“Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona where we lay our scene),”
I read Romeo and Juliet my freshman year of high school as I am sure many others did. At the time, I thought they were cute, but I no longer view their love story that way. Honestly, I think they could have handled things better, especially the death part. Some people might not agree with me. With so many people viewing the story of Romeo and Juliet as a love story, Verona became a city for lovers, hopeless romantics, and couples.
First of all, the story is fiction, but there is the “Capuleti House” in Verona which people began to associate with the Capulets. The building itself dates back to the 12th century and in 1905 it was purchased by the city of Verona. Once the city owned it, Antonio Avena, director of city museums, had the home restored to what it is today. No one is sure how much, if anything was changed inside the home, but studies and research show the interior of this home is pretty similar to how someone would live in that time period. (Source)
I don’t have a picture of the statue of Juliet because there were so many people in the little courtyard that I would not have been able to get a nice picture. Also, there was a line of people waiting to get a picture taken while touching the statue. There is a legend that says if someone were to touch Juliet’s breast they would become lucky in love or relationships. The statue was sculpted by Nereo Costantini and it was placed in the courtyard in 1972, but in 2014 it was removed because of damage to her breast and right arm. The original statue is supposed to be placed in a museum and funds are being raised for a replica to be placed in the courtyard. While researching I was unable to find out for sure when this will happen or if it already has.
While most people will think of Romeo and Juliet when they think of Verona, that isn’t all there is to see. I definitely didn’t go to Verona to remember two teenage “star-crossed lovers” I read about when I was thirteen.
Just a few blocks from Juliet’s house is Piazza delle Erbe in Verona’s Roman court. Having been the center of Verona’s political and economic life, there are many notable buildings surrounding the plaza. The Torre del Gardello was the first clock tower in Verona, and the bell was placed in 1370. Now it’s considered a thing of the past (based on my understanding of the translation I got from this page), but it was there for the people of Verona in times of joy and sorrow. During World War I, the bell rang on November 4th, 1916 after Italy suffered 75,000 casualties when they lost to Austria in the 9th battle of Isonzo. Two years later the bell rang again to celebrate the joy after Italy and Austria-Hungary signed an agreement to end hostilities.
Next to the tower is Maffei Palace. Now a restaurant, the palace was built for the Maffei family in the 17th century. The palace had a garden terrace and the banister has statues of Hercules, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Apollo, and Minerva (from left to right). According to the restaurant’s website as well as a Verona tourism site, the palace was built where the capital or main temple of the city was during Roman times.
Below, there is a picture I took in the Piazza delle Erbe looking at the bell tower and the Maffei Palace. If you look in front of the palace, there is a statue that almost blends in with the palace facade. That statue is the Leone Marciano, the symbol of the Republic of Verona. It was placed on top of a white marble column in 1524 as an apology for their previous pro-empire sentiments.
A few blocks away from the plaza is the city center where Italy’s largest open-air opera theater can be found. The arena was built in the first century AD by the Romans just outside the city walls. It was first used for gladiator fights in Roman times, then for games and tournaments until the 18th century. Since 1913 the arena has been used as an opera theater. It is also Verona’s most renowned monument and one of the best-constructed monuments of its kind.
Just in front of the arena is the Palazzo Barbieri which now serves the purpose of the town hall. Construction on the neoclassical palace began in 1836 and was completed in 1848. When it was built, Italy was occupied by the Austrian Empire and the palace, originally called Palazzo della Gran Guardia Nuova, was meant to accommodate soldiers. (Source)
I will admit that when I first found out Verona was going to be the first stop in Italy I could only think about Juliet’s house. Sure I don’t think of it as much of a love story, but I’m a bookworm and it seemed cool. I didn’t think there would be much else, but once I was there I realized how wrong I was. There was so much more to see and learn about that I wish I could have spent a bit more time just wandering the streets. Maybe some day I can go back to the first foreign city I explored, but until then I’ll just research more and remember the wonderful time I had in Italy.
More Verona pictures here