Giacomo Casanova

On this day in history: Casanova born

History of Italy News

The adventurer and author whose name is synonymous with ‘womaniser’ was born on 2nd April 1725. A Venetian, Giacomo Casanova travelled widely and wrote an autobiography Story of my Life.

Casanova may have the reputation as ‘a bit of a lad’, but his autobiography ‘Story of My Life’ is regarded as one of the most authentic sources on European social life in the 18th century. Widely travelled, Casanova had several professions and was a prolific writer. But he also spent a lot of his time having romantic liaisons and gambling.

At the time, Venice was part of the Grand Tour for young men coming of age and became the pleasure capital of Europe. With Carnival, gambling houses and courtesans, it was certain to attract those who wanted a good time, as well as culture.

Casanova graduated from the University of Padua with a degree in law. For a short time, he worked as an ecclesiastical lawyer. His other jobs included clergyman, military officer, violinist, businessman and spy.

Casanova the womaniser

Attractive to women, being tall and dark and wearing his long hair powdered and curled, Casanova’s life followed a recurring pattern: travel, passionate affairs, run out of money, prison for debt.

He wrote over 20 novels, plays, and collections of essays and letters. However, the quest for pleasure was a constant distraction.  Eventually, he was arrested and imprisoned in a wing of the Doge’s Palace in terrible conditions.

Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei sospiri) Venice

According to his memoirs, he hatched a daring escape plan, making a hole in the ceiling of his cell, climbing on to the roof, breaking back into the building through a window and walking out past the guard on the main entrance before making his escape in a gondola across the lagoon.

Expulsion from Venice

Casanova headed to Paris, where he started the first state lottery. Later, he went on a spying mission earning enough money to start his own business. However, his weak spot – women – would be his undoing yet again. With too much focus on affairs with his employees, he lost his money and found himself in debtor’s prison again.

When Casanova returned to Venice, he dined out on the tale of his escape from his prison cell in the Doge’s Palace. It wasn’t long before he was expelled from the city.

His final years were spent living in the Castle of Dux in Bohemia as librarian to Count Joseph Karl von Waldstein. It was then he found and enjoyed the time to write and produce his memoirs.

Castle Dux, where Casanova worked as a librarian

Casanova died at the age of 73 in Dux, now part of the Czech Republic.

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