In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Teatro Alibert

Casanova mentions the Teatro Aliberti (also known as the Teatro Alibert and later as the Teatro delle Dame) only very briefly, not at all giving it its due as the powerhouse it was in Rome.

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This hotel now takes up the block where the Teatro Alibert once stood.

You’ll remember C’s trials with Barbaruccia, how she showed up at his apartment dressed as an abate, how the Cardinale gave her protection. While all this was playing out, Casanova was attempting to lay low and act as though all was normal, that he was not involved in the affair. His friend, the Abate Gama, shared Rome’s gossip about the girl.

“The story was interesting,” Casanova wrote, “and the attention with which I listened to it was far from offending the inquisitive Gama, who would certainly have told me nothing if he knew how deeply I was involved and how great my interest in the story must be. I went to the opera at the Teatro Aliberti.”

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Note the building on the right and the narrow streets, built for carriages and pedestrians.

This visit occurred in 1744. The theater was originally built in 1718 by Antonio D’Alibert for opera performances. At that time it was Rome’s largest theater, with seven tiers of boxes, though it was later enlarged even further in 1720. Though it was initially successful, it later went bankrupt and was sold, to be renovated and reopened in the 1730s, after a name change to the Teatro delle Dame. This is the version of the theater C would have visited, at the corner of Via Alibert and Via Margutta, not far from the Piazza di Spagna.

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Notice the lower sign pointing to Via Margutta

After other changes and permutations, the theater burned to the ground in February 1863. An inn was built on the site, and its latest incarnation is the Hotel Forte, which was flying its flag on the day I visited the street last summer with my guide Adriano Contini.

(Quotes from Casanova’s memoir History of My Life, Vol. 1, Ch. 10, edition translated by Willard R. Trask.)
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Sharing: Venice by Paint

Postcards from the Boot, a blog by Carla Gambescia, always includes luscious images. Here is her collection of artists’ depictions of our favorite city, titled “Seduced by the Light.” Enjoy!

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Monet captures a gondola on the speckled water. I actually own a puzzle of this image.

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“A” Is for Amore

I was going to come up with my own snappy title for this post, but Dianne Hales already has the best title! This is her new book, a joyful read you can dip into whenever you need an infusion of Italy in your life–which I need a lot of right now!

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In fact, that’s how I often enjoyed this book: standing in the kitchen reading a couple chapters to my partner RJ while he chopped the vegetables or stirred the pasta. Each chapter focuses on a letter of the Italian alphabet and shares history, tells personal stories, explains the Italian language, or just celebrates the glorious aspects of Italian culture.

If you know anything about Dianne, you know that she is in love with the Italian language. Sprinkled liberally throughout the book are Italian idiomatic expressions to enliven her storytelling. For example, even though Italian, like English, refers to a broken heart in a similar way, the Italians have a specific verb just for this phenomenon: spezzare.

The book can be infuriating, too–but that’s not its fault. When I read “E Is for Espresso” I then desperately wanted an Italian cappuccino from Caffe Brasilia, my go-to cafe on Strada Nova in Venice. It might be a very long time until I can make that dream come true, but at least Dianne’s book allows me to dream. I was actually supposed to be arriving in Italy this Friday–until the pandemic turned our world upside down.

But Dianne’s book lifted me up with its love of fun. The chapter for the letter H is titled “Hooray for the Italian ‘H!'” She even retells a children’s tale about the letter H, Acca, who, taunted by the other letters, runs away until the others realize how important and necessary he is.

My only disappointment in the book was the letter V: Vino won over Venice. But what would Italy be without vino? And Venice has a long history of going it alone, so I guess that fits.

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Venice in her sad moment

And besides loving fun, Dianne is generous. You can actually download “A” Is for Amore in pdf form for free! Then add a comment to this post to tell me which chapter was your favorite, or what part of Italian culture you’re jones in’ for right now.

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Venice in a  happy moment

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Virtual Venice with Luisella Romeo

Today I should have been arriving in France, followed by travels in Rome and then Venice. Of course, the corona virus has prevented me from making this trip. This will be only the second time since 1996 that I will not get to visit Venice. Though this makes me very sad, I am also grateful to have my health, to know that my family and friends are safe, and that we will see each other some time in the future.

