Letter From Juliet – Love is Always Worth it

‘Write hard and clear about what hurts’ – Hemingway.

This week, out of the blue, I opened my postbox to find a letter from a girl who wrote to me of love…

Imagine for a second you’ve just had your heart broken. Or, perhaps, worse, imagine you fear your heart is being broken slowly doing anything about it is out of your hands. Or maybe try; said broken heart is desperate to heal, but it just isn’t happening. In short, imagine; love. Pick any one you like of the countless scenarios love puts us through, where you find yourself like Shakespeare’s Romeo ‘under love’s heavy burden’ in one way or another, shrinking.

Well, most of us have been there, so maybe it’s more a case of just cast your mind back to when… rather than ‘imagine‘.

Letter From Juliet

What has always surprised me is the number of people, male, female, old as well as young, who, experiencing this pain which only those who have loved know, turn to Juliet – of Verona and Shakespeare fame, for help.

What I find strange in this, is neither reaching out to a stranger, nor even doing so in written form, using old fashioned pen and paper – for true romantics still use ink, but the choice of ‘agony aunt’. Juliet? Really?

This is the same Juliet, aged 14 (or maybe 16, depending on what you believe) – who in the course of just four days is hit on by a suitor she does not care for, falls head over heels in love with a young man (age unknown) from very much the ‘wrong’ family, secretly marries him, has only one night of passion, whilst presumably putting out of her mind the death of her cousin, before her newlywed is chased out of Verona, she herself comes close to being disowned (what happens when you marry not the choice of your parents), then spends two days drugged to a stupor, wakes up to discover she is a widow and kills herself next to the body of her dead (also teenage?) husband. She advises people on love? Imagine what she could have done, had the story lasted a full week…

Letter From Juliet 2

And yet she does. And thousands upon thousands write and from all across the world, addressing their letters simply to “Juliet, Verona, Italy”.

In the 1930s it started. The letters that is. A gentleman called Ettore Solimani, then the guardian of Juliet’s tomb in Verona, one day, probably moved by the letters people were leaving at the grave, gathered a few up, read them and signing himself ‘La Secretaria di Giulietta,‘ began to… reply.

Today each letter is read, translated and replied to. Delivered perhaps not as romantically as portrayed on screen, but into a letter box in the courtyard of ‘Juliet’s House’, this anyway is what I told my groups when guiding tourists to Verona. Did I really believe it? The replied to bit, that is. Did it really matter whether I did or not?

When guiding, I am always looking to make experiences more real, go beyond ‘In 1632….’ and connect my groups to the past in one way or another. A surefire way to inspire, especially the many teenagers I have taken to this frankly rather touristy address on a backstreet of Verona, was to use part of the inevitable bus journey to the city, to read out a few of the genuine sample letters, lovers or aspiring lovers have left, which have since been published by the modern day ‘Club di Giulietta’.

Letter From Juliet 5

I would read them out, give the names and when available, the age (often, I felt, old enough to know a lot better – rather like reading out letters to Santa Clause scribbled by 50 year olds it seemed to me). I’d give out pens and paper and inevitably several would actually leave notes. I always wondered exactly what they hoped to achieve by this and indeed was rather sceptical as to the chances of receiving a reply, but it helped pass the quiet time on the bus.

Then it was this past July, when leading a group of grandchildren to Via Capello 23, Verona, I thought – and I have no idea why I did so that day; ‘You know what? Why not?’.

And so I did. I wrote. And I posted it. Months later I cannot remember exactly what I asked her. But I remember the theme. I wrote about a past story, the pain – or maybe memories – of which still lingered on. And I wrote whether love is worth it. I am 39 (not for much longer) and un-married, though engaged three times, Juliet at the end of the day, achieved more than this in four days. Maybe she does know a thing or two? I posted it, standing next to, it’s fair to say, quite a bit more excited teenage girls, and forgot about it…

Letter From Juliet 4

Three days ago I retuned to Spain after a visit to Brazil. It was a visit that, as these things tend to, out of nowhere, challenged me to once again contemplate this question – is love worth it? If one is going along nicely at 95% happy without it and things have healed enough, perhaps that is as good as it gets and really perhaps it is best just to play it safe – no gambles, no risks, no pain right? Ok, so we know the rewards, but if you’ve ever considered writing to Juliet, you know the flip side.

