Today is international Shakespeare Day and 2014 also marks a very special anniversary for one of England’s greatest writers: it’s his 450th birthday! While you could stay at home and celebrate with a trip to the Globe, why not get out and tour Italy like a true Shakespearean?
When you think about Shakespeare, no doubt England is the first place that comes to mind. We’ve covered Stratford-upon-Avon on the blog before as part of our Heritage Britain series. If you want to pay tribute to the Bard, Italy is just as good as any place to do it. About a third of Shakespeare’s plays take place here and a tour could include destinations like Venice (home to the famous merchant and Othello) and Verona (where you’ll find hundreds of love-struck girls on any given day standing under Juliet’s balcony). But let’s not forget Rome or Padua too!
The Rialto is the heart of “Shakespearean” Venice but as you wander the city, you can easily imagine just about any neighbourhood as the setting for one of his street scenes. Just about any palazzo would do for a good bit of dialogue. In his day, the Rialto bridge would have been made of wood but the Erberia and Pesceria markets are likely still the same. The canals and views from the bell towers are the same today as they would have been in Shakespeare’s time. On a budget? Here’s our guide on how to experience Venice for free.
Plays set here: The Merchant of Venice, Othello
Thanks to Shakespeare, Verona is the capital of love. Romeo and Juliet fans flock from around the world to visit the world famous balcony. Even by 1597, when Shakespeare wrote his most famous play, the story of Romeo and Juliet was already very well known around in Italy and even then, Verona was the site of pilgrimage for many star-struck lovers. Top sights to visit? Juliet’s tomb, Romeo’s house, the place of Romeo and Tybalt’s duel and finally Juliet’s house.
Plays set here: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Rome is a must on any Shakespearean tour of Italy. Where to start? The Roman Forum of course! This was the centrepiece of ancient Rome. Search out the Rostrum, the elaborate podium where Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony gave his famous speech, “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” Rome loves Shakespeare so much that it built a replica of the Globe Theatre in the heart of the Villa Borghese. It is startlingly close to the original on London’s South Bank and a treat to visit if you’re in Rome. Want to start your tour here? Catch cheap flights to Rome onboard Ryanair and easyJet.
Plays set here: Julius Caesar, Titus Andronicus, Coriolanus, Anthony and Cleopatra
Padua is an easy day trip from Venice and attracts many thanks to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The Scrovegni Chapel is one of Padua’s most famous sights with its incredible frescoes that date back to the early 1300s. Other must-see sights from Shakespeare’s days: The Palazzo della Ragione, Saint Anthony Basilica (pictured above), Donatello’s bronze statue of the Venetian general Gattamelata and Prato della Valle, one of Europe’s biggest squares.
Plays set here: The Taming of the Shrew
What’s your favourite Shakespeare play? Have you ever planned a trip around a book you liked?