Thursday, February 10, 2011

Letters To Juliet for Valentine's Day


The somewhat grainy photo on the left is of a time long ago when I was not yet twenty years old, on a wonderful school trip to Italy. I am standing on the veranda of the Palazzo Borromeo on Isola Bella. I always had a bit of wanderlust in my blood even though my family rarely left our home in Brooklyn, New York. About the only place we visited regularly was my maternal grandmother's home in rural Pennsylvania, and I'm sure my love for the country and old fashioned farm life came from those wonderful visits. But the desire to travel always burned bright in me and when I heard that my high school sponsored a two week trip to Italy every spring, I worked very hard to save my earnings from various part time jobs to be able to go in my senior year. This was the trip of a lifetime, and now that I am in my silver years I look back fondly at the experience, ever happy that I took the chance to go!

I bought many postcards on that trip as I was afraid my little Kodak instamatic camera would not capture the beauty before me. The photo on the right is showing Isola Bella, one of the Borromean Islands of Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. In 1632 Carlo III of the influential House of Borromeo began the construction of a palazzo dedicated to his wife, Isabella D'Adda, from whom the island takes its name.  Isn't that a testimony to love? The island achieved its highest level of social success during the period of Gilberto Borremeo (1751–1837) when guests included Napoleaon and his wife Josephine.

Our tour of Italy began and ended in Milan, and we traveled to sixteen cities in two weeks. After touring Milan we traveled to Stressa in Piedmont, over the border at Ponte Tresa for a day in Switzerland to visit the Italian speaking section of Lugano, and then back again to Italy to tour Lake Como. We then went on towards Venice, stopping along the way in Verona, in the Veneto region of north east Italy.  There we saw an ancient amphitheatre built by the Romans, and this famous and romantic sight...


My circa 1970's photo of the legendary Juliet's balcony at Villa Capuleti in Verona is on the left. The balcony scene in Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, which was about young star crossed lovers of long ago whose tragic deaths are said to have ended a violent and long-standing war between two powerful families, supposedly took place here. The first accounts of Romeo and Juliet was in a "novella" by Luigi Da Porto (1531). He was a captain in the service of the Venetian Republic and he claimed that one of his bowmen, named Pellegrino da Verona, told him the true story of two unfortunate young lovers who had lived at the beginning of the 14th century and belonged to two rival families, the Capulets and the Montagues. This novel inspired a lot of other European writers, until it reached the peak of artistic expression in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," written in 1596.  A clearer postcard view of the same balcony from the 1970's is on the right. If you were to visit this courtyard today you would find a bronze statue of Juliet, large amounts of tourists, informational signs about the legend and many letters and notes attached to the walls from present day star crossed lovers who are asking Juliet for help. The letters are typically answered by the "secretaries of Juliet," who are volunteers from Verona who for more than 70 years have collected the notes and the letters that arrive in the mail by the thousands, and then write back to every single letter writer who gives an address!

An oil painting of Romeo and Juliet
 Ford Maddox Brown 1821 - 1893
 Delaware Art Museum

Which leads me to this charming movie, and the subject of this blog post: "Letters To Juliet"  Please take a few moments to watch the movie trailer below:



Although I found the movie somewhat contrived and sappily sweet, it is certainly a fun movie to watch for Valentine's Day. You can easily find it on DVD.  It's a delightful movie to watch for all its beautiful scenes of Italy and also to see the stately beauty of Vanessa Redgrave.  If I can age as gracefully as she has, I would be a deliriously happy woman!

In reality a group of about 15 secretaries, the Club di Giulietta (link is to the English version), divides up according to their languages and romantic problems, the more than 5,000 written letters that also pour by mail into Verona, and answer them. Secretaries have been doing this since about 1940, when one of the caretakers of Juliet's house and tomb began answering the notes and letters that had been piling up for years. They even award a "Cara Giulietta" ("Dear Juliet") prize on Valentine´s Day to the most compelling letters received during the previous year.


You can also look for a copy of the Letters to Juliet book, which has nothing to do with the movie, but is also a charming story about these letters and the Juliet Club volunteers.

