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There is no proof that a Capuleti (Capulet) family ever lived here (or, if they did, that a young girl named Juliet ever existed), and it wasn't until 1905 that the city bought what was an abandoned, overgrown garden and decided its future. Rumor is that this was once actually a whorehouse.

So powerful is the legend of Juliet that over half a million tourists flock here every year to visit the simple courtyard and home that are considerably less affluent-looking than the sumptuous Franco Zeffirelli version as you may remember it (the movie was filmed in Tuscany). Many are those who leave behind layer upon layer of graffiti along the lines of "Valentina, ti amo!" or who engage in the peculiar tradition (whose origin no one can seem to explain) of rubbing the right breast (now buffed to a bright gold) of the 20th-century bronze statue of a forever nubile Juliet.

The curious might want to fork over the entrance fee to see the spartan interior of the 13th-century home, restored in 1996. Ceramics and furniture on display are authentic to the era but did not belong to Juliet's family -- if there ever was a Juliet at all. No one is willing to confirm (or deny) that the balcony was added to the palazzo as recently as 1928 (though that doesn't stop many a young lass from posing on it, staring dreamily at the sky).

La Tomba di Giulietta (Juliet's Tomb; tel. 045-800-0361) is about a 15-minute walk south of here (near the Adige River on Via delle Pontiere 5; admission 4.50€ adults, 3€ students and those over 65, 1€ children 8-14, and free first Sun of each month; hours are Mon 1:30-7:30pm and Tues-Sun 9am-7pm; last admission is 45 min. before closing). The would-be site of the star-crossed lovers' suicide is found within the graceful medieval cloisters of the Capuchin monastery of San Francesco al Corso. Die-hard romantics may find this tomb, with its surely posed "sarcophagus," rather more evocative than the crowded scene at Juliet's House and worth the trip. Others will find it overrated and shouldn't bother. The adjacent church is where their secret marriage was said to have taken place. A small museum of frescoes is also adjacent.