Aside there is a small tower "la Torretta". Our short stay in "Le Tassinaie" should deserve a separate account. But today we mentally move to Pienza in order to meet with the places where have been shot the most vivid and positive, definely Renaissance-like, scenes of "Romeo and Juliet" movie: the pictoresque feast held in the Capulets' house, the first encounter of the young heroes during the clamorous dance.
Also our reminiscence of the hours spent in that small "elegant" town are adorned with joyful shades consistent with the mood of its architecture. The morning we left for Pienza was sunny and there was no trace left of the clouds and rain that roared on the eve. Nature generously gave us the chance to fully enjoy the most beautiful landscapes that streamed beyond the car windows. We left behind us Umbria with Gubbio and entered the expances of Tuscany. At this point of the report we would like to make a short digression about the story of Pienza. Once, in distant ages, in these ancient places lived Etruscans, and later Romans set up their dwellings.
During the middle age, upon one of the hills in front of Mount Amiata, there was a small town, or better a village, by the name of Corsignano. It could have remained ingloriously mingled in boundless Tuscan fields and motionless hill waves if in that "shell" would'nt have appeared a wonderful pearl: an amazing architectural complex, one could say almost the embodiment of the Ideal Town dream, within the limits of a city square.
The village of Corsignano was the borning place of a famous humanist, scholar and writer: Enea Silvio Piccolomini who was elected Roman Pope in He ruled under the name of Pio II down to his death in These few years became a flourishing period for the Piccolomini's native village. The Pope devised to embody here the new town-planning concepts. The realization of the building projects, inspired by the Renaissance patterns, was granted by architect Bernardo Rossellino.
Building works were carried out in four years; the result was a bright trapezoidal shaped square, with the Cathedral in front and shapely palaces sideways. In the town received its new name of Pienza, and for a short period the Pope's court was held there. Unfortunately, after Pope Pio II's death the grand projects of further transformation of the town were not carried out. Nevertheless, what had been built till then reflects the completness of the whole work.
Five centuries later the internal court-yard and some of Palazzo Piccolomini premises have been immortalized as Capulets' mansion in the Franco Zeffirelli's movie.
From the SparkNotes Blog
But let's go back to our days in Pienza. As soon as we got into the town we had to rush in full haste through the main street to its heart: Pio II square side to Palazzo Piccolomini. The building opens for visits only on given hours and we should have got there before noon. We arrived within a hair's breadth for the last visit and we had the happy chance not only to visit the refined mansion of the famous humanist, but also to walk along the same stairs, corridors and halls were the movie's events took place.
Here we could recall Juliet's light run in her legendary red dress, when she was called out by her nurse in the scene before the dance. The Capulets' room scene was shot in Pio II's sleeping room. Is was easy to recognize the icon on the wall and the sumptuous bedstead with canopy. On the edge of this bed Juliet was sitting adjusting her sleeve ribbons while her nurse went into raptures with endless accounts of her youthful mischieves. Somewhere around here, in the palace corridors, Signor Capulet was listening to Paris's , marriage proposal and then both of them went into a polished wooden study actually Pio II's library where the householder gave Pietro directions for the dance.
To our huge regret we were not allowed to take pictures inside the palace premises, but we could take a few photos going out into the loggia. From there an amazing view opens onto the hilly valley of Orcia river and onto an extinct volcano cone. On the left are visible the Cathedral apse and belfry, and below the precise geometrical designs of a pensile garden.
We went into an inner small courtyard framed by a beautiful archade. In the movie the aspect of this courtyard was completed by a stone well in the center. One recalls a short episode, when after the dance, a puzzled Juliet stopped here in the darkness pricking up her hears to a distant voice calling Romeo, and in the mean time her nurse accompanied by Pietro went up the stairs into the house calling her darling.
The Cathedral bells chimed. We looked around for known movie foreshortenings. The palace colour was extremely pleasant to our eyes, looking like a mixture of tender peach with tea-rose shades in the background, and grape-pink with light bronze on the wall paintings. The frescos were scarsely visible on the walls between the windows while stood out better on the fringe over the archs. One unintentionally recalls that Verona once was called the town with painted walls.
