Become a Shakespearean Secretary With Juliet Club in Verona
Amidst the backdrop of Verona, where romance flourishes on cobblestone streets and within ancient walls, I became one of Juliet's secretaries. No, it wasn’t some fairytale job concocted by Hollywood's overactive imagination (the movie Letters to Juliet is but one example). It's as real as the gelato-induced brain freeze you'll inevitably experience in this lovestruck city.
The northern Italian city serves as the setting for Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It makes perfect sense, then, that Club di Giulietta—or Juliet Club—would be nestled within the heart of Verona. It is in this club where dedicated volunteers act as secretaries, responding to letters written by people around the world addressed to Juliet. The letters aren't just ink on paper—they're portals to a thousand tales of heartache, longing, and the occasional "how do I flirt with a Venetian gondolier?" As a volunteer, you get to connect with people, offer solace, and sprinkle their lives with a dash of timeless wisdom.
It all started in the 1930s with Ettore Solimani, Verona's very own Shakespeare aficionado. He was the director of the local civic museum that guarded Juliet's tomb, which is actually not a tomb for the fictional character at all but rather a lid-less stone sarcophagus that is part of the 13th-century San Francesco al Corso monastery. Located just outside the city walls, the tomb is believed to be the setting for the finale of Romeo and Juliet. For years, it has collected love letters left by besotted fans. Moved by the power of their devotion, Solimani stepped into Juliet's shoes to pen replies. Thus, the tradition was born, earning him the title of Juliet’s first official secretary.
In the past, visitors to Verona stuck their letters in Juliet’s tomb or in the walls of Casa di Giulietta (aka Juliet’s House), a 13th-century home with a stone balcony said to have inspired Shakespeare. However, visitors can now leave their notes in designated red letterboxes scattered around the city, which offers a more efficient way for the romantic messages to be collected and responded to. The letterboxes are diligently managed by a special group of postmen responsible for delivering the letters to the club. (People can also mail letters directly to Juliet Club from anywhere in the world.)
Unlike the club of Letters to Juliet, which resides on the corner of an expansive square, the real Juliet Club sits on an unassuming side street that thousands of tourists pass by each day. After a short negotiation with a buzzer and a trip up a hidden staircase, I was deposited into an empty courtyard surrounded by a semi-modern building whose interior hides a paradoxical old-world charm. Giovanna, the club’s head secretary, was warm and cheerful, giving me and other volunteers the lowdown on how things worked.
In one corner of the club, there was a mannequin sporting Juliet's clothes, adding a fun touch to the room. The walls were decked with posters proudly displaying the club's name and history. Right at the center, the secretaries' table was brimming with stationery and official stamped envelopes, all ready to embark on their special journeys.
We took our seats while Giovanna brought out large boxes filled with English letters. There were also boxes filled with letters penned in different languages, a testament to both the global reach of Romeo and Juliet and the diversity of the club’s volunteers. We responded to letters seeking support with grief, helped individuals come out to their parents, congratulated newlyweds, and assisted people saving up for a trip to Italy.
The club maintains a serene, quiet, and thoughtful atmosphere. It happens naturally, as offering advice to vulnerable writers is a deeply immersive and humbling experience. However, the energy in the room is also exciting, as volunteers are constantly sharing their thoughts and offering advice to other secretaries.
As a secretary, you become the master weaver of words, blending heartache, hope, and a touch of whimsy into the perfect response. You offer advice and comfort to those seeking guidance in the unpredictable maze of love. And if you're lucky, Giovanna might just surprise you with a tray of homemade tiramisu biscuits to keep your poetic prowess well-fueled. After all, love and sugar are a match made in heaven.
- Getting there: The closest airport is Verona Villafranca Airport (VRN), also known as Valerio Catullo Airport. Juliet Club is conveniently located on Vicolo Santa Cecilia in the city center, a short distance from Juliet’s House. To enter the club, volunteers and visitors need to be buzzed in individually. The club cannot be accessed as part of a group tour. It also prefers not to accommodate walk-ins. Instead, Juliet Club kindly requests that you either submit a volunteer application in advance or secure a prepaid slot beforehand.
- Average Going flight price: $481 roundtrip
How to do it
- Best time to go: To steer clear of crowded tourist seasons, limited club availability, and scorching temperatures, plan your visit to Verona during the off-season (mid-January to late-March or mid-October to late-November). During this time, the club welcomes more volunteers, so there is a lower chance that you’ll be turned away.
- Cost: You can book your experience as Juliet's secretary through the official club website; prices are confirmed after submitting a volunteer form. You can also book via Airbnb Experiences for about $30 per person; a limited number of paid slots are released throughout the year, particularly in the off-season.
- Tips and considerations: Your experience as Juliet’s secretary lasts about 60–120 minutes (depending on availability) and has specific guidelines; during a 90-minute time slot, my husband and I responded to 23 letters. As a secretary, it's crucial that you remain empathetic and non-judgmental and provide practical advice whenever possible. An understanding of the complexities of love is not required but, nonetheless, greatly appreciated. Head secretaries review each response, ensuring that you’ve concluded with the signature "Love, Juliet" and not mistakenly signed your own name. The club also rewards participants with a commemorative postcard and offers traineeships and visits to the letter archive through their official website. Pro tip: It's recommended to visit Juliet's House before going to the club to enhance your overall experience.
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Published October 25, 2023
Last updated December 19, 2023
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