In the meantime, I traveled to Venice virtually via a tour with Luisella Romeo. A revered tour guide and native Venetian, a few months ago Luisella pivoted her business, SeeVenice, to offer virtual tours via Zoom. My partner RJ and I chose to travel the Venetian lagoon with Luisella last month.

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Here’s the photo on her website for the lagoon tour.

We mixed up some spritz, leaving a pair of them for our back-fence neighbors Karen and David, who also signed up for the tour. Though it was 10:00 am in California, it was 6:00 pm where Luisella was, so we figured it was happy hour and time for our aperitivo.

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Luisella is immensely knowledgable. I always learn so much from her, and, being Venetian, she also offers a deep love of her city and its environs. She first told us about the history of the lagoon and its waterways, then dove (pun intended!) into descriptions of fishing in the lagoon. Her photos of the birds are a marvel. Joining her tour is so much more than being a tourist–I feel like I am a privileged friend joining her for a day in her beloved home town.

Sorry, but I won’t tell you more details about what we learned on our tour because I want you to experience it for yourself! Hiring Luisella for her knowledge and services is the least I can do to try to support a guide whose city has been shut by this pandemic.

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Back in 2018 when I met Luisella, she carried this lovely artichoke flower.

Luisella currently offers five virtual tours: “Venice and its Basics;” “The Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica: Power, Justice and Religion;” “Venice and its Art: A Wonder of Colours at the Accademia Galleries;” “Jewish Venice: The Places and the People;” and of course “The Venetian Lagoon” tour that we did.

And here’s some serendipity: When Luisella opened our gathering with introduction from the six couples who had signed up, we learned that there were folks from Santa Cruz, not far from our home in San Jose, California. By the end of the tour, I had a suspicion that we knew people in common, which turned out to be true. Zooming from San Jose with our guide in Venice, we met folks from Santa Cruz, just 30 miles away. You never know how travel will bring people together.

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A Giant Among Books

You all know that I’m a big fan of Venice (obviously!), but I’m also a big fan of Laura Morelli and her books set in Venice. Her newest book has just come out, and, though it’s set in Florence (gasp!), I wanted to tell everyone about it.

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Laura’s website offers this summary of The Giant:

“As a colossal statue takes shape in Renaissance Florence, the lives of a master sculptor and a struggling painter become stunningly intertwined.

Florence, 1500. Fresco painter Jacopo Torni longs to make his mark in the world. But while his peers enjoy prestigious commissions, his meager painting jobs are all earmarked to pay down gambling debts.

When Jacopo hears of a competition to create Florence’s greatest sculpture, he pins all his hopes on a collaboration with his boyhood companion, Michelangelo Buonarroti. But will the frustrated artist ever emerge from the shadow of his singularly gifted friend?

Based on a true story.”

I’ve ordered my copy and look forward to reading all about Michelangelo, Jacopo, and (gasp!) Florence. (Really, I do love Florence too!) With a background in the visual arts, and her deep knowledge of traditional artisans and their work, Laura brings rich imagery to the page, and her books like The Gondola Maker and The Painter’s Apprentice make me feel like I’m standing in a different time and place. I expect no less from The Giant.

(By the way, if you visit Laura’s website, you can get a free copy of her short story “Bridge of Sighs.” She also contributed a chapter to my book First Spritz Is Free, which you can download for free from the website.)

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Puzzle (7)

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The more of the puzzle I complete, the more that I want to be in Venice!

(Can you also see the crossword puzzle that I still haven’t completed? What’s a 7 letter word for “how the earth rotates?” Or a 6 letter word for “person ‘from around here’?”)

 

 

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La Morte di Casanova

Today being June 4, the date of Casanova’s death, it seemed like the perfect time to post this.

