In a previous post I told how Casanova met Mariuccia at the house of Momolo, a Venetian gondolier who had come to Rome and worked as a sweeper for the Pope’s rooms. You may remember that Casanova staked money on the lottery, using the number that Mariuccia suggested, and he had won big, sharing his bounty with the family. Mariuccia expressed her gratitude by pressing C’s hand at dinner and then agreeing to meet him at the church of the Trinità dei Monti, not far from where she lived on Via Gregoriana. I will share C’s description of Mariuccia in full because it encapsulates the ideals of beauty for that era:
“At seventeen or eighteen years of age, Mariuccia was tall, had a very good carriage, and seemed carved by the chisel of Praxiteles. She was fair, but her fairness was not that of a blonde, which with its unrelieved brilliance almost suggests the she had no blood in her veins. Mariuccia’s fairness was so alive that it offered the eyes a rosy bloom which no painter could ever have caught. Her black eyes, very large and prominent, and always in motion, had a dew on their surface which seemed a coating of the finest enamel. This imperceptible dew, which the air very easily dissipated, was continually restored by the rapid blinking of her lids. Her hair was gathered into four heavy braids, which joined at her neck to form a beautiful boss, yet not so tightly as to restrain a quantity of little curls which everywhere escaped from it, more especially to ornament her high and broad forehead with a random pattern as artless as it was unstudied. Living roses animated her cheeks, and sweet laughter dwelt on her beautiful mouth and her fiery lips, which, neither quite meeting nor quite parted, showed only the extremities of two perfectly even rows of teeth. Her hands, on which neither muscles nor veins were visible, appeared long in proportion to their breadth. This Roman beauty had not yet been seen by a connoisseur; it was to me that chance presented her in a blind alley where she lived in the darkness of poverty” (Vol. 7, Ch. IX, p. 197).
The two met at the church at 8:00 in the morning but didn’t actually stay long. Once she caught C’s eye, she left, with Casanova following her to an out of the way staircase where she said no one would overhear them. Once there, Casanova quickly confessed, “You have made me fall madly in love with you; tell me what I can do for you; for, hoping to be granted your favors, my chief thought must be to deserve them” (198).
“Make me happy,” Mariuccia replied, “and I shall not find it hard to surrender to your love in return for your bounty, for I love you too.”
She then proceeded to tell Casanova about her tyrannical mother who never let her go anywhere except church or her confessor. However, just two weeks prior, a young man had spied Mariuccia at the church and later gave her a letter professing his love. He was a young wigmaker who wanted to marry her, but he asked for a dowry to set up shop so that he could support her with his earnings. Mariuccia had about half the money and asked C for the rest. He quickly agreed to bring it to her confessor, who would help arrange the marriage.
“With gratitude depicted on her features,” Casanova explained, “she received all the tokens of affection which she could receive and I give in the tormenting place where we were, but they amounted to so little that I left her on the stroke of nine o’clock much more in love with her than before and very impatient to have her in my arms the next day” (199). After Mariuccia left, C found a woman nearby who helped him find a room to rent for the next day, also asking her to procure furniture for it. (As far as I know, no scholar has identified this address.)
He then returned to the church to talk with the father confessor. Casanova contrived a story that would save the girl’s honor and allow the priest to accept the money for her wedding to the wigmaker. The priest agreed, and Casanova eagerly awaited his assignation with his new love.
The next day, Casanova again went to the church at the Trinità dei Monti, where Mariuccia saw him and followed him at a distance to the room he had rented. He undressed her and they made love, with him remarking that it was certainly her first time. The bells at the nearby church tolled the next hour, causing the lovers to dress hastily and depart. “As she departed,” C wrote, “she assured me that she knew she had surrendered to love far more than to interest” (203). Casanova dined again that night at Momolo’s, making sure he lost money at faro so that the family might win. Mariuccia clandestinely told C that her confessor had visited her with the news of the monetary gift and to get the name of her young wigmaker so he could arrange the marriage. Casanova left the next day for Naples.
C saw Mariuccia again when he returned to Rome in 1770-71 and found her very happily married to her wigmaker and with a nine-year-old daughter. See the post about Frascati for these details.
The church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti was actually supported by the King of France up to the Napoleonic period; it was partially destroyed in 1798. But up to that time, the church and convent were home to Minimite friars, to which Mariuccia’s confessor would have belonged. Casanova probably met this confessor in the convent rooms. As you can see, the church holds a prominent position at the top of the Spanish Steps.