In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Momolo’s House, Via Gregoriana 36

In Vol. 12 of History of My Life, Casanova tells us that he is visited by Mariuccia, whom he had met at the house of the Abate Momolo back in 1760, which story is recounted in Vol. 7. It is this story that I will delve into now.

“Momolo” is the name C devised for Giovanni Righetti, originally of Venice. Momolo was a scopatore, whose job it was to sweep Pope Clement’s rooms. (Carlo Rezzonico was originally from Venice as well; he took the name Pope Clement XIII.) Casanova used this pseudonym for Momolo to protect the identity of Mariuccia.

Pope Clement XIII

Casanova had met the Pope at Monte Cavallo and he tells us that “As I left, an elderly Abate approached me, asking me in surprised tones if I was the Casanova who had escaped from the Leads. ‘I am he,'” Casanova replied.

“‘And you do not remember me? I am Momolo, gondolier in those days for the Ca’ Rezzonico'” (Vol. 7, Ch. IX, p. 189).

Casanova was surprised to see this priest before him but soon learned from Momolo that many people dressed in the typical robes of an abate. “I heartily congratulate you,” Casanova replied, and I beg you to excuse me if it makes me laugh.”

Momolo didn’t mind. “Laugh away,” he replied, “for my wife and my daughters laugh too every time they see me dressed as a priest.” He followed this by inviting Casanova to his home behind the Trinità dei Monti.

Momolo lived at Via Gregoriana 36.

Notice that Via Gregoriana lies to the southeast of the Piazza di Spagna.

You can see how close Momolo’s house was to the Trinità dei Monti. The room that Casanova rented to meet with Mariuccia would have been somewhere behind but near the church.

Momolo invited Casanova to dinner, and though C made wry remarks about Momolo’s “ugly” sons and the “smell of poverty,” he accepted the invitation. He even sent his valet Costa to his rooms to return with a Parma ham and 6 bottles of Orvieto wine, which rounded out the dinner of polenta and pork chops.

Momolo invited his neighbor to attend with her daughter, though his own four daughters disparaged them. “They are hungry,” said the father; they shall share the food which Providence sends us” (191). Casanova then remarked, “I see two starvelings come in; a very pretty girl of modest bearing and a sad-looking mother who seemed ashamed of her poverty.” C learned that the daughter was Mariuccia (or, this was his pseudonym for her), and he was soon captivated by her “perfect beauty.”

The conversation turned to the Roman lottery. Mariuccia told C with all seriousness that she would bet on number 27, which he proceeded to do; he sent Momolo himself to stake “forty scudi in notes of hand and … twenty scudi unconditionally on twenty-seven, of which I made a present the the five girls at the table, and twenty scudi on twenty-seven coming out fifth for myself” (191). He claimed to choose “fifth” because Mariuccia was the fifth girl he had seen at the house.

Well, you can probably guess that the improbable came to pass. Twenty-seven came in fifth, and Casanova won a considerable sum. (Translator Trask adds a note about discrepancies in C’s memory, but we can be assured that it was a considerable prize.) However, when Casanova returned to Momolo’s house for dinner, the daughters were all glum and said they had also quarreled with Mariuccia, who was not joining them. “You ungrateful creatures!” Casanova exclaimed. “Consider that day before yesterday she brought you good luck. It was she who gave me the twenty-seven. In short, find a way to bring her here, or I will leave…” (196). He had brought gifts for all, generously sharing his new wealth with them all, but he threatened to take these gifts away if the daughters didn’t fetch Mariuccia and regain their gay spirits.

Mariuccia arrived and pressed C’s hand in gratitude. “Since I could only press her hand, she could reply only by pressing mine in return; but I needed no clearer language to be certain that she loved me,” he declared (196-7). They set a secret meeting time and place, which you can read about in the post about the church at the Trinità dei Monti.

As a side note, translator and editor Willard Trask tells us that in 1763 Righetti’s/Momolo’s daughter married Gaetano Costa, who had been Casanova’s secretary and valet (until making off with a number of C’s belongings) (Vol. 7, Ch. IX, note 12).

(Location images from Google maps and portrait of Pope Clement from Wikipedia.)

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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