Duchcov Castle, aka Dux (image from Wikipedia)

Apparently there is some controversy about Casanova’s death, that he didn’t actually die on June 4, 1798. I reached out to Pablo Gunther, Adriano Contini, Tom Vitelli, and Marco Leeflang, who all confirmed that no scholar refutes this date. Gunther writes, “Hundreds of Casanovists saw [the death certificate] and never had a doubt.” In fact, Marco wrote to me, “I know of only one book in which deaths in Dux are reported and I have seen it, holding it in my hand, and I have published it in several spots.” I have no reason to doubt him, as he worked extensively at Waldstein’s castle in Dux and with the Dux authorities when organizing C’s papers.  Tom sent this:

“Here’s what Guy Endore says about it:
‘They buried him, after a simple ceremony, in the little cemetery of Dux in back of the Saint Barbara chapel. The stupid Bohemian who wrote out the mortuary tables thus inscribed the register: Juny 4, Herr Jacob Cassaneus, Venezianer, Im 84 Jahre. His name and his age are both wrong. . . .’
Of course, there’s a difference between a document that has mistakes in it and a document that has been faked…. Objectively, there is no question that Casanova died in his room at Dux on June 4, 1798. If we were to excavate the churchyard around the Santa Barbara chapel–as Marco started doing once–we would eventually find a pile of human bones from relocated individual graves, and among them would be Casanova’s.”

Wikimedia Commons offers this picture of the death certificate entry. Apparently a previous writer confused Giacomo Casanova’s death date with his brother’s death, but we really have no reason to doubt this document. There have been questions about Casanova’s burial site, as the marker was lost years ago, and the exact site is now lost. Perhaps some people have confused the two issues.

 

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Puzzle (6)

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The sides are really coming along!

I wonder if gondoliers spend any time looking at puzzles, movies, books, newspapers, and such to see how often they show up in others’ images? I know when I see a gondolier in a picture, I always check to see if it’s someone I know!

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Redefining Beauty: Giustina Rossi

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Why have I waited so long to post this video? Giustina Rossi is a Venetian hero and the story from farthest in the past from my collection of Beautiful Women in Venice. I cajoled a stranger on a busy day in Venice a couple summers ago to film me speaking about her. (What a very different scene from now, while Venice is barely emerging from months of lockdown!) While speaking for this video, I’m standing beneath a sculpture of Giustina at her window, just steps away from the Piazza San Marco.

Giustina was a mirror merchant who got fed up with the thugs who wanted to overthrow the Doge. So what did she do? Well, you’ll need to view the video to learn the whole story!

 

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This painting by Gabriel Bella, now in the Querini-Stampalia, shows the melee below Giustina’s window. The guy on the ground is her doing.

 

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Sharing: Barbara Lynn-Davis Interview

Tune in tomorrow (May 29) to hear a live interview with Barbara Lynn-Davis on Instagram. My life has intersected with Barbara’s in a number of ways–shared research, her contribution to First Spritz Is Free, and her participation on the author panel at the Casanova in Place symposium last year in Venice, where we finally met face to face. It was one of those moments when I felt like I had reconnected with someone I had already known for years.

Here’s what she posted about the interview so that you have the details to find her. I’ll be tuning in at 8:00 am Pacific time on the Instagram page for the Casanova Museum. They’ve been doing a series of interviews, including me!

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That’s Barbara during our author panel. She’s on the right, between Ian Kelly and me (laughing).

From Barbara:

This Friday, at 11 AM EST (5 PM Italian time ❤), I will be joining the Casanova Museum in Venice for a live interview on Instagram. We’ll talk about art, our beloved city of Venice, and of course, the legendary lover and the dangerous affair that changed his life — the subject of my book, Casanova’s Secret Wife
Please join me, send in live questions, and keep the fires of our passion for art, history, culture, wine, food, and all things Italian burning!
Go to @casanovamuseum on Instagram at 11 AM on Friday. Click on its live circle if you can’t hear me talking. Don’t forget to type in questions in the comment section!
Join me by phone, tablet, or computer on May 29th. Go outside, take a walk, and I’ll entertain you with live stories on Instagram. 
Barbara
P.S. 
Check out the masks when masking was fun & exciting … 
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