VERONA

Elle (Canada) - - Escape -

The world’s most fa­mous bal­cony, it turns out, is kind of fake. It is a real part of a 13th-cen­tury house in Verona that was once owned by the Cap­pello fam­ily—be­lieved by some to have been the in­spi­ra­tion for Romeo and Juliet’s Ca­pulet fam­ily—but the bal­cony was added by the city in 1936 to cap­i­tal­ize on the fa­mous star-crossed lovers. So there’s no chance that a beau­ti­ful young girl stood on it some 400 years ago and pledged her love to the boy be­low.

Still, if you can get past that lit­tle lack of au­then­tic­ity, it’s worth vis­it­ing this pretty court­yard in Verona’s his­toric old town if only to spark your imag­i­na­tion and be awed by the love notes that pa­per the walls of the tun­nel lead­ing into Juliet’s court­yard. Thou­sands are stuck here ev­ery year, and thou­sands more are mailed to the lady her­self from peo­ple seek­ing love ad­vice or sim­ply ex­press­ing their feel­ings. Ad­dressed sim­ply to “Juliet, Verona,” the letters find their way here from all over the world and are re­ceived by the Juliet Club, a group of vol­un­teers who trans­late, an­swer and file ev­ery one. h

I didn’t leave a note my­self, but it was easy to see why Verona inspired Shake­speare to set his most ro­man­tic play here. Just a two-hour train ride north of Florence, Verona is a UNESCO World Her­itage Site. Much of its orig­i­nal de­fen­sive wall still ex­ists, as does its first­cen­tury arena, which is now used for op­eras and con­certs in­stead of gla­di­a­tor bat­tles. Lo­cals take pride in main­tain­ing pas­tel-painted build­ings, com­ple­men­tary win­dow shut­ters and bal­conies with flow­ers drap­ing over or­nate wrought­iron sur­rounds. One of the best ways to pass a day here is to sim­ply stroll the pretty streets—you can walk the whole of the old town in a few hours, which is ex­actly what I did: MORN­ING A good place to start is Pi­azza delle Erbe. Once a Ro­man fo­rum, it’s now oc­cu­pied by an out­door mar­ket and cafés. Af­ter a latte, I fol­low Via Cap­pello, which starts at the south­ern end of the pi­azza, to Juliet’s House, a few min­utes away. From here, I walk east to the Adige River, which Verona strad­dles, and me­an­der along its bank. The neat path, lined with old-world lamps, af­fords beau­ti­ful views of the river, par­tic­u­larly where an arched bridge con­nects to the op­po­site bank, which is dot­ted with houses and cy­press trees. AF­TER­NOON I re­trace my steps to Pi­azza delle Erbe and turn down Via Mazz­ini, a pedes­trian-only shop­ping street where com­mon Ital­ian and in­ter­na­tional brands min­gle with cool bou­tiques and gelato shops. (I ac­quired some Ital­ian-leather boots and a dress with a post­marked-en­ve­lope print—both still wardrobe faves.) Via Mazz­ini ends at Pi­azza Brà, a vast square with an im­pres­sive arena—a slightly smaller ver­sion of Rome’s Colos­seum—at one end and a curv­ing line of cafés and restau­rants over­look­ing it. It’s so invit­ing that it’s easy to see why peo­ple can’t re­sist sit­ting down for a drink or a meal here. So I join the throng for a glass of some­thing sparkly and watch as the sun sets on the arena, in­ten­si­fy­ing its or­angey-brown colour. EVENING I head to Ris­torante Alla Borsa, in Va­leg­gio Sul Min­cio, an area about a 30-minute drive from Verona that’s known for its hand­made tortellini. Three cour­ses of pasta filled with, re­spec­tively, pump­kin, mush­room and spinach and ri­cotta, all dressed in sage-in­fused but­ter, are more de­li­cious than I ever imag­ined tortellini could be. When I re­turn home from Italy and ev­ery­one asks how my trip was, the first thing out of my mouth is “I had the most amaz­ing meal of my life.” n

Fair Verona at night; a dress by Ital­ian brand Playlife picked up by the writer on her last evening in the city

Juliet’s bal­cony and a bronze statue of her in the court­yard be­low (left)

The lovelet­ter-pa­pered tun­nel lead­ing to Juliet’s court­yard (above); Verona from up high (left)

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