Roses in the Rose garden of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

I'm sure you'd like to know if I left a letter for Juliet when I visited Verona so many years ago? Thankfully I didn't have to, as I met my future native born Italian husband two years later. But I did imagine him, and asked  "the powers that be" to help me meet him at another very special and magical place.....and it wasn't even in Italy.....but that, as they say, is a story for a future blog post!


Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm linking this post to "Coast to Coast, The Colors" of Love at Candy's The Little Round Table,  "Friday's Favorite Linky Party" on Sandi's blog Whistlestop Cafe Cooking, "Pink Saturday" on Beverly's blog "How Sweet the Sound," Laurie's "Valentine Party" on her blog Chatting and Bargain Hunting with Laurie, Mary's "Mosaic Monday" on her blog Dear Little Red House, and "Rednesday" at Sue's It's a Very Cherry World. Thank you all for your hospitality!



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85 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Pat, You were so fortunate to be able to take that 2 week trip to Italy when you were young... AND --then when you met that handsome Italian man even without having to write a letter to Juliet, WELL---I guess I should say that life has been very good to you...

Happy Valentine's Day.
Hugs,
Betsy

pam said...

How fun that you got to travel! I spent parts of two summers during high school traveling and studying in Europe...quite an experience. Like you we thought the movie was pretty sappy but sometimes we like the predictable B movies...as my father would say. Amazing that they really do the letters.

The Gathering Place said...

I also got to go to Italy when I was young (college). I loved it, too. I also enjoyed the movie. You are right, it is a good Valentine's movie!

Becky said...

Italy is such a wonderful place to visit. I love your photos. And I liked reading about Juliet's balcony. Didn't know about the "secretaries". Thank you for joining us for The Colours of Love.

Becky

Sarah said...

Wonderful story, Pat. We visited Italy in 1999 and visited Isola Bella. Isn't that the most amazing island with its gorgeous gardens. We toured the lake district and then traveled down to Tuscany where we spent two weeks. Wonderful memories. Great post! ~ Sarah

Catherine said...

Great post! Loved it! Italy is beautiful indeed.

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

I haven't seen the movie yet~ thanks for the reminder!
Another friday's favorite
for sure :-)

Lisa said...

I enjoyed Letters to Juliet far more than I thought I would. I can imagine it's even better if you've been to the places in the film.

You should read "Juliet" by Anne Fortier. I think you'd love it. The locations would resonate, as well.

Happy Valentine's Day to you!

Oliag said...

How lucky you were to have a chance to travel to Italy when you were young...I think the furthest I went before I was out of college was to Washington DC:)...I'm sure the memories are special. That photo of you is certainly special:)

I love the story of the Juliet secretaries! How sweet and romantic!

Lily Hydrangea said...

You looked as pretty then as you do now! what a great trip.
& I almost want to write a letter just so I could get a response from one of Juliet's secretary's!

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

I enjoyed the movie...and would love to visit Italy one day. How nice you had that opportunity way back then...and now have all the memories.

Joanne Kennedy said...

How lucky you were to go to Italy at such a great time in your life.

I never knew that story of Letters to Juliet was a true story...sort of. What I mean is, I didn't know they really answered letters.

What a nice thought. I'm going to have to watch that movie again :)

BTW, you took wonderful photos even way back then. I happen to like your photo of Juliet's balcony better then the post card.

Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes said...

Isn't Europe wonderful? I've been twice and want to go back with my husband! Your photos are beautiful! My husband and I enjoyed that movie very much! Happy Valentine's Day to you and have a great weekend!

Mary

Ola said...

I absolutely share your travelling soul:) You've seen the most beuatiful parts of Italy

Tracy said...

Hi, Pat! Just love seeing the old photo of you in Italy! Very fun reading of Juliet's balcony--it is so tiny, so sweet. I will add the film to my "to-see" list. Thanks for the tip--always on the look out for good things to watch. :o) Happy Valentine's, my friend ((HUGS))

My Carolina Kitchen said...

How fabulous to have traveled to Italy when you were young. I enjoyed reading about Juliet's balcony. Have a wonderful Valentine's day Pat.
Sam

Gracie said...

