When Giacomo Casanova fell in love with Corfu he was only 16 years old, but his first visit was enough to make him go back and leave his mark on the Greek island.
Casanova’s first visit to the Ionian island, which was Venetian territory at the time, was in the Spring of 1741.
The famous ladies’ man, whose name has gone down in history as a byword for lover, had multiple adventures in Corfu, which are described in his autobiography, written in French from 1790 onwards, called “Histoire de ma vie” (Story of my life).
His stay was fateful. When he returned in 1745, Corfu became an important part of his life.
The second stay in Corfu would mark the adventurous man who had earned a doctorate in doctor in law, and was a spy, a violinist, a chemist, a gambler, and an organizer of a French lottery — as well as a librarian.
Young Casanova in Corfu
His first visit to Corfu was in 1741, when he served was a junior officer in the Venetian army. He got into a serious fight with a man he claimed was an impostor pretending to be a French prince.
The man was actually a prefect and he ordered the arrest of Casanova. The young adventurer then stole a boat from the Corfu Town harbor and fled.
Once on the open sea, a ship bound for Kassiopi harbor — in the northeastern part of Corfu — took him aboard.
Casanova started a new life in Kassiopi and soon assembled a bunch of seamstresses to remake his rich wardrobe that he had been forced to hastily leave behind when he fled Corfu Town.
Being Casanova, of course, he does not describe how he obtained the money to place an order to the seamstresses to tailor his extravagant clothes.
Soon, though, an officer arrived at Casanova’s idyllic house to take the young rogue back to the Corfu Town authorities.
Yet, much to Casanova’s relief, the Frenchman was an impostor himself, and instead of going to prison he was praised for exposing the swindler.
Then, after a short while, he boarded a ship and sailed to Constantinople.
The second stay in Corfu
In his biography, Casanova dedicates Chapter IV to his adventures on Corfu, divided into the following categories:
“Signora F. The pseudo-prince. My departure from Corfu. My nonsense in Kassiopi. I am being imprisoned in Corfu. My quick release and my triumph. My successes with Signora F.”
“Signora F.” was Adriana Foskarini, the 17-year-old wife of the Venetian Corfu judge Vincenzo Foskarini.
His seduction and love affair with the young woman infuriated her husband, and Casanova became a wanted man on Corfu.
This time he was arrested and jailed — but not for long, according to his memoirs. He went back to Kassiopi and spent some time there before returning to Venice.
In “Histoire de ma vie,” Casanova reminisces about his time on Corfu and Kassiopi with fondness and nostalgia.
“I knew that there is not a single woman in the world who can resist the diligent care and attention of a man who wants to make her fall in love with him,” he wrote matter-of-factly.
The son of actors from Venice, Casanova was born on April 2, 1725. He studied law and, according to his writings, received a diploma from the University of Padua at 16.
Despite his studies, he lived in poverty, playing the violin in the streets and taverns, until he saved Senator Count Bragadin from serious injury.
His act caused Bragadin to offer him money for a trip to Germany and France, where, in Paris, he was introduced to Masonry.
In 1753 he returned to Venice and immediately attracted the attention of the authorities of the Republic with his occult teachings which, according to investigators, were intended to sucker various victims, especially Bragandin.
In addition, he became a suspect of libertarianism. Bragadin — an inquisitor himself — once advised him to leave Venice, but it was too late.
In 1757, Casanova was arrested and imprisoned in Piombi, in the Palazzo Ducale prison. He was sentenced to five years in prison without trial, but after a few months he escaped.
He went to Paris, added the title “Knight de Seingalt” to his name, and began to swindle naive people by pretending to be an expert on various elixirs.
Casanova also traveled to England and Russia, trying to sell an idea for a state lottery.
On every trip he had a series of love affairs with the ladies. Wherever he went, he managed to infiltrate aristocratic circles of Freemasons, Rosicrucians or occultists and to take advantage of people he met.
Wherever he went, sooner or later, he was arrested and taken to prison or to the border to be deported.
In 1775, Casanova returned to Venice. The government used him as a spy but his reports contained more literature than information. He was fired, then wrote a satire against a nobleman and was forced to flee to Vienna and Paris.
In Paris the veteran ladies’ man met Count von Waldstein, who hired him as a librarian at his Dux tower in Bohemia. Casanova lived there for the last fourteen years of his life.
He who had met so many personalities of the time, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great and so many others, was now in a position a little higher than that of a servant.
He wrote his memoirs in French, which were partly verified and partly refuted by history. The adventures of Casanova in Corfu are among them.
Casanova wrote several other works, including a comprehensive translation of the Iliad. But “Histoire de ma vie” is the work that preserves his reputation as history’s greatest seducer — whether much of it is true or not.