Casanova's Venice, Venice

Casanova's Venice (Self Guided), Venice

One of Venice's most famous personalities, Giacomo Casanova is remembered today as a womanizer, but was much more than that. Born in a family of theater actors in 1725, he came through as highly intellectual and very sharp from his very childhood, having become in his time an erudite scholar, a diplomat and spy, and a metropolitan ‘avant la lettre’, who frequented the high society and seduced women when opportunities presented themselves. His method was as simple as it was effective: he would study a woman, going along with her moods and finding out what was missing in her life, then providing it. He was the Ideal Lover.

He tried other things too: at one point he wanted to be Pope; at another point – a musician, but his main passions were women, gambling, writing, and alchemy. Above all, Casanova was a great salesman and risk-taker, and that may account for most of his actual successes in love.

This self-guided walk will show you the places of great significance in the life of Casanova, starting with his family’s house on Calle Malipiero (near Palazzo Grassi), the nearby house where he was actually born, and the parish church where he was baptized one year later.

There are many places Casanova used to frequent in the city, among which the historic Caffe Florian (where he used to meet or pick up ladies), the Ponte delle Tette (where he would procure topless ladies), or the Calle Vallaresso – once a gambling haven that provided many opportunities to socialize, flirt, and make new connections.

You will also get to see the fine Palazzo Malipiero where Casanova spent some of the best of times, and, by contrast, the Palazzo Ducale, where he barely survived in utterly deplorable conditions.

Follow this self-guided, dedicated walking tour to be plunged into Casanova's adventurous time in Venice.

Getting to Sight #1. The first tour stop (Calle Malipiero) can be reached by: Water Bus: 1, 2, 2/, N
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Casanova's Venice Map

Guide Name: Casanova's Venice
Guide Location: Italy » Venice (See other walking tours in Venice)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.5 Km or 2.8 Miles
Author: naomi
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Calle Malipiero (Casanova Family House)
  • Calle de Muneghe
  • Chiesa di San Samuele
  • Palazzo Malipiero
  • Calle Vallaresso (Ridotto)
  • Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)
  • Caffe Florian
  • Ponte delle Tette
  • Cantina do Spade
  • Casanova Museum and Experience
Calle Malipiero (Casanova Family House)

1) Calle Malipiero (Casanova Family House)

Giacomo Casanova was born in 1725; his mother was an actress and his purported father a dancer, but his real father was the aristocratic Grimani, owner of the San Samuele Theatre.

Finding the Casanova family house on Calle Malipiero may not be too easy as the search takes you off the tourist trail and into the backstreets. The young boy lived with his brother and two sisters on this quiet street until his 9th birthday, when he was sent to a boarding house on the mainland in Padua. Later, he shuttled back and forth from Venice to Padua to continue his law studies at the university, which he finished at 14 years of age.

Following his grandmother's death, and with his own mother too busy pursuing her acting and love life in Poland, Giacomo was eventually evicted from his childhood home when the Grimanis sold his family estate. Having pocketed the money for all the furniture and fittings, the now 18-year-old took up priesthood on the island of Murano, away from the women who – by this time – already ruled his passions.
Calle de Muneghe

2) Calle de Muneghe

Giacomo’s grandmother, Marzia, lived on Calle de le Muneghe, and it is here that academics believe Giacomo was actually born (and not, as previously claimed, on Calle de la Comedia – now Calle Malipiero). His parents most likely lived here, at No. 2993, during their first year of marriage until they departed for theatre work in London during 1726, leaving the one-year-old to be raised by his grandmother. Later, as a 17-year-old, Casanova would nurse his beloved grandmother in ill health until her death in the same Calle de le Muneghe home.
Chiesa di San Samuele

3) Chiesa di San Samuele

San Samuele is very effectively positioned in the eponymous campo, between the Grassi and Malipiero palaces, thus counting among the few churches in Venice that overlook the Grand Canal.

Housing relics attributed to the Biblical Samuel, the church bears the distinction of being one of only a handful of Venetian churches dedicated to an Old Testament prophet rather than a Roman Catholic saint. It is also unique in that its late-Gothic apse has remained intact despite the restructuring of its nave and facade in 1685. The walls and vaults of this apse have been restored starting in 1999, and are one of the few surviving fresco cycles of early Venetian Renaissance.

The very impressive, monumental bell tower in white Istrian stone stands thirty meters high and – although partially incorporated into a nearby house – is certainly among the most beautiful in Venice.

Although still used for worship, San Samuele is quite difficult to actually find open. A favorable opportunity would be on the occasion of the Biennale, when it displays additional elements beyond those historical and religious, which remain considerable.

This is the parish church where Giacomo Casanova's parents wed in 1724, where he was baptized one year later, where he attended church services as a child, and to which he was eventually assigned as a teenager, applying himself to advanced classes in the Italian language and in poetry taught by the Abbot Schiavo.