Along the fringe at regular distance are arranged relief medallions with Piccolomini's heraldic signes: a crossed shield. Besides the windows, also the first floor loggia now glazed-in looks onto the courtyard. It is right here that resounded the desperate cries of the nurse after having uncovered Juliet's senseless body. We have not been able to spot where the Juliet's sleeping room interiors had been shot, but according to the movie such room was located rather far from her parents' apartments, presumably in that part of the building that we could not visit.
We could'nt either locate exactly in which premises of the palace was shot the dance scene, maybe in that small room although in the movie it looked larger the doors of which lead straight to the small courtyard. It was not possible to recognize it because there were neither bulging columns nor heavy curtains, and no light-blue circle at the center of the floor, where the guest by the name of Leonardo performed the famous song. In other words, all the details that in the movie seemed so clear to us, very likely were only part of the. In any case we were happy to see everything that was visible.
It is interesting to remarke that both in theatre and cinema the mansions of Capulets and Montagues are represented as somptuous Renaissance palaces, while Romeo's house and Juliet's house in the real Verona look much more austere and recall small walled houses. Literary sources date Romeo and Juliet's story back to the very beginning of the 14th century.
The feud between the two Veronese families took its root in the previous century, when the struggles between the two party groups, Guelphs and Ghibellines were fully seething. With the passing of the time this political hostility turned into internal power struggle that reflected in the life style. There is a curious research version according to which the words "Montecchi" and "Cappelletti" as they sound in Italian original are not proper names but the denominations of the Veronese factions of Guelphs and Ghibellines. In the literary fiction "Montecchi and Cappelletti" became family names.
It is certainly true that in the real Verona lived families bearing similar names: Monticoli and Dal Cappello. If only somebody some day would be able to make out all this mess! But let's go back to Pienza. We took some photos in Palazzo Piccolomini courtyard, gave a farewell glance around and went out into the sunny square. If you want to stay alone in this place you should get here in early morning or late evening.
In the F. Zeffirelli's movie we see the night aspect of this square, or more likely a part of it. Of course you remember the scene when the cheerful young men company, headed by Mercutio and Benvolio, are about to go to the feast in Capulets' house. Romeo tries his best to withheld his chums and first of all himself, but Mercutio bursted into his "forte": the Queen Mab's speech.
Then this noisy procession with torchs went into the square from a small lane on the left of the Cathedral, in the movie only its base is visible. Crossing the square with the roaring music the company stopped a while in the place where Mercutio put on a death mask. In this episode, behind the movie heroes' shoulders, a part of a stone well flashed for a while.
This well is in effect one of the most beautiful in Italy, its author being Architect Rossellino who raised Palazzo Piccolomini and other buildings in this square. In the middle of the touristic season the Rossellino's well, that local folks call Pozzo dei Cani Dogs' Well , is literally covered with people who mostly even do not imagine the importance of that place. Going on in following the movie heroes, we must recall that Mercutio, after having put on the mask, turned into a dark street actually Corso Il Rossellino and walking along a projection by the palace wall shaped as a long stone stool started his flamboyant Queen Mab's Speech.
Flaring up he jumped onto a small square at the end of the street were Romeo tried to calm him down. In reality, in that place there should be a small square in front of St. Francesco's church, but it seems that the friendly hug scene between Romeo and Mercutio was shot with a studio setting background. Let's come back again to our days. Carrying out our farewell walk in Pienza, we got into a street starting from the Cathedral and running along the steepy hill slope on which the town rests. Here there is something like terraces with stone parapets, excellent places from where to look at the outskirts.
A vast panorama opens in front of the eyes of the bewitched traveller as a sort of artistic canvas: many-coloured field quares, soft outlines of hills and far mountains. A similar panorama is visible in the movie during the scene in which Friar Laurence collects medicinal herbs. At the end of our walk our attention was attracted by the names of the nearby streets, that in an amazing way were tuned with the theme of our journey: "Via della Fortuna" Street of Fortune , "Via dell'Amore" Street of Love , "Via del Bacio" Street of the Kiss.
Romeo and Juliet - Wikipedia
Having left Pienza we immediately made for Siena in order to visit the major Cathedral of that town. By the Cathedral there is a special show-room, the "Biblioteca Piccolomini" Piccolomini's Library with wonderful frescoes by the famous painter Pinturicchio illustrating some episodes of Pio II's life. Eleonora di Aragon on the fresco of Pinturicchio looks like Olivia dressed for the feast. How to trace the balcony and the garden seen in the movie? During our last year journey we were not able to solve this problem.
