By Romina Monaco
Thoughts of Italy conjure up visions of picturesque landscapes, quaint villages and historic cities. The visual and culinary arts as well as viticulture are ingrained in Italian culture. Romance and passion are the emotions are that fuel the hearts of the people. Ten out of the thirty-seven Shakespearean plays happen to be set in Italy and it’s no surprise that La Dolce Vita has been envied by other Europeans for centuries.
OTHELLO & THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
In the still of the night treachery and love unfold along the moonlit canals of Venezia. Near Piazza San Marco, Othello the Moor is manipulated by another’s greed and jealousy. Subsequently he tragically murders his wife, Desdemona. Nearby, a merchant of Venice named Antonio offers a pound of his own flesh to Shylock, the money lender. By doing so he secures a bond for the impoverished nobleman, Bassanio so he may be a worthy suitor for wealthy and beautiful Portia. The web of waterways and the regal palazzos that line them make the perfect setting for romance and intrigue. Paramours meet on the Rialto Bridge, escaping along the narrow canal below while servants congregate at the market square to exchange clandestine letters for their ladies and lords. This beautiful city-on-the-water is synonymous with romance!
Julius Caesar & Titus Andronicus
Patriotic Romans and raging Goths battle along the Appenine Way finally circling the perimeters Imperial Rome. Enslaved by the General Titus, Tamora Queen of the Goths conspires against her enemy. A tragic ending riddled with murder and revenge awaits all. The dictator Julius Caesar, betrayed by his once-loyal friend Brutus, enters the senate house and is savagely murdered by his colleagues. The beauty within the marble columns and palaces masks the brutality that was once Rome. The Coliseum, the Roman Forum including the Pantheon are all must –sees if visiting this ancient city.
THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
In a country villa on the outskirts of picturesque Padua the brash and controlling Petruchio is set on taming his new wife, Katherine. Perhaps the temperamental woman plotted her escape while praying at the Basilica del Santo or the Scrovegni Chapel. Although it did not exist during the time setting of the Shrew, the Prato delle Valle is another wonderful attraction. One of the biggest squares in Europe, it houses a large Italianesque garden and is lined by seventy-eight statues portraying famous and historic citizens of Padua.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
The gentlewoman Helena, disguised as a pilgrim, quickly crosses the Ponte Vecchio atop the Arno River to meet her conspirator Diana. After loving another, Count Bertram finally swears his loyalty and love to Helena within the luxurious Palazzo Pitti. Known as the cradle of the Renaissance Movement, Florence is home to the Uffizi Gallery, Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio. Walking tours will not only guide you through these sites but will also promenade you to the Accademia which houses Michelangelo’s famed David. Florence is also famous for its panoramic countryside sprawling with vineyards and Cyprus trees.
THE WINTER’S TALE, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING & THE TEMPEST
There is much ado about the turbulent attraction between the beautiful Beatrice and her paramour, Benedick. Set in a villa outside of Messina the lively landscape is perfect for frolicking on lazy, hot days. However, jealousy and deception falls throughout Sicilia when King Leontes makes an arch nemesis out of his childhood friend, Polixenes King of Bohemia. Although a tragedy with happy ending, A Winter’s Tale is an amusing name for a play set in the deep, arid south. Set in the Mediterranean, the exact location of The Tempest is unknown. Shakespearean scholars believe it to be an island off the coast of Italy so what could be better than The Aeolian Islands!
VERONA, MANTUA and MILAN
ROMEO AND JULIET & THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
On the cobbled streets of Verona two gentlemen, Proteus and Valentine bid each other adieu. Valentine finds himself in Milan’s Castello Sforzesco falling head over heels in love with Silvia, the Duke of Milan’s feisty daughter. He stands before the great Duomo and ponders his love. After much turmoil the gentlemen finally reunite in the green forests of Mantua.
From the Capulet balcony on Via Capello, the young and impressionable Juliet calls down to her admirer Romeo. There are many sites in Verona that pay homage to this magnificent Shakespearean play. Although there is question as to whether the star-crossed lovers did indeed exist, the Veronese have utilized this iconic tale to brand their city as one of Italy’s hottest tourist destinations. It was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Centre due to its remarkable medieval and renaissance architecture as well as its ability to develop uninterruptedly for two thousand years. Campari in the market of la Piazza delle Erbe before a visit to the ancient Arena is a must. Don’t miss a visit to Castelvecchio, the remarkable 14th century medieval fortress as well as the Duomo which dates back to the 12th century.