From a desk 6,115 miles across the Atlantic, Anna Ruggeri receives and replies to the love woes of San Juan Capistrano romantics.
Ruggeri is part of a 20-woman council called the Juliet Club, which answers women’s pleas for advice in letters to the home office in Verona, Italy.
And now, the South Orange County lovelorn have direct access to her and the other "Juliets."
“Anyone can write a letter to Juliet and receive an answer,” says Ann Stone, a volunteer at the San Juan Capistrano Regional Library. “There’s a mailbox I put on our checkout counter for people’s letters.”
The collection point may very well be the only one of its kinds currently to send good, old-fashioned mail in bulk from Southern California, Stone and Ruggeri said.
The pair met two summers ago when Ruggeri was an international employee in Yellowstone National Park. She wasn't yet a Juliet. A friendship was born.
Then Ruggeri became a Juliet.
“We are all volunteers; some of us have a job, others are students,” Ruggeri said. “Some people also come from abroad to be a [Juliet’s] Secretary even if just for a short time.”
The city of Verona sponsors the group and has since gained momentum as a tourist attraction because of its relevance to Shakespeare's romantic tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet.”
It also didn't hurt that they were the subject of a recent rom-com.
“We receive 60,000 letters a year from all over the world in every language,” said Ruggeri. “I’ve received letters from Mongolia and Armenia.”
For letters from San Juan, all one needs to do is include a sealed envelope, stamped with international postage, in the mailbox at the library. A letter from Juliet with her wise counsel will follow as fast as international carriers can work.
Here's an example of the missives Ruggeri reads:
I want to believe in. . .unending love and love even beyond death. It does have its own place in our lives. They are our sunshine, little rays which shine through the clouds of daily drudgery, which when it hits our face now and then, how beautiful life really is inspite of its banal reality.
“Everyday, I can read real love stories, and my answer sometimes can change" the course of the relationships, Ruggeri said. "I love to write letters by hand; it’s something incredibly romantic and full of power because the paper I keep in my hands – it had traveled for hundreds of thousands of miles, like a message in the bottle.”
The library's mailbox will be available until the weekend after Valentine’s Day for those romantics who are a wee-bit late in their letter-writing.
“Once we have enough, I will bundle them and send them to Verona,” Stone said.