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A legend back to life

Shakespeare sets the Giulietta e Romeo’s play in Verona, a romantic city of castles and towers along the River Adige, but the core of the story is elsewhere. On the hills of Montecchio Maggiore. It is there that the origin of the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues can be found. A nobleman from Vicenza, passing by to trade in arms, was Shakespeare’s inspiration. He was Luigi Da Porto(1485-1529), who lived in Montorso, in a splendid villa on the plain with a view towards the east where the two castles in Montecchio Maggiore are located. Prior to that, there had been a Roman fort on the top of the hill, then a Medieval one. From the beginning of the thirteenth century, the two castles are protagonists in a time of feuds and bloody wars between families divided into different factions. Luigi Da Porto himself had been disfigured and semi-paralyzed in these wars between different regional factions. He was a man of letters and he wrote a novel about his own personal love story with Lucina Savorgnan which had ended badly, and who had married his adversary for political reasons. The story was written, using the background of the two castles and incorporating echoes of previous short stories (Ganozza and Mariotto in Masuccio Salernitano, and also referring to Ovid’s Pyriam and Tisbe and Boccaccio’s il Filocolo). The story was “Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti con la loro pietosa morte intervenuta già al tempo di Bartolomeo Della Scala” or “a recently re-discovered story of two noble lovers with their pitiful death occurred at the time of Bartolomeo Della Scala”, found two years after his death. He wrote about Romeo and Juliet, members of two families who despised each other and who decided to cease hostility only after the death of the two young people. A dream of peace that he himself would not see concluded. Literature experts and Professor Cecil H. Cloug, who researched Da Porto in detail, are in agreement. The play itself is an imagined story, but references and the context of the plot mirror the climate of the time. Everything was imagined by Da Porto and then taken up again by the English bard who would transform the novel based in the Berican hills and Scaligera rule into a great play with hendecasyllables in iambic pentameter verse and 25 characters.

The Castles of Montecchio, even if assailed by tragic events, shall live on its definitive role as a tourist attraction. Read here the complete history of the Castles. Inside the castle of “Bellaguardia” (known today as Juliet’s Castle) there’s now a Restaurant while its summit is visited to admire the wide panorama. The castle of “Della Villa” (called today Romeo’s Castle) is used as open-air theater on summer and the “mastio” (the tower) is now an exhibition space on five floors.

A curiosity, in between the two castles there’s the entrance of the “Priare”,  big caves carved into the rock just below the Castle of Giulietta. Read more.


Open every day during the summer from 10:00AM until the closing of the restaurant, closed on Thursdays just on winter. Free entry.

Open from March to October:
Saturdays from 03:00PM to 06:30PM (free entrance).
Sundays and holidays from 10:00AM to 12:30PM (free entrance).
Sundays and holidays  from 03:00PM to 06:30PM (just with guided visits – full price: 3,00 €, reduced: 2,00 €).

The Priare are open on Sundays and holidays from February to November. May to September, from 04:00PM to 07:00PM. On the other months from 02:30PM to 05:30PM. Full price: 3,00€; Reduced: 1,50€ (over 60, minors, youth card holders, individual price for groups). School groups: 1 euro.

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Location and Map
The castles are both located in Via Castelli 4 Martiri – Montecchio Maggiore, and they can be reached by car, bus, bike, on foot, by horse. By car, from the Brescia/Padua Motorway: take the exit “Alte di Montecchio Maggiore” (5 minutes distance by car).