In the Italian city of Verona, tourists flock to a 13th century Gothic-style house at 23 Via Cappello in the hopes of finding some semblance of true romance while gazing up at the balcony where history’s greatest love story might have unfolded. In reality, William Shakespeare never once visited the city where he set his famous fictional tragedy, Romeo & Juliet. In reality, the city of Verona bought the villa from a prominent “Capello” family – a name that sounded similar enough to Shakespeare’s “Capelletti” family, and declared it the Casa di Giulietta in 1905. The photogenic balcony where Romeo would’ve waxed poetic to Juliet was actually some years later in the 20th century (sorry to burst the bubble). Still, the fantasy endures. Notes written by visitors from around the world cover the tourist-clogged courtyard walls, and a small red mailbox accepts letters written to Juliet. In the middle of the inlet is a statue of the famous Capulet. The legend is that if you touch her right breast, you’ll have a year of romantic luck. The real magic however, exists just a five-minute’s walk from this chaotic courtyard; a place where the lost art of letter-writing endures…
Tucked away in the backstreets of Verona, since 1972, the Juliet Club is staffed by a small rotating team of volunteers that work diligently to respond to the 50,000 letters Juliet Capulet receives every year — stuck on the courtyard walls or tucked into its mailbox, emailed, or sent from around the globe—from people asking for romance advice. The people who respond to these letters call themselves Juliet’s Secretaries, and you too, can become one of them…
Through a doorway under a sign for The Juliet Club and up a flight of stairs, the Secretaries of Juliet work out of a room filled with boxes and boxes of letters, the vast majority of which are handwritten and sent via post. Secretaries respond on official Club di Giulietta stationery and sign off as “Secretary of Juliet.” Anyone can drop in for a day to read and reply to letters as Juliet’s Secretary. Upon arrival, you’ll be led to the workroom and given a box of letters in the language of your choice to sort through until you find one that you want to respond to.
Reading through these notes is a veritable portrait of love in the world. There are letters about school-girl crushes and heartbreaking divorces, long-lost loves, indecision about staying or leaving, pregnancy, marriage, death, and everything in between. The tradition of answering them began in the 1930s when the keeper of Juliet’s tomb began collecting the letters left by visitors, and felt so moved by some of then, he decided to start responding.
Though it’s helpful for the Secretaries of Juliet to know when someone will be coming to help them respond to letters (you can make a free reservation online), you don’t actually have to.
I came across the Club di Giulietta by chance. A girl I was briefly trailing through Verona (because she seemed very confident about where she was going, and I was there without a plan) led me down the proverbial rabbit hole. When a Secretary of Juliet asked if we were there to respond to letters, the girl said yes, and so did I.
Reading people’s love stories and dilemmas was so entertaining and touching that I went back and did it again the next day. In exchange for your time, you receive a small Romeo & Juliet themed notebook and postcard.
Got a passion for love but no advice to give? The Club di Giulietta offers an option on their website to just come in and peruse their box of archived letters (box of tissues not included). Make a free reservation here.
Visit the Club di Giulietta at:
Vicolo Santa Cecilia 9, 37121
Verona — Italy
Letters to Juliet should be sent to the same address. You can find out other ways to write them here. If you can’t get to Verona and have no need for love advice now, try watching the guilty-pleasure that is Letters to Juliet, the 2010 rom-com starring a doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried who comes across the group on volunteers by chance and continues to come back day after day to respond to letters. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Showtime.