I'm glad you had the chance to visit Lago Maggiore, I'm deeply in love with the place! It rivals in beauty with Lago di Como, any chance you'll come back to Italy to have a stay there?

diane b said...

You did well to save enough money to be able to make that fabulous school trip. Is that when you fell in love with Italy? Well I'm eager to learn how you met your Italian Romeo. That was an interesting article about the Letters to Juliet, what a great tradition. Funny thing is I had an Italian boyfriend in my early 20's, I think I told you already,they are very romantic, but ended up marrying a Swiss boy. So I have visited the beautiful Lake Maggiore but from the Swiss end. We stayed in Locarno. Happy Valentines Day

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

Pat, I can't wait to hear your story of meeting your Italian! I had no idea that there really were "Letters to Juliet"; now, I am going to have to watch that movie! I have never been to any part of Europe. My daughter did a study there while in college and she still claims it as one of her greatest life influences. I am happy each of you had that opportunity and took it!!

Jo said...

Pat,I always learn something while reading your blog, I do so enjoy.
O' how I would love to go.Maybe some day.Thanks for sharing at least we can dream.
~Jo
LazyonLoblolly
ps..I gave you an award, I forgot your blog was award free, just ignore.Thanks.

La said...

Happy Valentine's Day, Pat! I would love to visit Italy.

Donnie said...

Wonderful post with so many beautiful portions and perfect for the romance of Valentine's Day.

Old Kitty said...

Oh Pat!! You are just beautiful!! Look at you at not even 20 years old!! Awww you're gorgeous!! Oh wow!! Your Italian Stallion is one lucky fella!!! And of course you've matured into someone as lovely as the fabuolous Vanessa Redgrave!!

And how romantic is this post?!?! People actually write to this address in the hopes that the spirit of Juliet will help their love lives!!???!! That's just so brilliant!! Now if only I had know this decades ago!!! Well I think it's lovely that romance is alive and well and kept thriving by these dedicated secretaries of Juliet!! How wonderful!!

I can't watch the trailer as I'm at work but will do to just wallow in the scenery! I think Valentine's a lovely time to get very sappy and soppy and to just wallow in everything to do with the aura of love! Take care Pat!! x

nanny said...

Oh what a wonderful trip!!!!
I visited Verona and the balcony in 1969.......and remember it so vividly! I enjoyed Letters to Juliet! The scenery was wonderful, as you say sappily sweet, but I liked it!
Italy has always seemed magical to me....it holds a special place in my heart. My daughter and I toured in 2003 and I would love, love to return!!

nanny said...

P.S. If any of you rent the movie be sure and watch the special features after you watch the movie. It tells of the secretaries and replying to the letters. very interesting.

Vee said...

It was worth watching that clip just to see him arriving on a horse. Sigh. Sweetly romantic I'm sure and the views alone would make watching the movie worth it.

Your mosaics are wonderful as always! Have a delightfully romantic weekend, you beautiful lady you!

Sheila said...

I love your story Pat and taking a trip back in time with you. I imagine that you must have kept a trip diary even back then. I found your post fascinating. Memories of trips gone by and dreams of traveling to Italy once again are always floating in the back of my mind. I am making notes in a book now and your suggestions will be noted before the day is over. I'll look forward to hearing the rest of the story. You're a wonderful writer. Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts and that very special picture of you filled with hopes and dreams for the future with us!

Barbara said...

Pat, this post brought back wonderful memories for me! I also went to Italy my sr. year -we went to Florence & Rome for 10 days-entire trip cost $315! 1st time I was on a plane. Nearly 20 yrs later I went on a 3 week tour starting in Switzerland and working our way down. I took lots of photos in Verona. xo, Barbara F.

Candy @ The Little Round Table said...

Wonderful memories and lovely images. Thanks for all the info on Juliet too!

And a special thank you for joining The Colors of Love party at The Little Round Table.

Candy

sueskitchen said...

How very romantic Pat! I am such a sucker for stories like this. Your pictures of Italy are wonderful and I really did enjoy the movie Letters to Juliet. It was the Franco Zefferelli Film with Olivia Hussey that I really fell for...I think it helped form my concept of romance when I was a teenager. Happy Valentines Day Pat...hope you have a romantic weekend.
♥, Susan

Pie Lady Pat said...

