Juliet: O Romeó, Romeó! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Romeo: There is no world without Verona walls…
William Shakespeare most likely had been aware of the story of Romeo and Juliet for some time before he wrote his play, Romeo and Juliet, in 1595. In 1562, English poet, Arthur Brooke, had wriiten a poem entitled “The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet”. And Brooke had based his poem on an even older story he had read in a Novelle by the Italian writer, Matteo Bandello (1480-1562). He never traveled to Italy but it is believed that Shakespeare based not only Romeo and Juliet on Bandello’s stories, but “Much Ado about Nothing” and “Twelfth Night” as well.
Regardless of whether Romeo and Juliet is based on a true story or not, Shakespeare’s famous love story was set in Verona. Juliet’s home, Romeo’s home and Juliet’s Tomb are top attractions adding to Verona’s reputation as one of the most romantic cities in Italy.
Casa di Giulietta
Juliet’s Home is a museum located in a medieval building off a narrow pedestrian pathway in the city center. In the entrance archway there is a 14th century keystone with an inscription stating the house belonged to the Dal Cappello family, widely known as the Cappelletti.
For centuries this house had been identified with Giulietta Capuleti but it wasn’t until the 1800’s when it became a pilgrimage destination for poets, writers and tourists fascinated by the tragic love story.
In 1930 the museum opened to the public. Overlooking the courtyard is the famous balcony where the secret encounters between the two lovers took place. A bronze statue of Juliet stands in the courtyard attracting visitors. Copies of the same statue can also be found in Munich, Chicago and Ningbo, China.
Although Romeo and Juliet are fictional figures, this house, with its stone balcony, became a symbol of the world-famous love story.
About 325 yards (300 m) away from Juliet’s Casa is the medieval building where Romeo lived. The building is not open to the public but on one outside wall is an engraved plaque of Romeo on his horse escaping to Mantua, following the deadly sword fight. This marble sign with its melancholy verse can also be found on the same wall.
Museo degli Affreschi alla Tomba di Giulietta
Inside the ancient deconsecrated monastery of San Francisco al Corso is the Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle Museum. In the 14th and 15th centuries it was fashionable to decorate the facades of buildings with frescoes and Verona had so many colorfully covered buildings that it became known as the “painted city”.
In the 19th and 20th century frescoes were removed from the facades of buildings, palaces and churches and some of those same frescoes are on display in this museum. Additionally there are wonderful paintings and Renaissance bronzes to view. We particularly enjoyed the quality and color in the paintings by Paolo and Jacopo Ligozzi of the cavalcade of Charles V and Clement VII in Bologna.
According to the Shakespearean tragedy this former church is where the death scene of Romeo and Juliet takes place and where Juliet was buried. The crypt which preserves the stone sarcophagus of Juliet’s tomb can be visited here.
We found these 10 poignant bronze panels that depict the story of Romeo and Juliet. Each panel is named and is a memorial scene, including the same panel of Romeo escaping to Mantova that is on the wall of his home.
For the past 20 years a summer festival has been held in the cloister of the former convent and each year, Opera In Love – Romeo and Juliet, is performed.
Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore
Our Airbnb hostess mentioned that the Basilica of San Zeno was her favorite Veronese church so with that tip, we included a stop on our itinerary.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Theodoric the Great, King of the Ostrogoths built the first church on this site and named it after Bishop Zeno of Verona, (340-371 CE) born in Mauritania, Africa.
The church was damaged or destroyed by a Magyar invasion in the early 10th century. In 967 the romanesque-style San Zeno Church and Convent was rebuilt and Saint Zeno’s relics were placed in the crypt of the new church.
It wasn’t until we visited the church that we discovered that this Basilica’s crypt was where, in Shakespeare’s play, the marriage of Romeo and Juliet took place.
The Tombs of the Scaligers are an outstanding collection of Gothic funerary monuments that acknowledge the Scaliger family, rulers of Verona, during the 13th and 14th centuries.
The above ground tombs have been placed within a wrought iron grill enclosure. The name Scaliger or in Italian, della Scala, means “of the stairs” and ladders have been incorporated into the grill work as well as onto the family coat-of-arms.
The grandest of the tombs, in the solemn chapel-yard, belong to five notable leaders of the Scaliger dynasty. Additionally there are a handful of characters interred there as cited by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), the infamous Italian poet, writer and philosopher. Notably, Cangrande (1st) Scaliger was the primary patron of the Florentine poet, Dante.
The most loved Scaliger ruler of the city and founder of the Scaligeri dynasty, was Cangrande I (meaning “Big dog” in Italian). His tomb was built in 1345. It was believed that Cangrande died under mysterious circumstances. In 2004 his body was removed from its sarcophagus, examined and it was confirmed that the cause of death was indeed poisoning from a lethal dose of digitalis.
Cangrande’s title passed to his nephews Mastino and Alberto, who co-ruled. Mastino was apparently a cruel and unstable leader. Of note however, his daughter, Beatrice della Scala, gave her name to the church of Santa Maria alla Scala in Milan, and by extension, to the La Scala opera house which was built on the church site 400 years later.
Today we in North America use what was once called the French time: where a clock face is divided into 12 hours and uses two hands, a short hand indicating the hour and a long hand for the minutes. However until the mid 18th century, Italian time was more popular: when the dial is divided into 24 hours and used a single hand.
The 24-hour analog clock’s hour hand makes one complete rotation in a day compared, as we know, to the 12-hour analog clock with it’s hour hand that rotates twice around the clock face per day.
Medieval clocks often used the 24-hour analog dial, influenced by the astrolabe. In Northern Europe, a double-XII system was preferred: two sets of the Roman numerals I to XII were used, one on the left side for the night and morning hours, and another set on the right side of the dial to represent the afternoon and evening hours. In the 14th and 15th century the single XII (12-hour) system gradually replaced the double XII (24-hour) system although astronomers, scientists and clockmakers continued using the older system. Pilots, government and the military adopted the 24 hour clock in the 20th century.
In Italy, Roman numerals numbers 1 to 24 (I to XXIV) were used, leading to the country’s widespread use of the 24-hour system. Today Italy writes time using the 24-hour clock but when speaking about time they refer to the 12-hour clock without using “am” or “pm”.
The 24 hour clock seems to be an easier method to tell time and we wonder why it was replaced. Perhaps when watches began to be common, the smaller watch face was more difficult to fit in 24 different numbers? The good news is that 24-hour analog watches and clocks are still being manufactured today. Of course most digital clocks, watches, phones, etc today can be set to the 24-clock.
No matter the time, the city of Romeo and Juliet continues to be a city full of old-world and modern-day romance. Thousands planning to marry choose Verona as a destination to wed. Each Saturday morning, romantic civic marriages are performed at Sala Guarienti in Verona’s Town Hall. The legendary, Juliet’s House, also offers a slim window of time Monday mornings where a couple can celebrate their wedding vows.
“See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek!”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Saluti from these Veronese,
Edoardo + Guilia (Ted + Julia)