Famous people from Venice

Famous Venetians

The famous people from Italy are many, from Venice, Rome, Naples, Florens, Palermo, and all the other cities, towns and villages in the Italian territory. This is a list of a few celebrities from my city. It’s not at all complete, but I hope it’s an interesting collection. 

Antonio Vivaldi

Canaletto

Tintorettovenice population

Giovanni Bellini

Patty Pravo

Terence Hill

Pierre Cardin

Luigi Nono

Giuseppe Sinopoli

Amy Adams

Marco Polo

Emma Thompson

Johnny Depp

Ancient times

Casanova

Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, also known as Jean-Jacques Casanova de Seingalt was, born April 2, 1725. He was a Venetian adventurer and writer. His parents were both actors, and they gave him a good education, and he was raised with the knowledge of etiquette and manners. 

famous people from italyAfter having tried the priesthood, a military career, and even worked as a musician, he got himself arrested. They accused him of blasphemy, possession of prohibited books, and fraud. There were definitely political and personal motivations behind his imprisonment. He probably had gotten too intimate to somebody that he shouldn’t have. 

He made a spectacular escape right in front of Venice’s nobility and then obviously had to leave the Serenissima to not get caught. 

Not that it bothered him all that much. He traveled the world, which at this time was little more than Europe, and experienced all the best parts of it. With his charming ways and convincing manners he quickly conquered the European courts. From Russia to England, from Spain to Germany. He was a handsome man and made his way through the womanhood of the high society. He was a God of his time…

… At least that’s what he’s made us believe. 

His memoirs came out after his death, heavily censored,  but before that, he wrote 27 books. All his scriptures tell us something about his wonderful adventures. Today, Casanova has become something of a legend when it comes to the art of making love. He was a master of the courtship, a super-party-animal, and an extremely persistent and consistent lover. That is how he describes himself. It’s up to us to believe or not believe him.

Giacomo Casanova died June 4, 1798, in Dux, in Bohemia, in today’s Chechia. There he worked as a not-very-adventurous librarian at the castle of Count Waldstein. 

Antonio Vivaldi

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born on March 4, 1678. He was a priest, violinist, but most of all a composer. His father, who also played the violin as a musician at the Basilica di San Marco, instructed him in the art of music. 

famous people from italyIn 1703 he became the Maestro of Violin at the Pio Ospedale della Pietà. This was a sort of orphanage for girls but with a very strong musical tradition. Many of his compositions were written for- and originally performed by students at the school. He continued teaching there for the rest of his life. With the exclusion of the time, he spent traveling and teaching, playing and composing at the courts of Europe.

He died on July 28, 1741, in Vienna. 

Vivaldi is one of the most important composers of all time. He was a perfect example of the late Baroque musical style, contemporary with J.S.Bach and his equal in technical refinement. His concerts and operas are still played today around the world. His most famous Concerto is The four seasons – I Quattro Stagioni. 

Canaletto

His real name was Giovanni Antonio Canal. He was born on October 7, 1697.

He soon became one of the most famous Venetians in all of Europe and he was the most important representative for the Venetian Vedutismo School

Vedutismo (Italian vedere, see), was an interesting art form, where the motif, often landscapes, rural surroundings, and city life, is painted as realistically as possible. To do this Canaletto used a precursor to the modern Camera, the so-called Camera Oscura, Pinhole Camera

Much like the modern camera, it was a box where the image passed through a lens and was then projected on a white screen, upside down. Since there was no film, and no photo could preserve the pattern on the screen, the painter had to draw directly on the projected image. 

famous people from italy
Paving of Saint Mark’s Square

It was complicated and laborious, but the result was as close to a photo as you could get at the time. His paintings were jaw-dropping wonders in the 18th century. 

Canaletto died in Venice on April 19, 1768.

Tintoretto

Jacopo Robusti lived from 1518 till 1594. He was an exponent of the Scuola Veneta. He got the name, Tintoretto, from the profession of his father, a dyer (tintore in Italian), Tintoretto, small dyer. He was also called il furioso, the furious, because of his high work-energy and fabulous productivity. Tiziano, another of the famous Venetians, claimed that Tintoretto lowered the prices because of the many art-works he managed to produce. 

He was also one of the main characters in a Ghost-story about a witch and Tintoretto’s daughter, Marietta.

Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini 1433 – 1516 was another of the many highly renowned Venetian artists. He was one of the most famous representatives of the Italian renaissance. Mostly sacred works came out of his hand. Something that wasn’t unusual since the church was the biggest employer of arts. For sixty years he worked without halting and without producing anything that wasn’t of extraordinary quality. 

His most famous works include the altarpieces of San Giobbe and Barbarigo. His Feast of the Gods is displayed In the National Gallery of Art in Washington. There’s also a famous drink named after him… Bellini    

There were many other painters of international fame, like Vecellio, Tiziani, Giambattista Tiepolo, and Giorgione, who by the way was a disciple of Bellini’s.