On February 14, 1740, as he approached his fifteenth birthday, he was tonsured by the Patriarch of Venice as a sign of humility, and shortly afterwards he delivered his first sermon to a delighted audience at the church. Despite this, the profane world held a greater fascination for him than Latin texts or theological conundrums. He saw no reason to choose between the love of God and the love of women. Before long, a thick thatch of hair or wig obscured Casanova’s priestly tonsure, and his cascades of passion continued unabated. Eventually, while launching into his second sermon, his head clouded with wine drunk in the company of aristocrats, he forgot his words and dropped to the floor fainting. Disgraced, he renounced being a churchman and fled to Padua, where he diligently pursued his studies and received his law degree.
Palazzo Malipiero

4) Palazzo Malipiero

Clearly fancying the good life, the teenager Casanova befriended a 76-year-old aristocrat, Senator Malipiero, who resided in Palazzo Malipiero. From 1740 onwards, he lived in the grandiose Palazzo, where he learned about fine food and fine wines as well as how to conduct himself in high society. Here, in one of the most celebrated homes in Venice, he established relationships with a number of influential figures who "knew everything that went on in town", and with a great many fashionable ladies "who lived their lives to the full".

During this time, his carnal knowledge of the opposite sex was initiated by two sisters, Nanetta and Marta, when they were 14 and 16 years of age, respectively. Casanova felt himself falling in love with both and claimed his lifetime pursuit of women was rooted in this early encounter. The experience certainly emboldened him to venture deeper into society. Venetian women had a style all their own, which drew outsiders to their seductive, playful, fiery style. They dyed their hair many shades of blond, wore elaborate makeup, and regarded their admirers with a provocative expression, daring them to try their luck.

After being caught, in flagrante delicto, "dallying" with Senator Malipiero's young protégé, Teresa Imer, Casanova was banished from the Palazzo in 1742. Humiliated, he had to endure another dislocation when the priests supervising his education transferred him to a seminary, thus again preventing him from falling prey to the snares of the world. Nine days after arriving at the seminary, Casanova was dismissed for being found in bed with a young boy. While he seems to have been innocent on that occasion, in the years to come he would not deny himself the occasional homosexual adventure.
Calle Vallaresso (Ridotto)

5) Calle Vallaresso (Ridotto)

Calle Vallaresso is a street next to the Piazza San Marco where, for centuries, a large number of gambling houses had sprung up. Casanova frequented the street since, for a profligate and a spendthrift such as himself, gambling was an easy way to refresh his fortunes and came along with many opportunities to socialize, flirt, and make new connections.

Casanova's favorite spot for a game of cards – as well the ideal backdrop for his conquests – is now the lavishly decorated "grand ballroom" of the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal, which used to be a major gambling house – "Il Ridotto" – until 1774, when it had closed permanently by order of the reformer Giorgio Pisani. Here, between walls covered with gilded leathers, nobles, or indeed anyone wearing a mask (baùta), could play.

When games were played strictly according to the rules, however, the house (or bank) had practically no advantage, so in time "Il Ridotto" and other gambling establishments devised subtle ways to dupe the punters. This was precisely what happened to Casanova, too, who had lost his fair share of fortunes over the years. At one point in time, he himself managed a small casino (in partnership with a wealthy backer).
Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

6) Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) (must see)

Built on the foundations of a 9th-century fortress, this palace is unquestionably the finest secular European building of its time which, in the course of centuries, had served many purposes, including Doge residence, seat of the Venetian government, court of law, civil office, and even a prison.

First built in the 14th century, much of the original palace was destroyed by fire in the 16th century reducing to ashes most of the art treasures held inside. Some of the greatest Venetian masters of the time, such as Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian, Bellini, and Tiepolo, contributed to restoring the palace to its former glory, recreating gilded stucco, sculptures, frescoes, and canvases.

A blend of Byzantine and Gothic architecture on the outside, inside the palace is all Classical which, in turn, led the art critic John Ruskin to declare it “the central building of the world”.

The interior of the palace – spectacular furnishings and paintings, marvelously adorned ceilings – reveals lavishness on the scale that is hard to match. The most outstanding is the Grand Council chamber, featuring Tintoretto’s “Paradise”, reportedly the world’s largest oil painting. Running up to it, in terms of grandeur, is the Sala dello Scrutinio or the “Voting Hall” embellished with paintings depicting Venice’s glorious past.

A stark contrast to this splendor are the cell-blocks on the opposite side of the canal – grim remnants of the horror of the medieval justice – linked to the outside world by the Bridge of Sighs by which the prisoners were led to their cells. The word “sighs” refers to the laments of the numerous victims forced across the bridge to face certain torture and possibly death at the hands of the state inquisitors appointed by the city.

To get the most of your time at Palazzo Ducale, use the infrared audio guide available at the entrance and hear a fascinating story of the 1,000-year-old maritime republic of Venice and the intricacies of the government that once ruled it.


