Another man climbs the low pedestal. Eagerly, he caresses her breast. Meanwhile, his relatives are taking the obligatory mug shots. He is not the first offender, and he will certainly not be the last. Her right breast is polished clean after years of abuse.
Does anyone in the small and crowded courtyard realise that the statue is depicting a thirteen-year-old girl? A long queue of pushing tourists, eager to enter this ‘Trip advisor top attraction’, is clotting the only entrance. Crammed together in the stifling heat of an Italian summer midday.
About one hour earlier we entered the city centre. Groups of tourists flocked together around the squares, bars and staircases of the medieval heart of the town. It did not take long to realize that, although there were thousands and thousands of tourists, the atmosphere was far from animated. The crowd appeared to be there just by accident. Waiting and checking their mobile phones. Hardly anyone showed any attention to the roman amphitheatre right in front of them.
A bit dejected after the experiences in the courtyard we stumbled into the main piazza. Fortuna was merciful today. Just as we entered, a couple was leaving their table. A perfect spot from where to observe the ongoing stream of passers-by.
Suddenly, one of the protagonists breaks rank. A tall, fortyish man, dressed in flip-flops, shorts and tank top, purposefully walks to the ‘Colonna Antica’, the gothic pillar adorning the piazza. Something in the demeanour of the man triggers my curiosity.
With his right hand he grabs something from his backpack while taking another step towards the pillar. He focuses onto an area of the column, located on eye level. And with utmost concentration he starts to draw on the marble stones of the ‘Colonna Antica’, with the black felt tip pen that he just took.
Startled, I look around. Will the police first knock him on the ground before they arrest him? But there is no police. None of the tourists in his vicinity looks even a bit distracted by his action. After a while, the guy lowers his pen, steps back a couple of meters and starts admiring his new creation. He turns around and yells. A robust teenager approaches the vandal. The man poses in front of the column, meanwhile pointing to his creation. The younster saves the moment on his cell phone. Another mug shot.
‘Tourism is really ruining our world’, my companion mutters…
In the original work of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Bandello, Juliet is nearly eighteen.
The house with the balcony was never related to the Capulet family. Inspired by an American film (from 1936), the balcony was later added to the house.
The original bronze statue of Juliet, made by the artist Costantini, was commissioned in 1972 by the Veronese Lion’s Club. Extensive exposure to visitors made it necessary, in 2014, to replace the original by a copy.
The ‘Romeo & Juliet’ balcony receives two million visitors per year