My partner RJ pushed at the door with a fingertip–and it swung open! We were in the unlit foyer of Casanova’s house!
A couple weeks ago when I was in Venice, I was walking the tours in my book to double-check everything. As we were on Walk #6, we came to Casanova’s birthplace, a house on the former Calle de la Comedia (now the Calle Malipiero). This was actually the first time I had purposefully been to this house (though I had walked past it numerous times without knowing what it was). You see, just at the end of the street is a plaque on the corner building claiming to be Casanova’s birthplace. While the Casanova family did live there when Giacomo was a child, it’s virtually assured that he wasn’t born there. A Casanova scholar named Helmut Watzlawick looked through the old cadastrals or property documents and determined that house #3082 was actually the birthplace.
Well, I didn’t know that when I was there in 2011. I read Helmut’s paper on this after I got home!
So here we were, RJ and I in the foyer, wondering what to do next. Climb the stairs, of course! There was really nothing much to see except the light pouring down the middle of the spiral staircase and some doormats and the occasional potted plant in front of a door. Do these renters realize that little Giacomo once ran up and down their steps? That in one of these apartments his mother probably screamed in the agony of giving birth, not knowing how her son would extend the family’s fame?
We poked our heads out the back door to a teensy courtyard with some mossy bricks and a feeble winter light. In the dark foyer, a wooden table sat under the mailboxes in the wall. We left a few Seductive Venice postcards for the inhabitants and wrote on them, “See p. 105 for this house.” Will any of them follow up?