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Posts Tagged ‘Juliet’

2019-11-14-verona-balcony

Credit: Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images
To see the famous balcony, tourists crowd the backyard of the building in Verona said to be Juliet’s house.

Having read recently that there are tens of thousands of people writing PostcardsToVoters these days, I was intrigued to learn about a letter-writing club with quite a different purpose. The letter writers in today’s post are making sure that anyone who writes to Shakespeare’s Juliet gets a personalized response.

Bianca Hillier reports at Public Radio International’s The World, “Verona, Italy, is filled with references to Romeo and Juliet, the city’s most famous literary residents. Tourists can pretend to be Juliet by standing on the balcony at what is said to be her 14th-century house.

“They can also write Juliet a letter. Each year, tens of thousands of people do, asking for advice on life and love.  They may be surprised to learn Juliet writes back.

“The personalized responses come from volunteers with the Juliet Club. Their work began decades ago as a group of friends answering letters to Juliet. … The letters have grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

“ ‘The letters started arriving in Verona maybe 100 years ago. So it’s a long tradition that belongs to the story of the city,’ said Giovanna Tamassia, manager of the Juliet Club. Giovanna’s father, Giulio Tamassia, founded the club in 1972.

“People can send letters by traditional mail, email, or by dropping a letter in Juliet’s mailbox at her house in Verona.

‘If you think, “Who writes to Juliet? Who takes the pen and writes to someone they don’t know?” It can sound crazy,’ Tamassia said. ‘But if you read the letters, you discover it’s not crazy. It has a meaning.’ …

“When the letters finally make it to the club’s modest office in Verona, they are sorted by language. Tamassia said some people write in looking for advice on love, while some simply want to express their emotions.

“ ‘We can see in these letters that [this opportunity] is a really unique thing. It’s not like writing to a doctor or a psychologist or someone you know,’ Tamassia said. ‘They don’t know who will read the letter [or] who will answer. It’s like writing to yourself, in a way. Writing is a therapy.’

“Juliet’s secretaries, as they’re called, respond to letters every day during the club’s limited hours of operation. A few remote secretaries in the United States, England, and Moscow reply to the email messages, but most letters are answered from Romeo and Juliet’s home city of Verona.

“An influx of Americans began volunteering as secretaries after a 2010 movie starring Amanda Seyfried called ‘Letters to Juliet’ popularized the club. …

“ ‘When people come to reply, it’s very heartfelt. They feel like [they are] in a mission of love. In the name of Juliet,’ Tamassia said. … ‘It’s like seeing in the hearts of many people. [We] try to give help or support or friendship. But we also receive a lot when we have the chance to read others’ lives, others’ experiences. It opens your mind to different kinds of love.’

“There are no standard replies to the letters Juliet receives, Tamassia said, and it takes secretaries 30 to 60 minutes to craft each thoughtful response.

“Only one aspect of the letters is standardized: they’re all signed, ‘All my love, Juliet.’ ” …

“As the Juliet Club nears its 50th anniversary, Tamassia said there is no plan to close the doors anytime soon.

“ ‘It’s a job I have because I love it,’ she said. ‘It started as a passion but maybe, now, I can’t stop because the letters continue and continue to arrive.’

“The doors also remain open, in part, due to donations. A local bank pays for the office space and the city of Verona pays for the stamps.

“ ‘The letters are really like a treasure. So many love stories in all languages from every corner of the world,’ Tamassia said. ‘There isn’t anything else that can be compared.’

“Instructions for writing a letter to Juliet can be found on the Juliet Club’s website.” More at PRI, here.

You know what really impressed me? That the people in the club take 30 to 60 minutes to craft a response. That’s longer than I would have thought. This is not like writing to Santa and getting no response.

Hat Tip: Twitter

Photo: David Simchi-Levi MIT

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