Opening my red post box (always wanted a red one) and sifting through the usual collection of local bills, suddenly at the very bottom was the letter from Juliet. The reply. I just stood there. It had not even occurred to me I’d ever get a reply, much less seven months later to remember to check my post for one. And then, with that exact question doing the rounds in my mind, Juliet had replied…

Letter From Juliet 3

There is something magical about my house. I am sure. The same of the street. I am a great believer in signs. Many call it destiny and I recently met an amazing girl who calls it The Universe. Call ‘it’ what you like, I just know sometimes something crops up and you have a chance to seize upon it. When visiting my village for the first time, I didn’t know the address of my future house, but wandered around taking photos, the lawyer turned up and takes me to the front door of the house, whose photo I have just posted online as my favourite view of the village. I walk in and there is a poster of my favourite book. So much good has come out of this house, and it felt like once again the magic – that I think is my favourite word for it, had delivered…

In 2010 the film Letters to Juliet, a rom-com about the phenomenon of writing to this young Veronese, was released – I actually think it is pretty good. However from it, the very line Sophie, writing in the persona of Juliet uses to open her letter to Claire, is surely one of the truest, most applicable, important when it comes to love…

“What” and “If” are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: What if?

Letter From Juliet 6

No matter the risks and the gambles involved, one has to believe this…

In my letter Juliet, whatever her age, or destiny, language, nationality, real name or even sex, had written exactly as Hemingway urges (in one of my favourite quotes) – hard and clear about something that hurt; love.

In the letter, a page long, Juliet had this to say:

Love is always worth it… it is always worth trying. The odds are always the way we set them. Of course other circumstances matter as well, but love is very strong and if we are willing we can overcome every obstacle…

I guess, if I didn’t know so before, the moral of the story, is never give up…

~ by 2ndcupoftea on January 2, 2016.

19 Responses to “Letter From Juliet – Love is Always Worth it”

  1. Loved this story, Thomas! And, yes, true love is definitely worth searching for….and, hopefully, eventually finding. Good luck in your quest!

    • Thank you Sue… Sometimes all we need is a push – or in this case – a few words, to help keep the faith. Thanks for reading 😉

  2. When it happens it will have been worth the wait, the long road travelled—
    Pleased this letter has given you a gentle push!

    • Dear Bernadine – you’d make a wonderful ‘Juliet’ actually! You’ve always been there to push me and I thank you for it. This was just such fun to receive and the timing was amazing… 😉 Much love

      • C’e sempre un’altra opportunita ,un altra amicizia ,un altro amore ,una nuova forza .Per ogni fine c’e un nuovo inizio.
        Ha ragione Saint- Exupery. Baci.XXX

      • Adoro Saint-Exupéry. Ha ragione lui, come lo hai anche tu… Tanti tanti baci… T x

  3. Another great piece Thomas. Brings back fond memories of our trip to Verona and so many other stops in Italy with The John Carroll School from Maryland in 2014.
    While the letters to Juliet is an interesting part of the tour it is overshadowed a bit by the strange ritual of groping her statue!!!


    Jeff Kern

    • Ahh Jeff, trust you to lower the tone 😉 Actually you made me laugh out loud. And you are so very right, it is rather bizarre… Still, whatever brings you luck eh? Thanks for reading. Hugs

  4. Whenever we love, it makes us vulnerable to the pain of loss.The only thing worse than the pain of loss is being afraid to love for fear of the pain. Juliet is right — love is always worth trying.

    • Hear, hear Kathy. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Certainly Juliet was brave enough to go for it… Many hugs 😉

  5. Hi Thomas,
    Thanks for sharing this. I think your new friend, the amazing girl, has used just the right descriptive word. The Univesrse is posting to you, via Juliet, because you’re ready to listen. And your post will surely reach others who are ready too. It’s what you do.

    • Hi Peggy. Lovely to receive your comment this morning. And your words are really, really kind. I’m crossing all things crossable – the Universe has a plan. Hugs from Spain 😉

  6. Go for it, Thomas. You have so much to share…and you are an amazing writer. Hope to see you in DeeCee sometime soon — accompanied or not.

    • Ah now Jody, you are one person that truly knows about love! Thank you thank you for reading and the encouragement. Accompanied would indeed be nice – but I will make it… Many hugs to you both 😉

  7. I loved reading this piece. Gives one many things to contemplate. Now that a new year is beginning …..

    • Thanks Sheila… thanks for reading and commenting. Indeed it does… Hugs from Spain x

  8. You always did have a way with words. Beautiful. x

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