Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet at Verona, Italy

Romeo and Juliet in Verona: The Biggest Tourist Fraud?

I believe I am not a grumpy traveler. Some travelers are. They travel far and wide and complain all the way through about the awfulness of it all. I don’t think I am that kind of traveler.

Until I got to Verona – one of the biggest tests for my happy-go-lucky traveler self.

Romeo and Juliet is a play written by Shakespeare in late 1500s. Since then the lovebirds have turned into the ultimate symbol of tragic love around the world. Who doesn’t know Romeo and Juliet? Everybody does.

So this Shakespeare guy wrote a play that is set in Verona, Italy, unknowingly that he was about to set the stage for the biggest fake attraction in history.

Now to be entirely sure, I just want to say out loud that Romeo and Juliet is fiction. It is a story made up by an English man.

Before we get there, I’d like to mention a movie that I believe contributed to the more recent popularity of Verona, and that is Letters to Juliet, a 2010 movie starring Amanda Seyfried, about a young girl who travels to Verona and finds out about a group of volunteers who answer letters from lovers around the world. Hence, letters to Juliet. (What would you write to Juliet? Does he love me, does he not? I don’t get it.)

In the movie, Amanda Seyfried character accidentally stumbled upon this lovely courtyard that is claimed to be Juliet’s house. Love messages decorating the walls of the tunnel to the courtyard, the air is soft and romantic, and the courtyard looking quaint and breezy, with a few young people scattered around, writing on their notebooks. A couple of lovebirds dotted the courtyard and played Romeo and Juliet at the balcony.

Well in real life, Amanda Seyfried character couldn’t possibly miss the courtyard even if she tried for her life. The hustle and bustle of the place has already started from the mouth of the tunnel. What I found at the courtyard was this:

Verona, Italy

Lots of people

Verona, Italy

People, people everywhere

Verona, Italy

And even more people

Every year thousands of Japanese tour groups break their Venice-to-Milan ride for an hour-long stop in Verona just to stand in a courtyard. That’s a lot of tourists. I saw them with my own eyes.

At one point the courtyard was so full, that we just decided to sit down for a bit at the edge and just do this sport called tourist-watching (while eating yummy fruits bought at the market earlier, so that wasn’t so bad).

Verona, Italy

Playing Juliet at the balcony. I was already there, why not? Seems like my imaginary Romeo was in the wrong direction, oops.

Verona, Italy

The view from the balcony. Aah, nothing brings you back to reality faster than a bunch of tourists.

Verona, Italy

Rubbing the breast of Juliet’s statue is said to bring good luck in love (not that I still need it)

I had to fight to take this picture with Juliet’s statue, as a few obnoxious men kept jumping up and down the platform to take pictures of them groping Juliet, while some shy girls were waiting patiently for their turns on the side. It was chaotic and very noisy – just the least romantic situation you could think about. After a few of these stupid guys, I snapped at one guy who cut the queue not once, but two times. “Excuse me!” I raised my voice and gave him a deadly stare. “Excuse me!” was his response too. But that’s the end of our banter, because he couldn’t speak English.

Verona, Italy

Love messages and love locks

Verona, Italy

The Letters to Juliet mailbox. It crossed my mind to try writing a letter just to see if the volunteers are really going to reply. But couldn’t be bothered at the end.

Did you notice that Juliet is called Giulietta in Italy? It took me a while to get it. I studied the city map, skimmed Casa di Giulietta a few times, all the way wondering where Juliet’s courtyard is. I knew that Casa means house, but it didn’t register in my head that Giulietta is indeed our Juliet. So there you go, one thing to note.

Since I was seemingly longing for more tourist torture, I went to this place marked as Juliet’s Tomb (Tomba di Giulietta) the next day, first thing in the morning, before we left Verona.

Verona, Italy

The entrance to Juliet’s tomb

Verona, Italy

“For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes this vault a feasting presence full of light.” Aaaw.

If you have been following so far, you know that of course there can’t possibly be the tomb of Juliet, because she never existed.

Verona, Italy

So we got to this empty tomb-like space, guarded by this poor guy

Verona, Italy

He mainly guarded the place so it’s not vandalized by lovebirds randomly needing to make their love marks

To be fair, the courtyard around Juliet’s tomb is really lovely and green. I guess the experience would’ve been better if there’s a purpose to it all.

Now that I’ve laid everything bare, do you still to want to visit this legendary place of Verona, where a star-crossed lovers meet their deadly fate? Or do you now think it’s the biggest tourist fraud in history?

Verona itself is a nice little city that is declared UNESCO World Heritage in 2000. There’s a big Roman amphitheater in the middle of the city (the second biggest after Rome’s Colosseum) hosting a famous yearly Opera event and other Roman ruins. The whole city has lovely structure and architecture, and it’s a great city to unwind and to just have leisurely walk around.

And sure, pop by to Juliet’s house if you want, but you’d have better luck finding romance at any other parts of the city!

Top view of Verona

Top view of Verona

Dioni Z
I left home when I was 17 and never stop exploring the world since. Most days I'm a digital technician at one of the London's biggest visual effects studio. My alternate persona writes and travels and dreams of doing these as a living. I alternately call myself Indonesian or Australian whichever is more beneficial at the time, and I've been a Londoner since 2011.