Our visit to Pienza convinced us that the location of the famous scene shot on the balcony was not Palazzo Piccolomini. But sometimes fortune helps the most stubborn investigators. We had then only a part of the article by Roger Ebert "That Balcony in Verona" now we have the entire text of the article written in The few lines we read said about a small town situated not far from Rome.
Ebert's words led Cinzia to do some considerations. We could not control right away the conjectures that followed due to lack of time. But after a couple of weeks from Vladimir's and my departure from Italy, Cinzia and Romano, paying a visit to their relatives in Artena, realized without any doubt, that it was exactly the small town so long hunted for. Cinzia recognized the ancient alley and the big rocks thanks to which Romeo could climb over the wall and get into the Capulets' garden. Then she realized that the garden and the balcony had to be inside the Palazzo Borghese territory whose entrance was forbidden.
The view of this estate, once magnificent, now reveals its decay and ruin. Walking along the alleys ,desert in those days, Cinzia and Romano met only a priest that was preparing the church for the mass. They asked him for some information about the palace. It came out that the priest remembered the times when there was shot the movie "Romeo and Juliet". He told that the filming took place in the palace where the old prince was still living and that it went on for a few nights in a row. The pitiable condition of the palace was explained by the fact that the problem of the inheritance was not yet solved and thus nobody was taking care of the restoration of the palace and the garden.
The present owner is living in a side house as the main wing of the palace requires heavy restoration works. Walking around the walls sorrounding Palazzo Borghese, Cinzia recognized the small porched balcony with the long flight of brick steps run down by time and weathering, where, in the movie, Juliet was waiting impatiently for her nurse bringing Romeo's news. Going on in our "pilgrimage" about the movie's locations in the spring of , we had the opportunity to vistit Artena with Cinzia and Romano.
It was a tepid May day, we got out of our car by the town entrance in order to enjoy the view in front of us. The tiny town is literally spread on the mountain, chained by terraces and landings. Here are a few notes about Artena, to whom they may interest.
The small town is located at 40 km. As Romano told us, the first settlement here was founded by the Volsci people long before the Roman ruling. In BC the site was destroyed by Romans. The influence of Borgheses in Artena went on to the XX century. Palazzo Borghese in the most outstanding building of the town.
Climbing over the fencing wall we tried to catch a glimpse of the inside from the street, but the luxuriant foliage of the straggling garden hampered the view. Cinzia had warned me beforehand :"I fear you will be disappointed", understanding the bad conditions of the building. But how can you talk of disappointments when each and every stone in that place was full of significance for me!
I recalled the enthustiastic school-girl I was once whose boundless dream was becoming true thanks to the help of Fairy-Cinzia. The only thing that embittered me it was the impossibility to go into the palace area and spend a little while in the locations of the movie. Cinzia and I looked exactly like the fox in the tale, running around and stretching out our necks. It was at this moment that Romano, on an invaluable impulse of altruism rang at the bell of the gate calling the palace owners.
In that moment our hearts almost stopped beating: Romano had started talking to somebody inside the house begging to let in some ardent fans of Zeffirelli's movie who had come purposely from faraway to visit that legendary place. They invited us to enter. A gentleman met us, he was Valerio Borghese, the 35 year old owner of the palace, light eyes and blond hair. He showed a great surprise for our visit, as nobody before us had ever so obstinately looked for the locations linked with the filming.
We followed him and got into the living premises. A Russian double-headed eagle was stuck over the entrance of his house. In past times that symbol was located on the main gate of Villa Abamelek, the Russian representative estate in Rome; after the Russian revolution in the eagle was removed, Valerio's grand mother picked it up and placed it in her estate. Valerio's wife , Elena, came out to be Russian! Despite the two nice children's Tatiana and Andrew restlessness she offered us her best hospitality and invited us to have a coffee.
We talked for a long while. At the same time Cinzia e Romano were chatting with Valerio. Later on they told me his story. In in Florence, where his wife's family recovered after the Russian revolution and where ran a small antique trade, he married with Daria Olsuffiev, daughter of Earl Vassilij Alexeevich Olsuffiev and Countess Olga Pavlovna Shuvalova Moscou 5. They gave birth to four children. The last of them, Don Andrea, was Valerio jun.
