The Casanova in Place Symposium focused primarily on the papers and authors and the ballet, which I have posted about in the last few weeks. But it was also about bringing people together in Venice in order to get a sense of his place in that place.
I told you about the Burchiello tour up the Brenta. Then on Friday, June 28, a group of ten of us strolled in Casanova’s footsteps as I led a walking tour of sites related to his life. We gathered some folks at their hotel near Campo Sant’Agnese and continued along to Campo San Luca where we met the rest of our group. I finally got to meet in person so many of the folks I’ve been emailing with for the last year or more as I’ve planned this symposium.
As we walked from site to site, I retold the stories of what Casanova did at each location. Or sometimes I deferred to others in the group who knew the story details better than I did! We saw approximate locations where Casanova lived; sometimes research has revealed the street but not the exact house. Sometimes those buildings have been so completely remodeled that the interior doesn’t resemble the place Casanova lived anyway. We also visited the sites of theaters he frequented: the Teatro San Luca (now the Goldoni); Teatro Sant’Angelo (now a hotel), Teatro Benedetto (now Cinema Rossini), Teatro San Samuele (now a school site), and Teatro San Moise (now housing). We went into the church where C was baptized; it’s deconsecrated and had a Biennale exhibit. But no matter–we were very excited to be together, to be seeing these sites together, to be inhabiting a bit of history made as real as the stones beneath our feet.
When we came to the building that used to hold Casanova’s casino where he took his lover M.M., I commented that there is one historic casino across town that I had never successfully gotten to visit: the Casino Venier, conserved by the Alliance Francaise. I’ve seen pictures of events there, but it’s never open when I go by. Well, someone was smiling on us that day because when we got there, we realized the door was open and were granted a few minutes to view the rooms. Our group was thrilled to inhabit an actual casino, to get a sense of its size and style, to see original stucco and mirrors, and to peep through the secret hole in the floor that allows you to see who is at the door below.
At the end of this part of the tour, we continued on to find lunch near the Rialto markets at Cantina Do Spade, the historic restaurant that Casanova writes about in one of his more controversial stories. The place was crowded, but we managed to find a barrel table to perch around, as we all rehydrated and enjoyed plates of cicchetti: polenta with squid, sarde in saor, peppers, artichoke hearts, fried mozzarella, and glasses of white wine. We were recharged to continue on to the last tour of the day.
Continuing north to the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava, we visited the Casanova Museum and Experience. I blogged about this extensively last summer, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Though we mostly wandered through the rooms separately, we did meet up to discuss the lone letter by Casanova and to share our thoughts about the virtual reality. One person noted that it was interesting to have adoring women’s eyes aimed at you as you experienced Casanova’s viewpoint, but we also discussed that the characterization seemed too simple, that C was a more complicated person than the virtual reality is able to depict. After I had viewed the virtual reality reel, the woman who worked in the room, apparently knowing exactly who I was, asked me to pose for a picture with her copy of Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide. We then met the museum’s creative director who told me that she requires all employees to read my book! Barbara Lynn-Davis discussed with her how to have her book, Casanova’s Secret Wife, sold in the bookstore, though it sounds like they already sold out a round of them. Valeriano bought me a copy of Lana Caprina, Casanova’s book that addresses some feminist views, which we had discussed earlier that day. (The Italian that it is written in is a stretch for my language skills, so it may be a while before I finish reading it!)
Everyone needed a little down time before our evening reception, which I’ve already written about, and you’ve also heard about the lectures and discussions from the weekend. A few participants went on to tour other Casanova sites on the following Monday, such as visiting the Doge’s Palace “Secret Itineraries” tour to see the site of Casanova’s prison cell. They reported that tour guides stated Casanova was not a real person, or that his escape from the prison was a fabrication. Clearly, vital information about the real Casanova has not reached much of the public. This symposium, however, has inspired numerous participants to begin thinking about the next event, perhaps in Bologna, London, or Paris, to keep the conversations going, to inspire further scholarship, and to prepare for the 2025 anniversary of Casanova’s birth.
(Most photos by Valeriano Hernandez-Tavera, except the casino photos are mine.)