Of the thirty-seven plays written by Shakespeare, almost half – fifteen in fact, were set in Italy or in the nearby areas. This is quite impressive when you stop to consider that Shakespeare lived in far away England during this his lifetime – nowhere near Italy.
Yet the master was certainly impressed with Italy, in particular the cities. It’s reasonably to believe that Shakespeare traveled to Italy during his lifetime and became enamored with the meadows, hills and cities he saw. Whatever the reason, Shakespeare’s Italy has certainly made its way into some of the most popular works of written literature in the world.
Set in Rome and in the surrounding countryside, Julius Caesar follows the rise of the beloved hero as well as his fall at the hands of ones he would have called friends. From the steps of the Roman forum to the streets through town, you’ll find many of the same locations Shakespeare described – sometimes in almost startling detail.
Romeo and Juliet
Set in fair Verona, Romeo and Juliet is a timeless tale of love, and even though the characters in the story are fictional, many of the locations used are not. There is even a balcony preserved and presented today as Juliet’s balcony. At the very least, you can admire the balcony and think of what it would have been should the story have been as real as it seems to us today.
Much Ado about Nothing
Out of the cities, a family celebrates a homecoming in the countryside of Italy only to get roped into a battle of wits and romance as couples fall in love and test each other to find who is the best suited for each other and who has remained virtuous. Italian names, customs and descriptions are found throughout the play, and the countryside of Italy is still just as remarkable today.
The Taming of the Shrew
Set in Padua, the city in northern Italy, The Taming of the Shrew follows a family through courting rituals and rules of tradition. With a full cast of Italian names and plenty of Italian cities through in for good measure, you’ll be able to track the couple featured in the play through Padua and into Verona and back again. Full of references to a way of life Shakespeare should have known little to nothing about, you can discover many of these elements by traveling similar pathways in the present day.