What a memorable trip you had. My husband and I visited Lake Maggiore in the early 90's and loved the entire region. We stayed in the small village of Ascona on the Swiss side of the lake, but took day trips to Como and the surrounding region. Unforgettable, yes? Wonderfully romantic post. Thank you.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

What a romantic, Valentine post! I have fond memories of a school trip to the south of Spain when I was young - also very beautiful and romantic. I'll have to watch for Letters to Juliet on cable!

Claudia said...

In April 1971, sans camera - I visited Verona with my college - it looked very much like your photos. Upon returning in 1982, I was amazed at the mounds of tourists. But no matter, it aroused my romantic soul. This is such a sweet post for Valentine's Day. I think I will reread it all weekend for February smiles.

Pat said...

A beautiful post, Pat!

Happy Weekend and Happy Valentine's Day!

Houseelf said...

What a wonderful trip! I'm sure so much of what you saw then helped shape how you saw the world in the future. I will be having a memory lane trip to Amsterdam next month. I'll take much better pics this time. :-)

I saw that film too- I kept looking at the backgrounds. LOL

Have a wonderfully romantic Valentine's Day.

Carol said...

What a great post, I'm smiling, thinking about that movie, definitely sappy and sweet and I loved it :)
How lucky you were able to see visit so many places on that trip, and see Juliet's balcony! Even sweeter you got to meet your own Romeo and have all these adventures all these years later, I look forward to the post about meeting your real life Romeo :)

Happy Valentine's Day! I loved this post, so cool about the letters :)

ARLENE said...

Our high school had no such senior trips; how lucky you were! I had to wait until I was in my 30's for my first trip. Great photos, particularly the roses and the image of you on the balcony.

ARLENE said...

Our high school had no such senior trips; how lucky you were! I had to wait until I was in my 30's for my first trip. Great photos, particularly the roses and the image of you on the balcony.

Kathleen said...

What a wonderful memory!
We went to DC for out SR trip, how exotic! :)
So where did you meet dh, let's see...Coney Island? :)

Farmchick said...

That looks like the trip of a lifetime. I have watched that movie with my daughter and found it to be quite enjoyable.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I enjoyed "Letters to Juliet", the film, much more than I did "Eat, Pray, Love", even though the plot is somewhat unlikely. Do tell us the story of how and where you met your husband!

Gabriela Delworth said...

Happy Pink Saturday!

What fabulous photos! And flowers...I might visit this Botanical Garden this year.


~ Gabriela ~

Marydon said...

Pat, Europe is awesome, romance carries one away with all that surrounds one ... the countryside, art, architecture ... glad you enjoyed it all.

Happy Valentine's PS weekend ~
TTFN ~
Marydon

Tammy@Beatrice Banks said...

That must have been a trip of a lifetime at that age, or any age! Thanks for reminding me about this movie. I'm going to rent it.
Have a sweet pink Saturday!
Tammy

Pondside said...

Someday I hope to visit Italy again without a baby stroller! My two visits were with toddlers, seven years apart.
I'm so glad that your dashing Italian found you, with or without the help of a Juliet letter!

Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) said...

Hi Pat, I didn't make it to Italy until about 10 years ago, and I fell in love with it!!! I haven't been to Verona yet but your story is fascinating! I never knew about the ladies who answer letters to Juliet. It is also wonderful that you have those photos and postcards from your teen years! Linda

Jacqueline said...

Pat, what a fun post for Valentine's Day. I am totally sappy and love sappy movies, so I loved this one. My husband likes chick flicks too, so I am really lucky. I just took him and my daughter and her boyfriend to Tangled, another silly, sappy love story that I just loved. Have a wonderful Pink Saturday and Red Valentine's DAy!

Francie...The Scented Cottage Studio said...

A very romantic post...lots of good information too. I love blog land...my mothers family lived in Brooklyn, Italian descent.
thanks for sharing...and happy Pink Saturday !

Ginny said...

