The letters-sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or simply addressed to "Juliet, Verona"-contain requests for everything from matchmaking help to kissing tips to advice on how to mend a broken heart. The secretaries, who are not paid, "must have a strong ability to empathize and a good dose of common sense," says secretary Giovanna Tamassia. And a sense of humor too: "In all this, Romeo is pretty much out of the picture," says Marinella. "We get letters advising Juliet to 'dump him and move on!' "
ACTUAL LETTERS TO JULIET!
IF YOU INTRODUCE ME TO LEONARDO DICAPRIO
I WILL LOVE YOU, TOO!
I live on the third floor. My parents don't allow my boyfriend to come to my house. So I have to sneak him in. But it's very difficult. Can you tell me how Romeo got to visit you? Tell me his technique for climbing up to your room!
Cari V., Lausanne, Switzerland
I am writing to you on Valentine's Day, but unfortunately I don't have a Romeo and I am very sad. I'm not a young girl, but a woman who will turn fifty next March. I've always loved very deeply, but who knows why they have all betrayed me? I hope that after so much suffering, sacrifice, and compromise that I too can be truly happy.
Graziella B., Milan, Italy
You are the only person I can ask. How do you French kiss and what does it mean to make out? I read an article about you in the paper and if we write to you and I get a letter back we get extra credit. And I need a lot of extra credit.
Sandra J., Constantia, New York
Taking relationship advice from one of literature's most famous star-crossed lovers may not seem like a great idea. (After all, her own romance ended very, very badly.) But for the lovelorn, Juliet-yep, Romeo's girl-remains the ultimate romantic. Ettore Solimani knew this, and in 1937 he began replying to letters left at the Juliet memorial in Verona, Italy, the picturesque town made famous in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Today the town receives as many as 7,000 letters a year from around the globe, the bulk of which are answered by 12 "secretaries" to the fictional heroine. With the big-screen romance Letters to Juliet-in which Amanda Seyfried stars as a tourist who replies to one of the letters-hitting theaters, the secretaries are bracing for a new wave of advice seekers. "Sometimes, Juliet appears to be the last glimmer of hope for some of the people who write to her," says Marinella Fedrigoli, 50, who became the first official secretary of Juliet's Club in 1990. "Romeo and Juliet's story is a very sad one, but it is also inspirational because they were two very young people who went against the rules to defend what they felt."