Tourists queuing to rub Verona’s famous Juliet statue are a touch too much for the locals

·2-min read
Verona Romeo and Juliet statue touch the breast tradition tourism - iStock
Verona Romeo and Juliet statue touch the breast tradition tourism - iStock

It is the place where, legend has it, the besotted Romeo passionately vied for the affections of Juliet.

But love is no longer in the air in Verona, where council bosses have formulated a plan to curb the number of tourists who overcrowd the House of Juliet every year.

More than a million visitors descend on a tiny courtyard in the northern city of Verona every year even though there is no proof that the 13th-century gothic palazzo was inhabited by the teenager - nor, indeed, that she ever existed beyond the realm of Shakespeare's imagination.

The courtyard is generally packed, with queues of tourists spilling out onto the street, infuriating locals.

A couple kiss on the balcony of Juliet's House - Getty
A couple kiss on the balcony of Juliet's House - Getty

The city council now wants to expropriate the handful of businesses located around the edge of the courtyard, including a souvenir shop, a coin collector and a bed and breakfast so local proprietors can no longer vote down crowd-calming measures.

The proposal comes after years in which other proposals, such as installing turnstiles or selling tickets, were rejected by business owners, who profit handsomely from the selfie-taking hordes.

Expropriating the businesses would be “an act of courage that would finally put an end to the vetoes of the stakeholders” in the courtyard, said Vincenzo Tinè, the head of cultural heritage and archeology for Verona.

The city’s mayor, Federico Sboarina, is in favour of the idea.

“Every proposal we have come up with to try to manage the number of tourists who enter the courtyard has been rejected by the business owners,” his spokesperson, Mirella Gobbi Sprocagnocchi, told The Telegraph.

Tourists crowd the courtyard in front of 'Juliet's House' in Verona - iStock
Tourists crowd the courtyard in front of 'Juliet's House' in Verona - iStock

“If we can acquire ownership of the whole site then we can implement our plan, which would be to build turnstiles and require visitors to make an online booking. Entering the courtyard would remain free – we just want to manage the flow of visitors.”

The businesses would have to be bought by the council at market price and that could cost millions.

“The council needs to put the proposal to the culture minister in Rome before we can proceed. It’s going to take time, but it will happen,” she said.

Although there were families named the Montecchi and Capuleti living in Verona in the 13th and 14th centuries, there is no proof that Romeo or Juliet existed.

Shakespeare never visited Verona and the main inspiration for his play was “The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet”, written by an English poet in 1562, which in turn was based on the French translation of a story by an Italian, Matteo Bandello.

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