The two top pictures are wonderful. A trip of a lifetime, to be sure! And the movie looks AWESOME, I'm getting it! Now I want to hear YOUR romantic story of how you met your husband!

Holly said...

What wonderful memories that you have! I went to Italy when I was 16 and still remember it like it was yesterday and I am no spring chicken!! Did you visit the cameo factory?
I hae not seen the movie and it sounds delightful...thank you for the idea.
Happy Pink Saturday!

Theanne... said...

Hi Pat...you know I loved this post...from beginning to end! Italia the country of love and so incredibly beautiful too! Actually I like your photo of "Juliet's balcony" (more romantically moody) very much! Thank you for sharing this!

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Oh I just love LOVE! Especially when it is PINK!

Happy Hearts Day to you and yours!

laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Pat, the feeling of romance just overcame me while reading your post and viewing the trailer. I also was lucky to go on a school trip to Europe (including Italy) when I was in high school, but I didn't get to go see the R & J balcony. I have read about the letters being left, but I had no idea that someone actually responds to those letters! Your photos and postcards in this post are wonderful and make me want to return to Europe. Thank you so much for linking this to my Valentine party. Happy Valentine's Day! laurie

BEAR's Mom said...

Happy Valentines Day Pat!
I enjoyed reading your
stories about Juliet...
very interesting and
so Valentiney...
but
when I scrolled down to
the PINK ROSES...it took
my breath away...
Oh, to see them in person!
Thanks for sharing!
~victoria~

Cindy Adkins said...

Hi Pat,
Oh, I love this post--and that movie is fantastic! I agree--contrived and predictable, but awfully sweet.
I loved seeing the scenery...so beautiful!

And I, like you, went on a trip to Europe that was my heart's dream....I honestly think about it every day--lots of gorgeous memories...I was 18.

Thanks for sharing your special memories with us...It's so awesome that you had a great experience and I think it really changes our lives to see other cultures and be part of them.

Wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day!

Angela said...

What a lovely post. I feel smarter and more romantic for having read it.

La Petite Gallery said...

Oh my, did you ever do a lot of work on this beautiful post. Aren't memories great. You will always have those beautiful images in your heart. I just did some research on Romeo as I planned to paint Veronia and the window. I didn't find anything like your images. Happy Valentine's Day Pat.

yvonne

From Beyond My Kitchen Window said...

I loved this post. The Juliet balcony is beautiful. Happy Valentine's Day Pat!!!

mrs. c said...

What a sweet post. I watched the movie with my bunko friends as a special treat. She has a media room and we had popcorn, cokes and candy. Italy looks lovely and I hope someday to go on a cruise and visit all those wonderful places. Happy Valentine's Day to a very generous lady who shares her love of life everyday with us!

Trotter said...

Hi Pat! Happy Valentine!
Those pictures of the Isola Bella and of Juliet's veranda are amazing... So many good memories...

Blogtrotter Two is showing an amazing village in Southern France: Saint Paul de Vence! Enjoy and have a great Sunday and week ahead!!

Buttercup said...

I really enjoyed the movie, too. The plot is sappy, but the scenery and the love story of Vanessa Redgrave -- I have come to find movies depicting love after 50+ to be my new favorites. I've been to Italy several times and am pining for a return visit. Hope to spend a month, with most of the time in one place, just enjoying living in Italy.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Cindy said...

Hi,
What a truly lovely post! How wonderful to have a trip to Italy to look back and reminisce on. And what a sweet story to be reminded of at this time of year, there is no better known or loved story than Romeo and Juliet.
I would like to see the movie, Letters to Juliet, I like sweet and sappy occasionally.
I loved all the gorgeous photography and would enjoy hearing your own love story some day.
Hugs, Cindy

⚜ ↁℯℬℬᴵℰ⚜ said...

Hi Pat! Your travels are just wonderful to see! So fortunate, and it is wonderful you and your hubs like the same sites..Happy Valentines day! XO

podso said...

Love this movie...fun post. And BTW I lived in the NJ Verona for several years.

A Garden of Threads said...

Great post. Would love to visit Itlay.

Thoughtfully Blended Hearts said...

