Venice: the adventures of Giacomo Casanova

This is the story of Giacomo Casanova, one of the most interesting and controversial figures

Calle Malpiero
The Campo and Church of San Samuele (red arrow) where Casanova was born and baptized (by Lubiesque, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Venice in the 1730s
(by Adriano CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The Campo and Church of San Samuele (red arrow) where Casanova was born and baptized (by Lubiesque, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova was born in Venice, in Calle Della Commedia (now Calle Malipiero), near the church of San Samuele, where it is possible to admire a commemorative plaque on the facade of the palazzo of the same name. After Giacomo’s birth, his parents had five more children: Francesco, Giovanni Battista, Faustina Maddalena (28 December 1731 – 20 August 1736), Maria Maddalena Antonia Stella (born 25 December 1732) and Gaetano Alvise (born 16 February 1734).

Their father, Gaetano Casanova, was an actor and dancer from Parma of remote Spanish origin (at least according to the dubious genealogy traced by Casanova at the beginning of his “Histoire”, his paternal ancestors would have come from Zaragoza, in Spanish Aragon), while their mother, Zanetta Farussi, was a Venetian actress who, in her profession, was far more successful than her husband;  we find her mentioned even by Carlo Goldoni in his “Memoirs”, where he described her as: “. ..a beautiful and very talented widow’. However, a popular rumour considered Giacomo Casanova to be the result of his mother’s adulterous affair with the Venetian patrician Michele Grimani, and Casanova himself claimed, albeit cryptically in his booklet “Neither loves nor women”, to be the patrician’s natural son. But further evidence in support of this thesis might derive from the fact that, after his father’s death, the Grimani family took care of him with an assiduousness that appears to have gone beyond the normal protective and liberal relations that Venetian patrician families practised towards persons who, in some capacity, had served the household. This argument would also be confirmed by the fact that the Republic’s justice, usually quite severe, never particularly inflicted its punishment on him (although his numerous mischievous) as part of a renowned lineage. 

Orphaned by his father when he was only eight years old and his mother constantly travelling due to her profession, Giacomo was raised by his maternal grandmother Marzia Baldissera in Farussi. As a child, he was in poor health, which is why his grandmother took him to a sorceress who, by performing a complicated ritual, managed to cure him of the ailments from which he was suffering. After that childhood experience, his interest in magical practices was to accompany him throughout his life. Still, he was the first to laugh at the credulity that so many showed towards esotericism.

Introduction

1. Calle Malpiero

2. Church of San Samuele

3. San Samuele Theatre

4. Arrest and imprisonment at the 'Piombi' Prison

5. The last house

6. Farewell to Venice and death

Conclusion