A plan to start charging tourists who visit the famous balcony from Romeo and Juliet in the Italian city of Verona has been blocked by local business owners operating in the small courtyard.
The iconic courtyard in Verona, where Romeo is said to have wooed his beloved Juliet in William Shakespeare’s famous play, which first premiered in 1597, is one of the few tourist hotspots in Italy that remains free to enter.
It also featured in the film “Letters to Juliet” in 2010 in which a young American woman, who works for The New Yorker as a fact checker, spends some time in the city, and becomes one of the women who answer the letters left by people in the courtyard.
Hordes of tourists visit the courtyard to take photos of the famous balcony and even rub the right breast of a statue of Juliet located in the courtyard as a good-luck tradition.
Prior to the pandemic the popular site is said to have attracted up to three million visitors a year.
Several mayors of the Italian city have tried to limit the flow of visitors over the past decade, but the small group of business owners in the courtyard have always thwarted their proposals.
Current Verona mayor Federico Sboarina, 50, wanted to install turnstiles and make visitors book online, but the plan was reportedly blocked by the owners of a B&B and two gift shops.
The business owners stated that the courtyard is not publicly-owned and their position has now been confirmed at the administrative court.
Sboarina said: “The entrance to Juliet’s courtyard is currently monitored by security guards so it is inexplicable that we cannot do the same with turnstiles.”
He added that he did not understand why they wanted to continue to put people’s health at risk, saying: “Given the COVID-19 protocols and public safety, we can no longer allow overcrowding in the courtyard.”
The Casa di Giulietta is a renovated 14th-century residence that belonged to the Cappello family, possibly the inspiration for the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet.
The protruding balcony was added to the historical residence in the 20th Century.
Despite being a popular tourist site, historians say there is little basis linking it to the famous play.
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