Montecchio Maggiore — visiting the real castles of Romeo and Juliet
It was a crisp, sunny September morning as we set off on our drive to Montecchio Maggiore.
The small town and commune in the province of Vicenza in Veneto probably won’t mean much to you. However, if I throw in the words, Romeo and Juliet, your literary senses may begin to tingle.
Montecchio Maggiore is the location of two castles, both of which date to the 14th century. Il Castello della Bellaguardia, also known as Castello di Giulietta, sits 273m above sea level. Slightly lower at 234m is Il Castello Della Villa, or Castello di Romeo.
In short, these are the real castles behind the story of Romeo and Juliet.
The former was owned by the Capulet family, while the latter was attributed to the Montecchi family. Both families, and the castle’s scenic backdrop, were the inspiration for the infamous tale of the star-crossed lovers.
The story behind the story — Montecchio Maggiore
Despite having read, and studied, Romeo and Juliet, I never knew that the real writer came from Vicenza.
Nobleman Luigi da Porto was inspired to write the novel, originally titled ‘Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti’. This loosely translates to the ‘rediscovered story of two noble lovers’.
The story of the young couple remained unknown, until English playwright, William Shakespeare, found, and adapted, the story. Today, Romeo and Juliet is one of the best known, and loved, tragedies in English literature.
The view of the tower of Castello di Giulietta — Montecchio Maggiore
“In short, these are the real castles behind the story of Romeo and Juliet.”
Castello di Romeo
The first castle of the two is that of Romeo’s, or, the Montecchi family. Its grand structure, and tower, give you an idea of an era gone by.
Sources say that the enclosure was most likely built around the mid-14th century by the Della Scala family. Known as Scaligeri (Scaligers), they were the ruling family of Verona and mainland Veneto for 125 years.
The tower, standing at 25m, most likely served as a keep. Usually, it’s open to the public, but given the circumstances when we visited, it was closed.
The Castello di Romeo was ruined at the beginning of the 16th century by the Republic of Venice. They were afraid of the castle falling into enemy hands following the War of the League of Cambrai.
The exterior of Castello di Romeo
Romeo’s castle today — Montecchio Maggiore
What’s left of the castle is primarily the outer structure and the tower. As you enter the castle grounds, you’ll see that rows of chairs take up the enclosed space.
As well as being a visitor attraction, the castle’s also used as an outdoor cinema. It typically runs throughout the summer and draws in a good crowd. Its unique location makes the event popular with locals and visitors alike.
A castle as well as a movie theater at Castello di Romeo
Castello di Giulietta
Sitting at the highest point of Montecchio Maggiore is Castello di Giulietta.
It’s a short walk from Romeo’s castle, but take note, as there aren’t any pedestrian paths on the main road. Saying that, stick to the side of the winding road and keep an eye out for passing cars.
Like Romeo’s castle, what’s left of Juliet’s is also the exterior. However, it’s far larger, plus there are more castle grounds to cover.
Juliet’s real balcony?
As you make your way to the entrance, you’ll notice a wooden terrace attached to the side of the castle.
Whether it was built to make it seem like Juliet’s well-known balcony remains a mystery. Still, it does feed into the romance of the tale. That, plus, you don’t have the hundreds of tourists to contend with as in Verona.
Not as romantic as the one at Casa di Giulietta in Verona, but could this be Juliet’s real balcony?
The views from the top — Montecchio Maggiore
Undoubtedly, the highlight of Castello di Giulietta are the views from the top. Stairs leading up to the ‘rooftop’ terrace invite you to enjoy the panoramic views.
Not only can you catch a better glimpse of Romeo’s castle below, but also of the surrounding green landscape.
The views from the top of Castello di Giulietta are spectacular
Tips for visiting the castles of Romeo and Juliet
1. Arrive early
While you probably won’t encounter the same number of crowds visiting as in Verona, arriving early has several benefits.
For one, you get to really enjoy, and explore, the castles without many people around. Also, coming earlier means being able to take as many photos as you want, and without any interruptions.
2. Dress accordingly
Though we were blessed with autumn sunshine on our visit to Montecchio Maggiore, it was chilly at the top.
Unless you’re entering the restaurant, there aren’t many places where you can warm up. It was also pretty windy when we were at the top of Juliet’s castle. That said, dress warmly and enjoy the views in comfort, and not in the cold.
Castello di Romeo, Via Castelli 4 Martiri, 36075 Montecchio Maggiore-Alte Ceccato VI
Approaching the entrance of Castello di Romeo
An extra villa stop
When in Montecchio Maggiore, and if you’ve time, I highly suggest you make an extra stop to Villa Cordellina Lombardi. It’s about 4 minutes’ drive from the castles of Romeo and Juliet and is simply spectacular.
The villa dates to the 18th century, and was built in a Palladian architectural style. Venetian painter, Giambattista Tiepolo, painted the remarkable frescoes, while Giorgio Massari and Francesco Muttoni were the principle architects.
The gardens of the villa are equally jaw-dropping, radiating even more in the glorious sunshine. Today, Villa Cordellina Lombardi is the seat of the representative for the province of Vicenza. Open to the public for a small fee (€6/$7/£5), it’s also available for private hire.
Villa Cordellina Lombardi, via Lovara 36, Montecchio Maggiore
Make an extra stop to the beautiful Villa Cordellina Lombardi in Montecchio Maggiore
What do you think of Romeo and Juliet’s castles in Montecchio Maggiore? Do they look like somewhere you’d like to visit? Let me know in the comments below.
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....