A LETTER FROM VERONA

Arena & clouds

Crowds attending a concert in Verona’s Arena – and clouds

Beautiful beautiful little Verona!

  • The wide Piazza Bra holding the famous 1st Century Roman Arena, where concerts and opera performances are still held in an acoustically perfect amphitheatre.
  •  Cosy Piazza delle Erbe, from the word for herb, where markets have been held for centuries watched over by the tall Lamberti Tower and prettily painted houses with flowery verandas. The market sells touristy items rather than vegetables now, but one is still there.
  • The magnificent churches of San Zeno, Sant’Anastasia, San Fermo and the Cathedral complex… each pleasing for different reasons.  – San Fermo for its exquisite art, wooden “boat keel” ceiling and ancient, simple chapel beneath.   – Sant’Anastasia for its glorious ceiling and 15th Century frescoes.   – San Zeno for its striped façade of brick and tufa stone, its wide interior and its famous bronze sculpted doors.   – The Cathedral with its precious Titian masterpiece Assumption and, a place I adored, the calm, spiritually-pure baptistery dominated by an incredible octagonal font, carved exquisitely from a single slab of marble, and the quiet corner with its frescoes of Mary and angels.  It was in this Cathedral in 1320 that Dante presented a scientific treaty to officials called ‘Quaestio de aqua et terra’ which a marble plaque commemorates.
  • There is even more to Verona, including another Roman theatre, an old stone bridge, and the Renaissance Giardino Giusti sculpted gardens. Too many photographs for one blog post.

The gorgeous vaulted ceilings of Sant’Anastasia & San Zeno :

Verona is also, of course, the city of love… renowned as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet on which the city capitalises plentifully with many tourist mementoes celebrating their story.

Shakespeare took his plot from various earlier sources, and it is a fable yet visitors are completely taken with it and crowd to see “Juliet’s Balcony” even though it was built centuries after the one in which her story was set, in the 1930’s in fact.  AND SHE DID NOT EXIST. Seeing them flock there is quite an experience, for here visitors leave messages and graffiti declaring their own love.  In a way it is curious that lovers everywhere want to associate with this young couple when their story is a tragic one, the “star-cross’d” lovers meeting and dying within five days. But because their affair was doomed and one they were both willing to die for it has become symbolic of young, true love.

Juliets balcony

Juliet’s balcony

 Notes to Juliet and lovesick graffiti by the balcony :

I took myself off to Number 29 Corso Santa Anastasia, opened the door and there, sitting at a table replying to her letters was Juliet herself, pretty as a picture with long chestnut hair. “But soft!” as Shakespeare would say, this cannot be she. No, it was a sixteen-year-old German girl whom I shall call “Ci” who was on a two-week school exchange helping out at The Juliet Club, replying to the hundreds of letters Juliet receives here.

Sweet-natured Ci showed me the dozens of letters awaiting a reply, stacked in boxes according to language. People write from all over the world for a host of reasons, and anyone can pop into the Club and help with the responses. So I sat down, took out my best pen – for Juliet’s headed paper is top quality – and chose some letters to reply to.

Soon I was completely absorbed. One feels the responsibility of responding as young Juliet might have done, and each letter I had to sign “Love, Juliet”.    

I soon saw that Juliet’s correspondents contacted her in different moods. There were some fun letters, there were ones celebrating the authors’ love, there was a joyful one from a couple who had decided to get married whom I, as Juliet, congratulated warmly. There were more serious ones. A writer wondering whether she should marry her boyfriend and asking Juliet’s advice. Sad letters from people who asked Juliet whether they would ever find their own Romeo as they desperately wanted love and a family and had been star-cross’d themselves to date. Ci explained that some letters were quite heart-breaking and a number needed an expert response which she passed to more experienced volunteers. I commended this sensitive young woman for her conscientious work for I found it hard to imagine spending two whole weeks writing Juliet’s letters – which she did with such care.

My favourites were the letters from young people around Juliet’s age – Shakespeare made her 13 though his sources had her older. These teenagers felt free to write to Juliet as they might not have done to known or real adults, and their letters contained the age-old questions young people have about love, sex, and relationships. I gave the most thoughtful answers I could to all of the letters I selected to respond to, as Juliet.

How wonderful that this Club exists. Its history seems slightly mysterious, it is not given on its website, even Ci did not know everything about its background. But here it is, in Verona, in a beautiful building, each envelope franked for international posting.  It is quite magical that individuals can identify Juliet as a helping agent and can pour out their hearts to her – their questions, their concerns, their sorrows, and their joys.   Interesting that the Club is Juliet’s alone and not Romeo’s, nor the couple’s . . . why do you think that is?

The Club celebrates Juliet and Romeo’s tale in other ways. One event has been to involve citizens and visitors to Verona to each write a line of the play in their own hand using quill and ink, one version in Italian one in English, to be bound and called ‘Romeo and Juliet The Verona Manuscript’.  This exercise was to “symbolize sharing and brotherhood among people, languages and cultures, and be at the same time a reminder of the message of peace in the last verses of Shakespeare’s work”.

If you feel the urge for any reason, you too can write to Juliet at : Club Di Giulietta, Corso Santa Anastasia 29, 37121 Verona. One day you will get a reply – from someone disguised for a moment as the young Juliet, like Ci or me.

Arena lane

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Comments
4 Responses to “A LETTER FROM VERONA”
  1. Ci says:

    Now I’m back in Germany and it feels so unreal. I think the Juliet Club is a magical place because it’s so peaceful and beautiful. Unfortunately places like this are rare in this world full of war, hate and pain. I hope everyone get the chance to go there.
    Love Juliet (Ci)

    • How wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for your beautiful comment. You did important work at The Juliet Club and are wise beyond your years. It was a delight to meet you. Go well in the world and have a fruitful and fulfilling life. I send you my blessings and hope our paths cross again one day, somewhere.

  2. vacicfam says:

    What a special piece of knowledge you have unearthed in the Juliet Club. So romantic, so gentle an idea. I love it!

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