The True Story of Romeo and Juliet
(Shakespeare was a copycat)

Is Romeo and Juliet a true story or is it just fictional? How did Shakespeare decided Verona setting for his most known play?
Our guided tour, taking you into the heart of Verona, will make you discover a complete different story. What you learned in school about Shakespeare it is probably not true.
You will discover the complexity, the mystery, the intrigues, the multiple connections, the literary and historical interweaving that are behind the birth of one of the most famous stories in the world.

Further information and bookings: veronatour@gmail.com

The Tour

Duration and Itinerary

The tour lasts about 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The itinerary winds through the beautiful historic center of Verona, retracing the development of the plot of Romeo and Juliet in the context of the city between 1200 and 1300, illustrating at the same time the literary interweaving at the origins of the tragic story, and the historical characters involved or mentioned in it, such as Dante or Bartolomeo della Scala.

The Scala Family

The guided tour starts from Piazza dei Signori, where the historical context of the story will be introduced with the Scala family palace, seat of the political power in the city in the era in which the legend is set. There you will find the statue of Dante that recalls the seven years spent in Verona by the poet. In his masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, Dante talks about the feuding families of Verona under the rule of Bartolomeo, member of the powerful Scala family. Inside the private cemetery of the Scala family (Arche Scaligere), you will see the engraved tomb of Bartolomeo, together with the other monumental Gothic mausoleums of other Scala family leaders.

Romeo's House

Not far is the so-called house of Romeo, i.e. the residence of the Montecchi (Montegues) family, a castle shaped brick building with tower and battlements that gives a very good idea of the political situation of Verona in the middle age. The constant fighting among family required a safe dwelling for those who where involved in the feud.
Today Romeo's house is privately owned and can be visited only from the outside.

Juliet's House

From Romeo's house it is a short walk to Juliet's house, the old residence of the Capuleti (Capulets) family. A picturesque balcony in the facade of the house helps fantasizing of Juliet leaning out while talking to Romeo looking for her in the courtyard below. They say that touching the bronze statue of Juliet in the courtyard will bring you good luck with love. It is possible to visit the inside of the house of Juliet that has been transformed into a museum.

Romeo and Tybalt

The itinerary also includes a stop at the site of the duel between Romeo and Tybalt, as described by Matteo Bandello, the author of one of the many versions of the story.

There is no world without Verona walls

Another stop is by the old Middle Age gate of Verona, the main entrance in the defensive wall that surrounded the city in the 14th Century, and that is still almost completely preserved. If Romeo ever existed, it was probably this gate that he walked through when he went to Mantua in exile after killing Tybalt.

Juliet's Grave

The visit ends with the underground crypt where it was found the sarcophagus that might have held Juliet, asleep from the potion, and waiting for the arrival of Romeo. You will discover how, through a logical deduction and research, they found this mysterious stone sarcophagus with no inscriptions, inside a quite suggestive monastery.

A Romantic Tour

The itinerary is suitable for everyone but is ideal especially for couples and lovers visiting Verona. Perfect for a romantic holiday for Valentine's Day. It can be also a valid in-depth study of literary themes for school groups that have been studying the work of William Shakespeare, the history and literature of the Middle Ages.

Entrance Fees and Accessibility

The entrance to each monument requires the purchase of a ticket.
The external itinerary of the guided Romeo and Juliet tour is free from major architectural barriers. Inside museums, stairs without aids and elevators make the access for people with serious disability very difficult or impossible.

The Story

Due to the immortal legend of Romeo and Juliet, Verona is considered the capital of Love. The two young lovers got caught up in the terrible feud between their families: the Montagues and the Capulets (Montecchi and Capuleti their original Italian names). According to the legend, Romeo and Juliet met at a masquerade ball, fell in love and decided to get married in secret, against the will of their two rival families. But a cruel fate seemed to be plotting against their happiness. Juliet's cousin Tybalt, during a street brawl kills Romeo's best friend Mercutio. In revenge Romeo kills Tybalt in a duel and is then forced to leave Verona. On the other side, Juliet 's father has organized a prestigious marriage for his daughter with the noble Paris. To get out of this situation, with the help of the friar who married her with Romeo, Juliet drinks a potion which makes her seem dead. Unfortunately she doesn't menage to inform Romeo of her plans. Romeo thinks Juliet has really died, he get back to Verona, believes he has lost forever Juliet and kills himself drinking a powerful poison and lying next to her. Upon awakening, Juliet cannot bear the sight of the dead body of her beloved Romeo and by stabbing herself with Romeo's dagger joins him forever in a loving embrace of dead.

