No love lost in Verona for tourists leaving graffiti outside house linked to Romeo and Juliet

For the lovelorn and incurably romantic, it is a staple of any visit to Verona – the Gothic palazzo where Shakespeare purportedly imagined his Juliet to have lived, including a balcony from where she was wooed by Romeo.

The Bard’s “star-cross’d lovers” may have been fictional, but that does not stop tourists from around the world from leaving sentimental notes and scrawling their names on the brick walls of the palazzo’s courtyard.

The custom of leaving love messages, many of them addressed to Shakespeare’s heroine, was celebrated in a 2010 film, Letters to Juliet, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Amanda Seyfried.

But the graffiti is now spreading beyond Juliet’s House, or La Casa di Giulietta as it is known in Italian, onto the street outside, to the exasperation of locals.

Shopfronts along Via Cappello, outside the entrance to the historic property, are now plastered in unsightly graffiti, love messages and tourists’ names, much of it written in indelible ink.

Some visitors have taken to writing their initials on padlocks, bolting them to shop fronts and throwing away the keys, a trend long-established in cities such as Rome and Paris, where thousands of rusting padlocks have to be removed from bridges and monuments each year.

“A lot of tourists are badly behaved and think they have the right to scrawl graffiti all over the place. When I catch them with a pen in their hand and tell them to stop, they get angry with me, even though it should be the other way around," said Davide Albertini, the owner of a fashion shop a few yards from the entrance to Juliet’s House.

“We spent a large amount of money last December to clean up the graffiti but a year on, it’s worse than ever,” he told The Telegraph.

Mr Albertini and other business owners have written to Verona city council asking for more surveillance of the area by local police.

“We want to collaborate with the authorities to maintain decorum in the city centre,” he said.

In 2008, the city introduced fines of up to €500 (£445) for anyone caught writing graffiti on public or private property, but the penalties are rarely enforced.

Like Venice and Florence, which also struggle to manage the effects of mass tourism, Verona is a victim of its own success, attracting an estimated two million visitors a year, the majority of whom want to see Juliet’s House, a former medieval inn.

It is not just graffiti that has become a problem. A bronze statue of Juliet had to be removed from the courtyard of the house because so many tourists had taken to rubbing its right breast in the hope of bringing good luck.

A crack appeared in the breast from all the wear and tear, and damage was done to the statue’s right arm, which tourists leant on as they had their photos taken.

“The condition of the sculpture was undermined by the contact of so many tourists, particularly the tradition of touching Juliet’s right breast,” the guardians of Juliet’s House said at the time.

The bronze had stood in the courtyard since 1972 but was removed in 2014 and replaced by an exact replica created by a local foundry. The original was placed inside a museum within Juliet’s House.

“The small hole that remains visible in the breast is a record of the service rendered by the old Juliet for more than 40 years to the lovelorn of the whole world,” the custodians said.

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