opportunity to go to another one, only this time, one that is based on fictional characters? And besides, it will be a good story to tell grandkids about how I acted touristy by rubbing a bronze breast, buying a souvenir, and almost writing on gum (more on those later).

The train ride via FrecciaBianca from Milan to the Verona Porta Nuova took over an hour. There is a bus stop just outside the train station that will take you towards the Arena, which is a good starting point if you wish to walk around first before going to Juliet’s house.

Verona is actually a lot less crowded compared to Rome or Milan. You’d see the usual tour groups but that’s about it. It could be because other than Juliet’s balcony, the Arena in Piazza Bra where opera performances are held, and a number of churches, one can practically do all there is to do in Verona in a day.

Walking around, there are a lot of street performers to be seen. The usual name brands are there for those who can’t stop shopping and then there are restaurants and cafes for those who wish to relax after a long day.

Even with a map, it was quite difficult to find where exactly Juliet’s balcony is, which is exactly how we found the churches and shops and other hidden gems of Verona.
Upon stumbling upon a group of people flocked around in an alleyway, we knew this was it. And sure enough, after passing through a short tunnel, we found ourselves in a crowded courtyard. At the end of it was Juliet and above, to her left, was the balcony.

While the house itself didn’t really belong to the fictional Capulet family in Shakespeare’s story, it was made to be so by the local government after it was bought from the original owners, the Capello family in 1905. In 1936, the balcony was added and it has since been a tourist spot. Similarly, a castle-like 13th century house has been designated as Romeo's home. It is currently a residential place and is not open to the public but it is said that a noble family, the Montecchi (somewhat similar to the Montague) once lived there.

Going back to Juliet's house, there is a price of admission for entering the house and the opportunity to stand in the balcony. For a couple of Euro, you could see clothing and reconstruction of furniture typical of Romeo and Juliet's time. We didn’t bother because the line was quite long.

As for how the practice of rubbing the right breast of Juliet’s bronze statue, I really don’t know how it started and it didn’t help that there was no description nearby to tell me why exactly people do it. But a lot have apparently done so as evidenced by the shine on that particular part of the statue.

After doing these things, there are a couple of souvenir shops nearby filled with all sorts of memorabilia including padlocks, notebooks, necklaces, mugs, shirts, etc. You can buy a padlock and leave it in an area where padlocks of different colors and shapes are left by previous lovebirds in commemoration of their love.

If all of that isn’t enough though, there’s a gum wall and if you're quick, you can leave your notes of love to make sure that your relationship sticks.

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