Quattro Minuti con Casanova: The Casino

Americans think of a casino as a place to go gambling. During Casanova’s 18th century, a casino was a small casa, the sort of pleasure apartment that they brought their friends or lover to. Wealthy nobles often had casini where they could enjoy a more intimate evening away from the drafty palazzo and formal manners.

Casanova was no nobleman, but he did rent a casino for a very special guest–M.M., a nun who he had an affair with. He wanted to impress her, so he rented the casino of Lord Holderness, the English resident. His description of the rooms is quite delicious!

This summer, I visited the building that used to house C’s casino. It’s now the Hotel Lisbon, off the Campo Barozzi near Campo San Moise and the Gritti Palace Hotel. The manager was kind enough to film this episode of Quattro Minuti con Casanova. I especially like that the gondoliers keep gliding by outside the window.

Click on this link: Casanova’s casino

If you want the full description of the casino, please read it all in my book, Seductive Venice, page 121. Or of course you can read Casanova’s memoirs, History of my Life, which is where I got it!

In this video, I tell about C’s first meeting with his lover M.M., who he met across town at Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo. I posted this video a while ago, but in case you want to see the two of them together to get the full story, here it is: Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo



About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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9 Responses to Quattro Minuti con Casanova: The Casino

  1. John Peter Maher says:

    Some Italian words were borrowed by the French, then re-patriated to Italy, where they now co-exist with the true Italian term. The gambling casino is one of the Frenchified words; it is accented on the ultima (last syllable) and is invariable, that is they have the same form in plural as in singular, and the letter O is marked with a diacritic. For example “i migliori casinò — the best “casinos”. But the “little house” (sugar shack) is accented on the letter I, and it pluralizes: il singular casino/ plural i casini: In 1958 the casini” — houses of prostitution — disappeared under a law sponsored by the do-gooder Signora Merlin. (I didn’t get to Italy till 1959.)

    • Thanks for sharing these details! I haven’t found such a detailed explanation anywhere else. I thought the “casino” was a little “casa,” coming from the influence of the Spanish language into Venetian.

      • John Peter Maher says:

        French-Italian connections are many. I first landed in Italy during my US Army hitch (1959), and I return there often. I lived in Vicenza and Verona for over two years, loaded for bear, so to speak, with an MA in Latin and Greek, good knowledge of French, Spanish and Serbian (US Army Counter-intelligence Corps – CIC). Venice is closer to Dalmatia and Bosnia, a largely Serb land, than it is to Rome. There’s a strong Slavic element in Venice. Walk from St Mark’s Piazza to the water and you are on “the Slavonic (Slavs’) Bank – Riva degli Schiavoni. — The Venetian greeting “ciao” is from Venet “Sciao – slave and Slav”. It once meant “I am your servant”.

      • John Peter Maher says:

        I’m an etymologist of the school known in German as “Woerter und Sachen — Words & Things”. Motto “no word study without thing study (and vice versa). Venice is a gold mine for me.

  2. Yes, Venice has a long history of engaging with this region. But Venetian friends of mine have always commented that the Venetian dialect is most heavily influenced by Spanish, from Spaniards who came to the city in its early years. This shows up in words like “casa” and “calle” (even though some pronunciations may be different). Before I learned Italian, I could often speak Spanish with a Venetian and be understood. Since you speak Spanish, you probably see these connections too.

  3. John Peter Maher says:

    The resemblances between Spanish and Venetian, e.g. calle and casa, are not due to borrowing from Spanish, but are a mutual inheritance from Vulgar Latin. Casa in Latin means ‘shack’ and calle ‘, from Latin callis ‘tight, narrow little path, track’.

  4. Nancy Schwalen says:

    This also makes me think of the term “pied-à-terre,” a foot on the ground; in other words an apartment, usually in another city and/or separate from your normal, usually bigger home. (When Andy was living in San Francisco, I always wished we had a pied-à-terre in SF. Now I wouldn’t mind one in New York.)

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