The real life story of “Letters to Juliet”

All romantics from around the world will have at one point swooned over the beautiful film, Letters to Juliet. For those who haven’t yet watched it, the movie puts a fictional spin on the real life story of those who write to the anonymous “Secretaries of Juliet” in Verona, Italy.

Immediately after watching it I checked to see if the film was in fact based on a book, and that’s when I found the non-fiction book titled Letters to Juliet: Celebrating Shakespeare’s Greatest Heroine, the Magical City of Verona, and the Power of Love by Lise and Ceil Friedman, who both tell and teach us about the real life story of Letters to Juliet that inspired the film.

The enduring legend of Shakespeare’s pair of star-crossed lovers draws millions of visitors to Verona, Italy, each year. But that is just part of the story. Every day, letters, frequently addressed simply, “Juliet, Verona,” arrive in the city. They come by the truckload, in almost every language imaginable, written by romantics seeking Juliet’s counsel. Most of the missives talk of love, of course —love found and love lost, love sought and love remembered. And, amazingly, not one letter goes unanswered.

Letters to Juliet tells the story of these letters and the volunteers who have been writing responses for more than seven decades —volunteers who first acted privately, and who are now sanctioned by the city of Verona as part of the Juliet Club . Featuring more than seventy-five heartfelt letters, this poetic book retraces the history behind Shakespeare’s tale and tours the monuments that have fuelled the world’s enchantment with Juliet and her Romeo.

ltj

Letters to Juliet also contains the history behind Shakespeare’s tale, and beautifully describes the magic City of Verona. I only wish I could visit there one day and write a letter to Juliet myself. Letters to Juliet is a one of a kind poetic story, fit for all. The letters, the history, the hope that appear on the pages of the book were wonderful to read and, surprisingly, didn’t feel intrusive.

I found the accounting’s of the letter writers, the Secretaries to Juliet, and the history of Verona fascinating. Verona has such a rich history through the eyes of so many writers. A history that has been revitalised and kept alive by the proud locals.

Having never visited Verona, I would love to do so now, and visit the sites associated with the star crossed lovers and feel what has inspired so many to immortalise this place. The levels of love that Juliet receives in the letters from all over the world is also amazing.

In the book a secretary says they are not worried about receiving letters about politics and world strife. Anyone who writes to Juliet is going to be self involved and thinking of one thing. I think that is truly a gift. How often do we chastise ourselves for the self indulgence of our love lives and the seemingly smallness or unimportance of those problems. To be able to write a letter and have someone care enough to write back means that love is not dead. There is a place for our concerns, excitement, and declarations of love.

Honestly, this book leaves me with three more things added to my bucket list: 1. write to Juliet 2. reread Romeo and Juliet 3. find the kind of love that keeps this legend alive.

Not to mention that the actual letters featured in the book are beautiful. One person wrote to Juliet from Poland to ask:

I’ve asked myself many times, how it is that we fall in love: do we trip, lose our balance and fall, scraping our hearts? Do we crash to the ground, on stones? Or it is like staying on the edge of a precipice for all time?

One of my favourites was a letter by a young man from Mozyr, Belarus to tell Juliet of his love story:

Hello Juliet,
My name is Viktar and I live in the beautiful city of Moyzr. I want to tell my love story, of a love that I had then lost and still can’t understand why. During a military leave, I met a girl. It was a magical night. She was as beautiful as an angel on earth, with marvellous eyes, and a special way of talking… I had never met a woman like her. With the passage of days and weeks, our feelings grew; when I returned to service we wrote letters and poems to each other. My friends didn’t recognise me, so much was I changed. That was the most beautiful time of my life.
 Mozyr, Belarus, 1995

And, finally, the last letter in the book.

Dear Juliet,
Even the air is different here. Unlike where I come from, there is room for great emotions. The weekend in Verona was fantastic, even if I was alone, and wanted to be alone. I walked for hours without satiating my desire to see, to feel, to hear… I kept coming back to your house. I wanted to dance in that marvellous room with the fireplace, but I didn’t have the courage to do so because people kept coming in. I saw a house for rent on one of the nearby streets  and thought how crazily wonderful it would be if I could just stay here, sit down in the great piazza of the Arena and watch the families stroll by. Your house is a huge treasure, and surely Verona must thank you for it, for the fact that humanity can think of you and your story and believe, a little bit, that you protect their love.
Hannah R, Cologne, Germany.

I am becoming certain that this holds a magical power, the power to give great love, and  also the power to make people believe in love again.

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