A little while back, I had the chance to spend a little time in Verona, and of course one of the places I visited was the famed Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House). Though it’s not really her house, nor is there any proof that she ever existed outside the Bard’s play, it has become a pilgrimage for innamorati (lovers) and others who want to witness this fictional place and perhaps leave their mark as an ommaggio (homage) to love…
And there’s where it gets tricky – what some consider an amorous declaration others deem defacement of public property. If you’ve ever been to la Casa di Giulietta, you’ve probably seen what I mean. Despite visibly posted signs citing ordinances prohibiting attaching love letters or notes and writing on surfaces, at the penalty of steep fines and even possible jail time, the practice persists mostly unfettered.
Chewing gum, post-its, love letters and graffiti declaring love (and sometimes less noble slogans) adorn the entryway of the portico, walls and other surfaces in the courtyard; and padlocks hang from the iron gates. And though technically it’s not allowed and is frowned upon by many as a lack of decent manners and decorum, people, especially Italian high-schoolers on field trips,
continue leaving their mark in broad daylight.
In relatively recent years these surfaces have been subject to major clean-up campaigns at least twice (2008, 2012), with new fines, and the police of Verona put on alert. But it seems they can’t stop love – in just a matter of time, love birds/graffiti artists/wall defacers win out, and the surroundings return to their previously graffiti-ized state. Apparently after the most recent scrubbing, temporary wall overlays were put up to protect some of the original surfaces – knowing that visitors would continue leaving their mark.
While I don’t condone the graffiti-ing of this location, I do find it fascinating that a place associated with a fictional story of star-crossed lovers holds such a powerful attraction for the collective imagination. La Casa di Giulietta seems to have become a sort of a participatory public art installation. Visitors are driven by the desire to bring good luck in love by leaving a note or rubbing the statue of Juliet. Maybe that’s why the police and even the shopkeepers [whose sales must no doubt benefit from these visitors] seem to tolerate the spectacle… Maybe the true story is in people’s imaginations, and perhaps it’s true, perhaps you simply can’t fight love… or high-schoolers hyped up on hormones, gone wild with gum and sharpies…
Want to write or whisper some sweet nothings to your beloved this Valentine’s Day? Here are a few that will warm their heart…
- Caro/a: Dear or darling
- Tesoro: Treasure, sweetie
- Amore, amore mio: Love, my love
- Ti amo: I love you (for romantic loves)
- Ti voglio bene: I care about you, I love you (for anyone)
- Sei nel mio cuore: You are in my heart
- Per sempre: Forever
- Baci e abbracci: Kisses and hugs
- Buon San Valentino! : Happy Valentine’s Day!
What do you think of all the love notes from visitors to la Casa di Giulietta? Should authorities crack down on love birds who leave their mark? What can or should be done? If you could, would you leave a love letter or declaration at Juliet’s House?