In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Palazzo Decarolis

Palazzo Decarolis, also known as De Carolis, became the Roman home to Joachim de Bernis. Casanova had first met him when he was the ambassador from France, but when he was promoted to the position of Cardinal, he set up house in the grand Palazzo Decarolis on Via del Corso 307. He served at the church of San Silvestro, which I describe in a different post.

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Google Maps satellite view of the location

Casanova doesn’t specify where he went to spend this time together. In John Masters’ 1969 biography Casanova, on page 247 he writes, “The Cardinal lived in the palace which is now the Banca di Roma.”  According to historian Roberto Piperno, de Bernis lived in the Palazzo Decarolis and brought his guests there. Adriano Contini in Rome sent this image of a plaque on the Banco di Roma, which is housed in the Palazzo Decarolis, that confirms it was the site of the French Ambassador.

Image thanks to Adriano Contini

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Contemporary view of the Palazzo Decarolis, from romeartlover.it

As I mentioned in another post, Casanova had become friends with the Prince of Santa Croce, who commented that “I have never heard His Eminence speak of anyone with as much regard as he does of you.”

“The Cardinal received me the next day with every sign of the unfeigned pleasure it gave him to see me again,” wrote Casanova. “He praised me for my reticence in speaking of him to the Prince of Santa Croce at the Duchess’s, being sure that I would say nothing about the circumstances of our friendship in Venice. I told him that, except for having grown stouter, I found him as handsome and fresh-looking as when he had left Paris twelve years earlier, but he replied that he felt different in every way.”

“I am fifty-five years old,” Bernis replied, “and I am reduced to a vegetable diet.”

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Bernis promised to approach Erizzo, the Venetian Ambassador, to secure a warm reception for Casanova when he called at the Palazzo Venezia. Casanova writes, “I told him I had plenty of money, and I saw that he was delighted to know it, and even more pleased when I told him I was all alone and determined to be on my good behavior and to live without ostentation.” They also reminisced about their times in Venice. “He said that he would write M.M. of my presence in Rome,” writes Casanova, recalling the nun who had been de Bernis’ mistress and who later became Casanova’s.

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Portrait of Cardinal de Bernis (Wikimedia)

Rather than taking a mistress, the Cardinal de Bernis now attended the Princess of Santa Croce as her cavalier servente, a companion and escort accepted by her husband the Prince. Casanova explains, “The Cardinal saw her only on the three regular visits he paid her every day: when she rose in the morning and he went to see if she had slept well; every afternoon, when he went to drink coffee with her in her apartment; and every evening at the assembly in her palace.” In other words, he didn’t spend the night with her. Casanova was then invited to visit the Princess at other times, which he took advantage of, finding her to be an amusing companion.

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1753 etching by Vasi showing the Palazzo Decarolis

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
This entry was posted in Casanova, Italian heritage, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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