Valerio jun. B division. At the end of the war he was practically sent into exile and fell into poverty. His children were forced to emigrate abroad in order to start a new life. Andrea Borghese moved to Australia where later Valerio jun. Grown in an Anglo-Saxon background, Valerio studied English literature. During his classes at the upper schools he had the chance to see for the first time the Zeffirelli's movie "Romeo and Juliet" that usually show in English and American schools within Sheaksperian courses.
Here Valerio recognized Palazzo Borghese belonging to his family, the place where he used to spend his holidays. When the time came to share the inheritance among his survived brothers and numerous cousins , he asked for the premises furnished by his grandmother where now he lives and the part of the palace and garden were the Zeffirelli's movie had been shot.
In the coming years Valerio's intention is to restore the part of the palace belonging to him and to bring back to the previuos splendours the garden. His grandmother had created a wonderful Italian garden that after her death and already at the times of the filming went to ruin. He also plans to open it to the public for cerimonies, banquets, visits and other summer happenings.
Besides he plans to set up inside the City Hall a permanent exhibition of play bills and photos from Zeffirelli's and other movies shot in Artena. At the present Cinzia is helping Valerio in gathering memorabilia related to the movie "Romeo e Juliet". Valerio stated that he will be glad to let the movie fans visit the locations inside the garden of the palace. Answering our questions about vain searches for the balcony of the movie, Valerio explained us that the balcony had been built up in a side specially for the movie.
We immortalized on photos and cassettes the wall with the window where, according to Valerio's words, there was Juliet's movie-balcony.
We took some shots here too. Not long before we had seen an alley in the thicket along which Romeo ran after having jumped down Juliet's balcony. Leaving this "love garden", I shyly picked as keepsake a light- purple wild rose "which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". We are deeply grateful to Valerio and Elena and also to Cinzia and undaunted Romano for this unique opportunity to realize the romantic dream of our youth. On our way back we stopped in front of Zeffirelli's house. Villa Grande is not far from Appia Antica road and we intended to catch just a glimpse of the place where our beloved Maestro lives.
By the gate we loitered a while just to remain there a bit longer not knowing what to do. Then our noble paladin Romano rang at the bell and asked the inside people to let in a couple of Russian admirers of the Director just to have a closer look of his house and garden. Once Romano had act as interpreter for a few minutes between Zeffirelli and Serghej Bondarchiuk.
They let us in. Is it necessary to explain what we could feel just seeing the post box with the name of our idol? We could draw on to the house and talk to a man who met us. Romano started telling him something while we took some photos close to the house. Zeffirelli in that period was not at home and even his secretary was absent. They proposed us to come again the following day to speak with his secretary but we decided otherwise.
Camera techniques are much more primitive. When you see this movie and compare it to later silent films, you will realize that there is an epoch between the two. The camera almost does not move, there are no close ups, people hauntingly move and every detail, every gesture seems to be important, which is to replace the words.
Romeo and Juliet: Not a Shakespearean Tale After All
Technically, it looks as if the play on a stage was filmed from one ankle. Therefore, putting all silents into one sack proves a lack of knowledge about early years of cinema. The cast are great for that period. Juliet is played by one of the first divas of early cinema, Francesca Bertini. She was a sort of Italian Theda Bara. Gustavo Serena, a famous Italian actor, performs in the role of Romeo.
Although other people were not similarly famous, there is one striking feature noticeable in them. Most of the cast are quite well built, particularly women. It is, probably, due to the preferences of the viewers of the early 20th century. Besides, the decorations are quite interesting considering the period the film was shot in, the costumes are also very good. The new soundtrack quite well fits to the scenes and does not distract the viewer as it takes place with some other restored silent films. Except for already mentioned factors, there is one more thing typical for silent movies in this film: dated moments that make today's viewers laugh despite the fact that their purpose was entirely different.
I burst into the gales of laughter when Romeo climbs the famous balcony on a ladder that Juliet pulls down to him. He has such difficulties in doing it and the camera is directed onto him for about 50 seconds. This is a minor example but it clearly shows how different we are now and how differently we watch a film. Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video. Start your free trial. Find showtimes, watch trailers, browse photos, track your Watchlist and rate your favorite movies and TV shows on your phone or tablet! IMDb More. Keep track of everything you watch; tell your friends.
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