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'letters to juliet'In 'Letters to Juliet,' Amanda Seyfried's character discovers the "Juliet Wall" while on a trip to Verona, Italy, and decides to answer one of the many letters left there for the heroine of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet,' which is set in that fair city.

In the film, the letters -- many seeking romantic advice -- are answered by a voluntary organization of "secretaries." In real life, the Club di Giulietta, or the Juliet Club, does exactly that. A major part of the city's culture (and tourism), the organization is run by retired baker Giulio Tamassia, who's devoted himself to the job full-time since 1993. letters to julietIn 'Letters to Juliet,' Amanda Seyfried's character discovers the "Juliet Wall" while on a trip to Verona, Italy, and decides to answer one of the many letters left there for the heroine of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet,' which is set in that fair city.

In the film, the letters -- many seeking romantic advice -- are answered by a voluntary organization of "secretaries." In real life, the Club di Giulietta, or the Juliet Club, does exactly that. A major part of the city's culture (and tourism), the organization is run by retired baker Giulio Tamassia, who's devoted himself to the job full-time since 1993.

Though the story of young lovers from feuding families has been around since antiquity, Italian writer Luigi De Porto set his 1530 version of the tale in Verona and called the families the Montecchis and Cappellettis. It was translated into verse as 'The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet' by Arthur Brooke in 1562 before Shakespeare put his own spin on the story later in the century. (The rest is literary history.)

Juliet's balconyVerona has long prided itself as the home of Juliet (for some reason, poor Romeo hasn't warranted the same attention), and a particular building on the Via Cappello has been designated her house since the 19th century. Around 1900, people began leaving messages at Juliet's (designated) tomb in a former monastery, not far from her house. But it wasn't until the 1936 release of George Cukor's 'Romeo and Juliet,' starring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard, that letters really began pouring in.

The letters were often stuck to the outside of Juliet's house with gum before a special wall was put up in 2005, specifically for the purpose. The club, which began answering the letters in the 1980s, currently receives around 100 a week (the city provides money for stationery and postage). Mailed letters are often addressed to "Juliet, Verona,' and they are promptly forwarded to the club.

Video Q&A With Real-Life Secretaries

Most letters are from women -- though lovelorn men have sent their share -- and they range from teenage angst over a seemingly hopeless crush to an older woman's anguish over a philandering husband, though many are also straight-out declarations of passion for a beloved partner. Since the missives come from all over the world, the Juliet Club gets translation help wherever it can -- university students, Chinese restaurant workers -- and psychologists are enlisted for particularly thorny problems. The club members take their job seriously, knowing that these letters may be the only outlet for some people's romantic woes.

'letters to juliet' bookEvery year on Valentine's Day, the club awards the Juliet Prize to the most compelling letter. Celebrities including Franco Zeffirelli (director of the 1968 'Romeo and Juliet,' starring Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting) and Andrea Bocelli have taken part in past award ceremonies.

In 2006 two American sisters, Lise and Ceil Friedman, compiled several of the letters and responses (changing names to protect privacy), along with the club's story and the play's history, into the book 'Letters to Juliet.' The letters, which span many years, reflect the various social climates of the times and places in which they were written, but all express feelings familiar to anyone who's experienced the joys and suffering of love -- which is pretty much all of us.

Have a love issue you'd like to share with Juliet? Send your letter to:

Club di Giulietta - The Juliet Club
via Galilei 3 - 37100 Verona, Italia
Tel: (+39) 045 533115
You can also e-mail your letter to info@julietclub.com.