When I went to visit the Castles of Romeo and Juliet at Montecchio Maggiore, I did not expect to find what I found. I did not expect anything, really. Although I live half an hour away I did not know in fact almost nothing about these castles, until a friend told me something about them. I also found very little in the internet: no info, no visiting hours. Mystery.
Then, me and my husband went there on a Saturday at lunchtime after some errands in the area. We parked in the first spacious parking. A sign indicated that a bar / restaurant in the other castle was open. Thank goodness, we were starving!
The Castles of Romeo and Juliet at Montecchio Maggiore
At Romeo’s Castle some workers were setting up the preparations for the outdoor cinema. In fact the whole interior area was occupied by chairs and big screen.
All around there was a wall, damaged in some places, and two towers. Sadly the Castle is very decaying. One of them is well preserved and accessible by staircase. But there was no sign. We climbed the stairs and the door was open. Inside we found a nice gentleman of a certain age (he called himself old, but he was not so old) reading the paper. He didn’t say a thing. I climbed the wooden stairs (maybe 4 or 5 flights) to finally reach the top of the tower. The view was worth it. What a nice panorama! Not far you can clearly see Juliet’s Castle. It was a shame that the air was so muggy that the view was not totally clear.
When I came down I told the gentleman that I had very much appreciated the view, so he started to narrate me ancient and interesting stories. For example, Montecchio is named Maggiore (major, superior) because the view from the hill allows you to see even the bell tower of St. Mark in Venice (who knows if it is true), so the name is due to the strategic importance of the place. He also asked me if I was a romantic person or not, and I said yes. So he told me what his grandfather (which was told by his grandfather and so on) told him as a child: all the stories that survived to this day have some truth in them, so it is nice to believe in them and tell them to other people.
He told me also that Luigi Da Porto, writer and military man from Vicenza, to recover from a serious war injury, returned to his villa in Montorso Vicentino (a few km from Montecchio Maggiore). At the time he was only 25. During this period he heard about the legend of the two poor lovers. From his villa he could also see the two castles on the hill of Montecchio.
Inspired also by his unhappy love for a girl who didn’t reciprocated him, he began writing a novel entitled Historia found again of two noble lovers, published in 1530. Probably having read Dante’s verses he called the two rival families Montecchi and Cappelletti, then turned into the Capuleti. In Italian the names are in fact Montecchi and Capuleti. Besides the name Montecchi it is very similar to Montecchio. Dante’s verses: “Come and behold Montecchi and Cappelletti, Monaldi and Fillippeschi, careless man! Those sad already, and these doubt-depressed!” (Purgatorio).
The two castles were actually built in mid-fourteenth century by the Scaligeri family of Verona, and they were seriously damaged during the war of Cambrai in the sixteenth century. After the war no one thought to restore them, as their defensive function was over. Restoration work began only at the end of 1800.
The Castles of Romeo and Juliet at Montecchio Maggiore are 300 meters away from each other. Their actual names are Castello della Villa (Romeo) and Castello Bellaguardia (Juliet). There’s another parking lot before arriving at the second Castle, on the left. Inside there are a bar and a restaurant that seemed really nice. We only ordered two sandwiches and two cokes at the bar (with very good bread and cold cuts). The staff was nice and helpful. The toilet very clean (in the restaurant, so I could spot the interior, quite nice!). From the terrace we could see the nice panorama and the Castle of Romeo.
After lunch, as I was curious, I convinced my husband to go and see Villa Da Porto in Montorso. We couldn’t find the address on the Internet so we asked a passerby. The villa is in via Luigi Da Porto. The sign says it was built in 1400 and amended several times up to 1724. Here Luigi Da Porto wrote his novel. Sadly, at the beginning of 1900 the last descendant of the family mortgaged property and now it lies in deep decline. The sign also says that the municipality has started in 1987 a long process of restoration. Unfortunately, out of the villa there is another sign with the words: Edificio Pericolante (unstable building). What a pity! It is a real shame that the Villa and the Castles are so ignored. They could be a real tourist attraction.
In the end, everyone is free to believe in what he wants. Those who are romantic will definitely like to see these two Castles thinking that Romeo and Juliet once lived here.
Castles of Romeo and Juliet at Montecchio Maggiore
Castello della Villa e Castello Bellaguardia
via Castelli 4 Martiri, 36075, Montecchio Maggiore (VI)