The two families, Montecchi and Capuleti, actually lived in Verona between the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century. Did they have a son named Romeo and a daughter named Juliet (Giulietta in Italian)? We don't know. But Dante, who was in Verona in those years wrote in the Divine Comedy that they where feuding for political reason, and because of their feud they became sad.

Shakespeare

Between 1591 and 1597 William Shakespeare put on stage his most known tragedy: Romeo and Juliet. Thanks to Shakespeare the story had an enormous success on stage and was later to be transformed into movies, musical, ballets, operas, etc. The spellbinding legend was destined to remain inextricably bound to the name and history of Verona.
William Shakespeare never visited Verona, he lived his existence between Stratford upon Avon and London without ever leaving England. As for "Romeo and Juliet", Shakespeare did nothing but adapt in the form of a theatrical tragedy a previous story, written by Luigi da Porto in 1529, at the time already quite widespread in various versions.

Shakespeare Vs Luigi da Porto

The figure of Luigi da Porto is complex and enigmatic, his life sad and tragic. He was born in Vicenza, only 25 miles East of Verona and belonged to one of the most important and noble families in Venetian mainland. He became a knight in the service of the army of the Republic of Venice in the years of the wars against the League of Cambrai. He ended up guarding the eastern borders in Friuli region and, during a clash with the enemy, was wounded remaining paralyzed. He spent the last years of his life in his father's house in Montorso Vicentino, where he dedicated himself to writing, his old passion. Among the books he wrote there is a Novelliere, a collection of tales, among which there is the "Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti" (Newly found story of two noble lovers). In the preface of the story da Porto tells us how, during the marches from one post to another, he liked the company of a funny and adventurous archer from Verona called Peregrino, who always knew a lot of entertaining stories. Peregrino, seeing that his lord was sad and guessing the causes in an unhappy love, started to tell him a legend of his city that took place at the time of the Scala family rule. The archer thought that, whatever was the cause of Luigi's sadness, listening to the tragic end of his story, his sufferings, in comparison, would have seemed a small matter. The story of course is Romeo and Juliet, exactly as everyone knows it. Luigi da Porto wrote down the story in his book, which he then dedicated to his beloved Lucina Savorgnan. The writer had met her few years earlier in Venice, apparently during a carnival party where everybody was wearing masks. The two had fallen in love, but the crowning of their love had been opposed by her father for reasons of rivalry between families.

Here there are all the elements of a literary riddle. The personal story of Luigi da Porto that intertwines with the typical literary topic of star-crossed love and tragic misunderstanding. The legendary facts that mix with the historical background of the Scala family rule and the presence of Dante in Verona. Did the archer Peregrino really existed and told the story of Romeo and Juliet or is the plot just a projection of Luigi da Porto unhappy love story?

Matteo Bandello

The story had a certain success, and started to spread, both in Italy and in Europe, in a number of different versions and translations. Among the most famous one is the version by Matteo Bandello, which added many details to the plot of Luigi da Porto. In particular he added the descriptions, sometimes quite accurate, of the places in Verona where the various events of the story took place. Matteo Bandello's Novelliere (book of tales), with his captivating spirit, spread a lot, especially in France where the writer, who was actually a prelate, spent many years. From there the book probably reached Britain, where it was translated into English by Arthur Brooke. The rest is a well-known story, with the dramatization of William Shakespeare, who has always been passionate about Venetian settings (The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, Othello, The Two Gentlemen of Verona), and made it into one of the best known stories in the world, transposed into countless film versions, an Opera (Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod) and a musical (West side story).

Letters to Juliet

In 2010 the movie "Letters to Juliet", directed by Gary Winick, was released. The plot was inspired by Juliet's Club, an association of volunteers that since the 1930s is committed to reply to the letters that unhappy lovers in search of consolation and advice, write to Juliet from around the world. You just need to write on the envelope "Juliet - Verona - Italy", and the letter will be delivered to the Juliet's Club, where volunteers will respond signing "with Love, Juliet". The movie is about a young girl, neglected by her boyfriend, who will go in search of little thrills investigating an unhappy love story that took place decades earlier, after finding an undelivered letter addressed to Juliet. The film, which was quite successful, was almost entirely shot in Verona. Many visitors still come to Verona in search of the suggestive locations that they saw on the screen. With our "Letters to Juliet" guided tour you will be able to retrace the scenes of the film through the alleys and squares of the historic center of Verona.

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