In the morning our driver returns to bring us to Verona, where we are to meet a tour guide who will shows us around the town. The driver parks near an official-looking building draped in flags. He points at the car, and at the building, and at his watch. “Here, five o’clock,” he says, exhausting his store of English. He does not want to lose me again, which I appreciate.
When the guide arrives, he drags her over to us and makes her confirm that we will indeed meet him at this spot at five p.m. exactly. Exactly. And much relieved, he zooms off, and the tour guide eyes me and I’m guessing the driver has explained to her that watching me attempt to travel in a foreign country is as painful as watching a toddler in traffic. But I don’t care if she thinks I’m a toddler in traffic. I’m in Verona! City of the odd juxtaposition of a classical Roman coliseum in the middle of a street full of sixteenth-century buildings.
The tour guide points across the water to a hillside where a Roman amphitheater once existed. Plays were produced there but then the structure collapsed. It was never rebuilt because everyone preferred the spectacles at the arena – the gladiators and tigers and hippos. Human nature never changes.
The guide brings us to the balcony where Romeo and Juliet played out their tragedy.
“Really?” Jessica says. “This balcony?”
“That is the tradition,” the guide says diplomatically. “Juliet is the patroness of lovers and those who would like love. People write to Juliet. Here in Verona, the Juliet Club answers all of them.”
There’s a statue of Juliet near the balcony, and we stand beside her and make a wish.
I know Romeo and Juliet is fiction, and that there may have been star-crossed lovers but nothing like Shakespeare wrote about them, but I stand in the courtyard and look up at the window, and I believe it is possible that Shakespeare didn’t make it up. Italy is a place with shadowed corners and narrow twisting alleys and backstreets no one knows about; anything could happen here, and does.