OWN

Meet Volunteers Who Answer Love Letters To Shakespeare's Juliet

From a small office in fair Verona, Giovanna Tamassia responds to happy and hapless sweethearts alike.
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It’s believed that the notes have been arriving for more than a century, with a photograph of some dating back to the late 1800s. Many are mailed to Verona, Italy, addressed simply to Juliet—yes, that Juliet, of “wherefore art thou” fame; others are tucked into the cracks of her symbolic tomb in San Francesco al Corso monastery. All tell tales of love: bashful first kisses, broken hearts, and enduring companionship.

In the late 1930s, Ettore Solimani, the custodian of Juliet’s grave, began answering the notes, signing off as “Juliet’s secretary.” Today a group of volunteers known as Club di Giulietta, or the Juliet Club, replies to some 10,000 letters annually. Leading the missive mission? Club manager Giovanna Tamassia. We tracked her down for a heart-to-heart:

On Romance Languages


“Once letters get to our office, we sort them by language: English, Italian, German, French, Polish, Arabic, Finnish, even Braille. We always try to respond in the writer’s language, even if that means finding friends or relatives to help. But there are cases, like a letter we just received from Mongolia, when no one knows the language. Then we usually send a short response in English. Sometimes it’s enough just to know you’ve been heard.”

On Objects of Desire


“Over the years, we’ve received more than just letters. An old lady in Sicily sent us her husband’s gold wedding band after he died. She wanted one of Juliet’s secretaries to wear it as a sign of their lasting love, which I did for many years. Another woman, from Japan, mailed us her diary after she got married. It was filled with memories that are best described as private, but it was clearly too important to be thrown away. She sent it to Juliet for safekeeping.”

On Playing Juliet


“There are about 20 secretaries in the club at any given time, but that number is always changing because people from all over the world join us for only a month, or even a day, just to have the chance to read and respond to letters! It’s a great responsibility to read so many stories about love. And being Juliet’s secretary is like leading a double life: When I’m at the club, I am Juliet.”

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