What a fun trip you took us on today...almost around the world!!!
That rose mosaic is gorgeous...looking forward to seeing some real ones!!!

Traci said...

What an experience that must've been - love the rose mosaic, too! Happy Valentine's Day to you!

steviewren said...

I love that photo of you on your High School trip! And I'm also looking forward to reading how you and your hubby met one another.

Happy Valentines Day!

eileeninmd said...

Happy Valentine's Day, Pat! What a lovley post. Your trip to Italy sounds like a wonderful experience. I have been to Lugano, Switzerland it was a gorgeous place.

Gardening in a Sandbox said...

Oh Pat you always have me so intrigued by your posts. You made me remember back to when I was in high school and studying Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It was a very romantic story. V

Beverly said...

Happy Pink Saturday and Happy Valentine's Day, dear Pat.

This is such a lovely post. We did enjoy this movie. And, of course we all love the story of Romeo and Juliet.♥

Donna said...

What a wonderful post! I would love to travel to Italy one day. I've seen the movie "Letters to Juliet" and enjoyed it. Love the photos. Happy Valentine's Day, Pat!

Hugs,
Donna

Jenny said...

How wonderful that that trip has left such a lasting impression on you and possibly indirectly found you your husband. I think it's time you both took yourselves back for a visit.

CatHerder said...

beautiful pat....it always seems i go to the SAME places on vacation..florida, hawaii, lake george.....heck i never even get to nyc and im 20 minutes away....a trip to Capri would be heaven...great post as usual happy valentines day

From the Kitchen said...

Ah, yes, the Juliet Balcony! Honestly, that photo of you could be me: same hairstyle, same sort of outfit. Thanks for many good memories today.

Best,
Bonnie

Linda said...

Sounds like a trip of a lifetime for someone so young...Italy is a wonderful place! Happy Valentine's Day!!

Genie said...

No one can take the memories of our travels here and abroad from us. I took students to Europe in the summers for years and also took myself time and time again. At 72 I still return to my journals and picture albums to jog my aging memories. This post was wonderful, and your rose mosaic is lovely. Thanks so much for all the effort you put into sharing this with all of us.

Blooming Rose Musings said...

What an interesting story! I never knew about the secretaries who answer the letters. How very fascinating.
I also traveled to Europe while in school. It was the best time!
Wonderful and interesting post.
Hope you and your husband had a very Happy Valentine's Day!

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

hi Pat...what a wonderful trip... i enjoyed this post...

and thank you for leaving the kind words to Teddy..i loved what you said...."an adorable dog and FRIEND"...he really is MY Best Friend...but I think you knew that

:-)

sending love today, my friend
kary and teddy
xxx

Sherry said...

That is an amazing story about the letters to Juliet. I hadn't heard of that. I will absolutely have to rent that movie. Very neat for V-Day. Thanks for posting.
Sherry

aliceinparis said...

Wonderful romantic post!! Pat, you were a cutie. How WONDERFUL to visit those places when that age. I have always wanted to go to Lake Como.
If I ever visit Verona I will write a note to Juliet!

~~Carol~~ said...

I've been meaning to see that movie, not because of the storyline, but because of the whole look of it!
I bet that in your mind you go back to Italy quite often! It's a dream of mine to be able to go to Europe, and spend months visiting each country extensively!
Happy REDnesday!
Carol

**CREATIVE CARMELINA** said...

Pat! You have done it!

You have outdone yourself! with this gorgeous and romantic post! What an adorable recounting of your trip to Italia! How beautiful that first photo of you...on the gorgeous balcony! wow! I am Italian and have never yet been to Italy...perhaps one day I'll venture a trip....

but I carry the romance in my heart!

Love the nostalgic feeling of this post.
Loved the movie...sappy sweet works for me!

thanks so much for sharing!

ciao bella

Creative CARMELINA

Grace said...

Happy Valentine's Day. I love love love this post (I always do)! he pictures are so magnificent and you are very lucky to have seen Juliets home and taken such a wonderful trip! I hope you and your Romeo had a wonderful Day. Grace xoox

Pranavam Ravikumar a.k.a. Kochuravi said...

Its really nice.. Thanks for sharing this!