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RTEmagicC_western_district_01.jpgIt’s not as if I’d never seen it before, but now I have stumbled across it twice in a month, and always about Verona. Medieval Verona – or rather Romeo and Juliet’s Verona, which means rather generic Middle Ages, but Middle Ages nonetheless.

So, when in a novel I read about Benvolio and Mercutio strolling through Via Mazzini, I very nearly choked on my tea – because Giuseppe Mazzini happens to be a XIXth father of Italian Unification, very unlikely to have had a street named after him at any point of the Middle Ages. And then I am fairly sure that Ponte della Vittoria, that is to say Victory Bridge, must have had some other name before WW1. And there were more like these: clearly the author did her research on a modern map of Verona, never bothering to check her street names…

And yesterday, while googling shakespearean images, I found this Czech boardgame set “in Prince Escalus’ Verona”… nice idea – except, the first thing I notice in the illustration of the board was a street named Viale Pascoli. Not only Viale , that is “Avenue”, is most definitely not a Medieval street type designation, but Giovanni Pascoli is, again, a XIXth Century poet. And next to poor Pascoli were other modern-sounding odonyms… Again, the game designer clearly relied on a modern map of Verona.

What can I say? It makes me unhappy. No matter how I am enjoyng the novel – or the game – an anacronistic odonym, just like any other anacronism , will jettison me out of the story. All the more because it is really not all that hard to get yourself a map of Medieval Verona – or, at the very least, to check street names on Wikipedia to find out whether there could be such a place in your chosen epoch…

The past is a foreign place, remember? They do things differently. The past in a foreign place is doubly foreign – and call me peevish if you like, but when you choose to set your story twice abroad, in time and place, there is no way around it, but to be doubly careful, doubly accurate, and double-double check your maps, streets, poets and avenues.

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