Letters To Juliet | 2010
The film is bookended, though, by scenes in New York, where wannabe writer Sophie Hall (Amanda Seyfried) works as a fact checker for The New Yorker. The magazine’s office, like that of every company in a Hollywood movie, has great views over Manhattan. In reality, the magazine operates out of the Condé Nast Building on Times Square at 42nd Street, but the entrance used for the film is 1 State Street Plaza, which is actually on Whitehall Street just north of State Street down toward Battery Park.
Sophie is first seen in Bryant Park, on Sixth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets, checking on the authenticity of that famous photo of a sailor kissing a girl in Times Square at the end of WWII.
Her Manhattan apartment is 202 Elizabeth Street, between Prince and Spring Streets in SoHo.
The Italian restaurant her fiancé, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), is planning to open is 116 West Houston Street, between Sullivan and Thompson Streets on the southern fringe of Greenwich Village. Don’t go looking for that mouthwateringly perfect pasta here though, it’s now French patisserie François Payard Bakery.
Verona is introduced with a flurry of establishing shots: its bustling main square, Piazza delle Erbe; the fortified 14th Century Ponte Scaligero over the Adige River; and the Arena, the huge Roman amphitheatre, now used to stage music events, on Piazza Bra. You can see the amphitheatre in all its impressive glory in the 1961 epic Barabbas.
It’s just west of Piazza dell Erba that Sophie looks up Scaletta San Marco, the stone staircase running up from Via Pellicciai, to see Victor on the balcony of the building used as their ‘Pensione Verona’ hotel, on Vicolo San Marco in Foro.
Verona is, of course, the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet, and south from Piazza dell Erbe runs Via Cappello, where you’ll find Verona’s most famous tourist attraction, and the heart of the film’s story, Casa di Giulietta, Via Cappello 23 – the ‘House of Juliet’.
Although a fake wall was added for the film (come on, did you think they really removed a brick from the 13th Century house?), the tradition of leaving notes and lovestruck graffiti is real enough.
Entrance to the courtyard is free, but there’s an entrance fee to the house itself – allowing you access to the balcony for that unmissable photo opp. And for that extra bit of luck, don’t forget to stroke the, understandably shiny, left breast of the courtyard’s bronze statue of Juliet.
Would I be a real killjoy to reveal that the balcony was probably added in the 1930s? Or that there’s no evidence that Capulets had anything to do with the house? Or that Shakespeare’s play never in fact mentions a balcony?
Well, not as much of a killjoy as the Veronese authorities who are trying to prevent the sticking of notes to the famous wall.
None of this will matter to real romantics, who’ll doubtless want to brave the crowds to stay at hotel Il Sogno di Giulietta (The Dream Of Juliet), which is actually in the courtyard, directly opposite the balcony.
You won’t have much luck trying follow Sophie’s walk to the restaurant above which the Secretaries of Juliet answer the letters collected from the wall. What appears in the film to be an alleyway opposite the house of Juliet is the (usually gated) entrance to a building.
And there’s no ‘Trattoria Lettere a Giulietta’ anyway. An empty building on the southwest corner of Piazzetta Pescheria, next door to a real restaurant, Trattoria Pescheria I Masenini, a few blocks east of Juliet's house, toward Ponte Nuovo, was transformed into the restaurant for the film.
Don’t give up, though. It gets better – I promise.
As food-obsessed Victor takes off for a wine auction in Livorno, Sophie dedicates herself to helping out the Secretaries of Juliet, replying to a 50-year-old letter she mysteriously discovers behind a dislodged brick. With impressive speed, its writer, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) turns up from England, with her grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), and Sophie is soon joining the pair on a romantic quest to track down Claire’s one-time love, Lorenzo.
Among the addresses they visit, the most impressive must be the imposing palace of the wealthy ‘Count Lorenzo’ (Fabio Testi), which is Villa Arvedi, Cuzzano, at Grezzana, about five miles north of Verona. It’s used as a conference and events centre.
Just when you might be despairing that everything was faked for the film, there’s a location that is very real. The luxurious hotel which becomes the trio’s base as they tick off the various Lorenzos, is the Relais Borgo Scopeto, in Caparzo, a few miles north of Siena.
Like Sophie and Charlie, you can lounge by the pool, and you’re even offered the opportunity to stay in Sophie’s Suite.
Sophie and Charlie take the opportunity to go sightseeing in Siena itself, where they naturally stroll through the 13th century Piazza del Campo, the heart of the city, which you might recognise from its appearance in Quantum of Solace.
The little space with the ‘gold plated’ mime artist is Piazza Tolomei in front of the severe façade of the Church of St Christopher. And it’s on the Piazza San Giovanni, in front of the Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John), the eastern face of the black and white marble Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral), where they have the ice cream fight.