Venice: the adventures of Giacomo Casanova
  • Europe /
  • Italy /
  • Venice

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

Church of San Samuele
Church of San Samuele (by Didier Descouens, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)
Giacomo Casanova portrait

Church of San Samuele (by Didier Descouens, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons)

The church was built around the year 1000 by the Boldù and Soranzo, noble families from Venice. At the beginning of the 12th century, it was destroyed by two successive fires and rebuilt. It was almost completely renovated in 1685. On the outside, one can see the portico’s structure, now closed, on top of which a loggia was built in 1952.

It is named after the biblical character Samuel because, by tradition, his relics are preserved inside. According to Martinelli, a renowned Italian architect, it also houses a hand of St Valentine, the patron saint of lovers, whose relics are scattered in numerous crypts and churches throughout Italy.

According to some writings, Casanova was baptised in this very church, on 2 April 1725 CE. Giacomo grew up, and after his father’s death at the age of nine, he was sent to Padua, where he remained until the end of his studies. In 1737, the young man enrolled at the university where, as Giacomo recalls in his Memoirs, he graduated in law. The question of whether he actually obtained the academic title is very controversial. In fact, Casanova describes in his writings the years he spent at the University of Padua, claiming to have graduated without providing concrete evidence.

Having completed his studies, Giacomo Casanova travelled to Corfu, where he was later attendant to the Captain of the Galleys Antonio Renier, and to Constantinople, before returning to Venice in 1742. In his home town, he obtained employment in the office of the lawyer Marco da Lezze. On 18 March 1743, his grandmother Marzia Baldissera died. With the death of his grandmother, to whom he was very close, an essential chapter in his life came to a close: his mother decided to leave the beautiful and expensive house in Calle Della Commedia and accommodate her children in a more economically viable manner. This event deeply marked Giacomo, taking away his crucial point of reference. In the same year, he was locked up, due to his rather turbulent conduct, in the Fort of Sant’Andrea in Venice from the end of March to the end of July. Rather than the application of a penalty, it was a warning aimed at trying to correct his rebellious character.

Set free, he left, thanks to his mother’s good offices, for Calabria, following the bishop of Martirano, who was on his way to take over the diocese. Once he arrived at his destination, frightened by the poverty of the place, he asked for and was granted leave. He travelled to Naples and Rome, where in 1744, he served with Cardinal Acquaviva, Spain’s ambassador to the Holy See. This experience ended soon due to his imprudent conduct: he had hidden a runaway girl in the Spanish Palace, the cardinal’s official residence.

In February 1744, he arrived in Ancona, where he was forced to spend quarantine in the lazaretto, and here he had woven an affair with a Greek slave girl lodged in the room above his. Later, in the same city, Casanova had one of his most peculiar adventures: he fell in love with a seductive castrated singer named Bellino, convinced that he was actually a woman. It was only after a close courtship that Casanova discovered what he had hoped for: Bellino was a girl, Teresa (with whom he would have his illegitimate son Cesarino Lanti). In order to survive after being orphaned, she passed herself off as a castrated young man so that she could sing in the theatres of the Papal States, where the presence of women on stage was forbidden.


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