Juliet’s House in Verona attracts crowds of tourists despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the Shakespeare’s heroine. If you want to get to the real roots of the famous love story and pay homage to the writer who created Romeo and Juliet first, step off the beaten track and head 30 minutes from Verona, to the town of Montorso Vicentino.
In this sweet little town you will find the splendid Villa Da Porto-Barbaran. The construction of the Palladian style villa started in 1662 and finished in 1724. In its early days it boasted a large collection of paintings, antique furniture and a beautiful garden full of magnificent sculptures. Very little is left from the former grandeur.
So what does it have to do with the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet? Near the villa you can still see a tower and colonnade that date back to the 16th century when there stood another abode, that of Luigi Da Porto. He was a military man from an old noble family who after a serious war injury retreated to his country house in Montorso and dedicated his time to writing.
Here in 1524 Luigi Da Porto wrote “Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti”, a novella that became known as “La Giulietta”. Some historians say that he was inspired by the ruins of two medieval castles that stood on a hill nearby, which the writer could see from his window. Today the ruins are called the castles of Romeo and Juliet. Later Shakespeare based his masterpiece on Da Porto’s novella.
At the start of the 20th century the last Da Porto family member mortgaged the villa complex to pay off his debts. During the First World War the British troops, while stationed at the villa, burned all wooden decor, windows and doors to stay warm. From 2008 the local authorities have been trying to restore the building, which might take a while given the scale of the complex. The locals still believe that the ghost of Luigi Da Porto haunts the place. A local newspaper has published recently photos of some strange cloudy formations inside the rooms of Villa Da Porto-Barbaran, which you can see here. I don’t believe in ghosts but if there is such a thing, I am sure that the unhappy writer’s soul is looking for justice and trying to tell the world that Verona are wrong: Montorso Vicentino, not Verona, is the birthplace of the Romeo and Juliet story!
Photos by Villa da Porto, Wikimedia Commons.