Famous figures in Venice

A journey through history, accompanied by figures of greater or lesser renown, who were born, lived or spent time in Venice.

An anecdotal way of seeing Venice through the history and tales of figures of greater or lesser fame, who were born in the city or who lived or stayed there for varying lengths of time during their lives.

Not only today, but perhaps even more so in the past, Venice has attracted illustrious figures who in the city, then a major trade emporium and thus a financial hub and place of wealth, would aspire to encounter noblemen, merchants, religious groups, if not the city’s senate and government itself, who would appreciate their talents and skills.

So there would be painters in search of someone to purchase their works; men of letters wishing to find wealthy protectors and patrons; talented men, explorers, military commanders who would offer their skills to serve the republic.

Strolling through the streets (calli) and squares (campielli), the traveller’s attention is often attracted to memorial tablets and inscriptions on the walls of certain houses and palaces to commemorate the birth of a famous painter, the home of a well-known musician, or the place where an illustrious scholar had once stayed.

And here in fact is a memorial stone, above the arch of a sottoportico which from Calle S. Domenico leads into a small courtyard, commemorating the birthplace of Tiepolo; on the wall of the series of Mocenigo palaces, along the Grand Canal opposite S. Tomà, the inscription commemorates the stay of the English poet Lord Byron, who died fighting for Greek independence, and who was thought to have loved swimming in the lagoon.

In the narrow calletta Malipiero, at S. Samuele, stood the birthplace of one of Venice’s most famous figures and adventurers, Giacomo Casanova, perhaps the only one to succeed in escaping from the city’s prisons; whilst on the wall of Ca’ Vendramin a memorial stone reminds us that Wagner died here, and inside the palazzo, now home to the Casino, is the hall.

There are many others dotted around the city, remembering painters, writers, musicians, many figures from the Risorgimento period of Italian and Venetian history, and to conclude the list, which is impartial and certainly incomplete: at the start of Via Garibaldi, the first house on the right belonged to Giovanni and Sebastiano Caboto (John and Sebastian Cabot), father and son explorers, who discovered Newfoundland and the northern part of the American continent. A dual stone, one laid by the municipality of Venice and the other by the Canadian province of Newfoundland, commemorates these illustrious sons of Venice.

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