'Love-stuck' tourists face fine over chewing gum messages
Star-crossed tourists who leave sentimental notes in the courtyard beneath the balcony where Juliet is said to have been wooed by Romeo are facing fines of up to €500 as Verona clamps down on the tradition.
Lovelorn visitors flock to the city celebrated by Shakespeare to leave the letters and messages, often using chewing gum to stick them to the brick walls of the courtyard beneath the balcony.
They appeal to the Bard's fictional heroine to cast lucky spells on their love lives.
The result is an unsightly mess of hardened blobs of gum and tattered scraps of paper which deface the World Heritage-listed city's most popular attraction, a former inn known as the Casa di Giulietta, or Juliet's House.
A new decree being drawn up by Verona city council will now prohibit the sticking of chewing gum or adhesive Post-it notes to the walls and the consumption of food or drink in the courtyard of the house.
Writing love-struck graffiti on the walls of the courtyard and the tunnel that leads into it will also be banned, apart from on specially-provided, removable panels.
Anyone caught breaking the new rules, which will be enforced by local police, will risk a fine of up to €500.
The mayor of Verona, Flavio Tosi, said: "We've decided to enact a law that will sanction anyone who indulges in this kind of behaviour.
"A sign will be put up telling tourists where they are allowed to post their messages -- that is, on the removable panels that we have provided." The council enacted a similar decree in 2004 and succeeded in cleaning up the area for a while, but the gum stickers returned.
Historians say there is almost nothing to link the house to Shakespeare's tragic love story and that the celebrated balcony was constructed out of bits of a medieval sarcophagus in the 17th century.
The only possible connection with the play is that the house was probably once the home of the Cappello family -- who might have been the model for the Capulets in the play.
The custom of leaving amorous entreaties or declarations, many of them addressed to the fictional Juliet, was celebrated in a recent film, 'Letters to Juliet', starring Vanessa Redgrave and the American actress Amanda Seyfried.
Each year sackloads of letters addressed simply to "Juliet's House, Verona" arrive from around the world.
Replies are written by a team of local volunteers from the Juliet Club, who occupy an upstairs office near the courtyard. (© Daily Telegraph, London)