In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Hotel Londra

The current building where the Hotel Londra used to stand.

Etching bey Vasi, showing the Piazza di Spagna. The second building past the Spanish Steps is the one in question.

Charles (Carlo) Roland (d. 1785) makes his appearance in Casanova’s memoirs a few times as the owner of various inns that Casanova stayed in or visited. Originally from Avignon, he came to Rome and opened the Hotel Londra on the Piazza di Spagna. In 1766 Roland gifted this inn to his son-in-law, Francois Lafont, who had married Roland’s daughter Anne Marie. The inn is also known by other names, such as Ville de Londres, Albergo Inglese, and Hotel Lafont. It maintained a lofty reputation into the 19th century as an expensive and well-appointed lodging that saw its share of happy clients.

In Vol. 11, Casanova also explains that “Roland was the father of Teresa, whom I had loved nine years earlier and whom my brother Giovanni married in 1762, a year after I left,” though Trask notes that Casanova made a small error in his dates: his brother Francesco married in 1762, and Giovanni married Teresa in 1764. I’ll provide a few of these stories below.

Carlo Roland’s first address in Rome was at Via delle Carrozze 95, though there is no record that Casanova stayed there. Roland later opened another hotel in 1770 called the Ville de Paris situated on the Piazzetta Caetani near the Corso. (See a separate post on the Ville de Paris or City of Paris.) In 1760, in Vol. 7, Ch. VIII of History of My Life, Casanova states that “I am in the Piazza di Spagna and in front of the ‘City of Paris’; such was the name of the inn which had been recommended to me” (p. 179). However, editor Trask explains that C made an error here; Roland didn’t open the City of Paris until 1770, so C must have stayed at the Hotel Londra, which was indeed on the Piazza di Spagna.

I have to quote a rather long section here, as it encapsulates Casanova’s interactions with so many women; in this case, it was his introduction to Roland’s daughter Teresa. C had arrived late at night to the Hotel Londra, after everyone was abed. “I hear a girl in bed,” he begins, “covered up so that I see only her head, telling me to sit on her bed, in which another girl was asleep. I see a smiling mouth and two eyes which look like carbuncles. I praise them and ask her to let me kiss them. She answers only by putting her head under the coverlet; but I slip my hand beneath it and halfway down her figure and, finding her stark naked, I withdraw it, asking her to forgive me if I have been too inquisitive. I think I see that she is grateful for my kindness in restraining my curiosity.”

May I just pause and ask “grateful for his kindness?” He was being quite impertinent and maybe deserved a slap! But Teresa was young and naive–she admits to him she is not yet seventeen–and when he says he will be happy to meet her in his rooms the next day, she declines, saying she will not visit his room if there are not other ladies present.

“Charming Teresa, your eyes scorch my soul,” he responds.

“She puts her head under the coverlet again,” he continues, “I seize the opportunity once more to advance my hand, she curls up, I take her by surprise, and I am sure that the angel is female.” Though Casanova asks Teresa’s pardon at this point, he’s surely not really sorry. He even remarks that Teresa showed “just a trace of anger but at the same time of consent” (Vol. 7, Ch. 8, p. 179-180). I’ll let you draw your own conclusions regarding this exchange, as it’s not my place to moralize. When Casanova met Teresa in the daylight the next day, he determined that he was not hopelessly in love, that “her only striking feature was her eyes,” and his “enthusiasm diminished.” C’s brother Giovanni, however, was smitten and married Teresa a year later. (Casanova used the word “trapped.”)

Later in 1770 Casanova spent some time in Naples with his former lover Donna Lucrezia and their daughter Leonilda. He returned to Rome and notes that “though it was the middle of September it had not yet rained and the air was still noxious.” Settling himself in the city, he writes, “I went to lodge at the inn on the Piazza di Spagna kept by Roland’s daughter, the sister of Teresa, the wife of my brother [Giovanni], who was still in Rome with Prince Beloselski.”

My early research indicated that the hotel was at #18 or #20. But the truth is a little more complicated. The original building is gone, replaced by the one shown above. So technically, Casanova didn’t visit this actual building, but its predecessor. This postcard (below) shows the original building and lists its address as #17.

A postcard used as an advertisement for the hotel.

(Research from Willard Trask, editor of Casanova’s History of My Life, John Hopkins University Press, 1971, Vol. 7, Ch. 8 as well as Vol. 11, Ch. 9 plus the notes for each. Thanks to Adriano Contini for finding the antique photo of the hotel that shows its original location.)

About seductivevenice

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