On the night of 25 July 1755, aged 30, Casanova was arrested for affront to religion and common decency and was sentenced to five years imprisonment without having had a trial. He was taken to the Doge's Palace and put in a cell under its roof, which was covered with lead plates. In summer, the lead roof absorbed the heat and turned the place into an oven, but prisoners also suffered greatly from the "millions of fleas".

Casanova's physical distance from the opulence of Venice and the center of government was negligible, the psychological distance immeasurable. Eventually, after 15 months of torment and despair, he managed to escape by making a hole in the ceiling and descending his way to freedom with bed sheet ropes. The only person ever to escape from the prison of Doge's Palace, he first sought refuge in Munich, then Strasbourg, and completed the final leg of his journey by coach to Paris, where he would start a new life.

Book in advance for the guided "Secret Itinerary" tour that takes you into otherwise restricted quarters and hidden passageways, such as the Doge’s private chambers, the torture chambers where prisoners were interrogated, and the two cells that Casanova occupied.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am–7pm, last admission 6pm (Apr-Oct); 8:30am–5:30pm, last admission 4:30pm (Nov-Mar)
Caffe Florian

7) Caffe Florian

Opened in 1720 by Florian Francesconi and called by Napoleon "one of the world’s most beautiful drawing rooms", Caffè Florian is the oldest coffee house in continuous operation in Italy and the second oldest in the World (after Café Procope in Paris). Due to its prestigious position, it is almost a symbol of Venice; the meeting place of artists and poets, writers and politicians, including Wagner, Goethe, Lord Byron and also Casanova, who favored the Caffè Florian because it was the first establishment to permit the entry of women (whom he was always so eager to court).

Here, surrounded by local history, one can enjoy an amazing range of cakes and coffees, expensive and served by well-dressed waiters to tiny marble tables for two. The pleasure you get is definitely worth it; however, when the resident musicians are serenading (which is one of the reasons why you'd choose the caffè in the first place) be prepared for an additional €6 per person to be tacked onto your bill. The mood is calm and relaxing (other than the occasional birds that may come and harass) and you can request songs from the musicians.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10am–9pm; Fri-Sat: 9am-11pm; Sun: 9am-9pm
Ponte delle Tette

8) Ponte delle Tette

Ponte delle Tette is a small bridge in the heart of Venice's former Red Light district of San Cassiano. It takes its name ("Bridge of the Tits") from use by prostitutes who once paraded topless here in an attempt to attract clients and convert suspected homosexuals. The procedure was encouraged by Venetian officers in order to repress what they considered a new social problem.

Going the extra mile in its role of diverting men from "sin against nature", the Republic of Venice allowed prostitutes to use lanterns to illuminate their breasts at night, while also occasionally paying them to stand in a line across the bridge with breasts exposed (such display had the extra motivation of excluding transvestite prostitutes).

The Red Light district in Venice was legalized at the beginning of the 16th century. Casanova was said to be a frequent visitor, hunting his next victim.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Cantina do Spade

9) Cantina do Spade

Dating from the 15th century, Cantina do Spade is one of the oldest taverns in Venice and was mentioned in Casanova's memoirs. Tucked away in a shadowy alleyway near the Rialto Bridge, it was once at the very heart of Venice's Red Light district – an area Casanova knew only too well. Here is where he wined and dined his romantic conquests – especially the beautiful courtesans, though he would probably not recognize the place of his assignations since nowadays it is quite modern internally and the historical aspects are unrecognized.

The venue serves the beloved cicchetti (small snacks), ranging from savory fried seafood to spicy "picante pani", all paired perfectly with a nice selection of wines. Try the creamed salt cod ("baccalà mantecato") and the "mozzarella in carroza" (which is crusted fried mozzarella), both favorites among locals. The friendly service and generous portions (which are reasonably priced, too) may even have you coming back for more.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed-Sun: 10am–3pm / 6–10pm; Tue: 6–10pm
Casanova Museum and Experience

10) Casanova Museum and Experience

Housed in a Gothic-style building with a notably rich façade that looks over the Misericordia canal, the Casanova Museum is a long-deserved hommage to this most interesting man in the city where he was born and was twice expelled from.

Unlike a traditional museum with chronologically-ordered artifacts and memorabilia, the place was conceived as a multi-media and emotional experience, with multi-language audio guides that play automatically as you enter the various rooms. The employees (all young women, appropriately enough) wear period dresses – which, again, is far from typical of other Venice museums.

After an audio/video introduction to Casanova's roots and early life, one eventually gets to try on the 3D virtual reality headset – a highlight experience that places visitors in the shoes of Casanova himself. The exhibition path finally ends in perhaps the most representative room of our hero's life – the bedroom – where, amidst silk and damask fabrics, visitors can catch a glimpse of a real 18th-century alcove.

At the end of the visit, you receive a glass of Casanova prosecco that can be bought in the shop with an original logo, along with other souvenirs and gift items.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–6:30pm

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