Famous Venetians – Modern times

Patty Pravo

famous people from italyNicoletta Strambelli, as her real name is, was born on April 9, 1947. Her mother and father lived in Mestre but young Nicoletta grew up with her grandmother in Santa Marta in Venice. She studied music and dance and learned the trade of show-biz in the floating city. In 1962 she moved to Rome. In the capital, she met people in the music business, and her career started to spawn. 

Even though she is an almost exclusively Italian phenomenon (she was in the US from 1980 to 1983, made one album and some stage shows…), her exceptional career is out of the ordinary. 

  • She’s made 28 studio albums from 1968 to 2019.
  • She’s made 7 live albums .and compilations
  • 34 of her songs have been recorded by other artists.
  • 10 participations at San Remo and 12 at Festivalbar
  • She’s toured 31 years from 1969 till 2019. That’s going on the road almost two out of three years.
  • She’s made 8 films…. And she’s still working, after 55 years of career… At 72 years of age. 

Her most famous songs are  La bambola (1968), Pazza idea (1973), Pensiero stupendo (1978) and …E dimmi che non vuoi morire (1997) 

Terence Hill

His most famous films are They call me Trinity, and My name is nobody. Both so-called Spaghetti-westerns. Terence is the cool guy with the ice-blue eyes, who always comes out on top, no matter who his opponents are. That recipe goes for many of his films, especially those made together with his friend and Co-actor Bud Spencer

He was born Mario Girotti in Venice on March 29, 1939. He remained in Venice for four years only. Then he moved to Germany with his parents, and to Umbria further south in Italy, after the war. Already at 12, he started his career as a child actor after he was discovered by the director Dino Risi in a swimming competition. 

From there on he played minor parts in a lot of movies. He declared that he actually paid for his high school- and university studies by acting. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tGkra8eIngFamous people from Italy. From Mario Girotti to Terence Hill

After his first major success in 1955, his career went slowly but steadily upward. In 1967 he met Carlo Pedersoli. The two of them started working together and soon they formed a movie-pair, easily promotable and very popular at the time. Following a trend of the 60s and 70s, the two actors took on American stage names. These were names that were considered suitable for the western-genre: The production team gave Mario Girotti a list of twenty possible names and asked him to choose one within 24 hours. He chose “Terence Hill” because it sounded good and because the initials were the same as his mother’s first and last name (Hildegard Thieme). Pedersoli became Bud Spencer. 

Thus he has two filmographies, one as Mario Girotti and one as Terence Hill. If you put it all together it becomes something of a record of production.

  • He has 69 years of career and is still working. His TV-series Don Matteo is in its 12th season in 2020. The series has an absolute record in share for one episode, and it’s the second-longest drama-series in Italian television ever.
  • He has made a total of 72 films as an actor.
  • 7 series for TV as an actor, 4 series for TV as a director, 3 films as a director, 2 as a producer and 2 as a screenwriter.  

Pierre Cardin  

When talking about famous Venetians, Cardin fits just about into that category. He was not born in Venice, but very close. He was born on July 2, in 1922 in San Biagio di Callalta. It’s a small village just some 15 miles north of Venice.

He didn’t stay long though. When little Pierre was only two, his parents decided to escape the Italian fascism and move to France. There he grew up to become an Icon for the whole French fashion industry. 

At 97 he’s still a regular guest in Venice, as he owns one of the most prestigious palaces there… Cà Bragadin – Hotel Ca’ Bragadin e Carabba. It’s said that Casanova once lived here… And it’s also said that he still does if you want to check it out. 

Luigi Nono

Luigi Nono was an Italian composer. His music was serial, electronic, and very political. He was a member of the Italian communist party and one of his masterpieces, Intolleranza, from 1961, caused a riot at its premiere at Teatro La Fenice. Protesters shouted and threw vegetables during the whole performance. It was a success. 

He was born in Venice, on January 29, 1922, and died in 1990.

Giuseppe Sinopoli

Symphony orchestraHe was one of the Great Italian conductors of the 20th century as well as a composer of international fame. Born in Venice in 1946, he entered the musical world at the age of 12. Then he continued to the Conservatory Benedetto Marcello in Venice and Arcangelo Corelli in Messina, Sicily. (The Italian conservatories all have names of famous musicians, singers, and composers…) 

He went on to study composition at Darmstadt in Germany and Sienna. His most famous work could be Luo Salome, An opera so huge, that when they made it in 2012 at Teatro La Fenice, the orchestra occupied both the stage and the orchestra pit. The stage performance had to take place on the floor of the main hall, where the orchestra seats normally are. The public was placed at the sides, in the balconies, and in the galleries. 

He was a regular guest at the most famous orchestras and opera houses in the world… Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden, La Scala, Bayreuth festival, Metropolitan Opera House, New York philharmonics and many others.

Sinopoli tragically died in 2001, during a performance of Aida at Deutsche Oper in Berlin.  

He was only 54 years.

Famous Venetians – People who are not from Venice but close by.

Amy Adams

To get the beautiful actress into famous Italians is no match… It’s the famous Venetians-label that could be a bit of a stretch. She was born in Vicenza. That’s not Venice, but it’s close. And it was Venice until the end of 1700 when Napoleon took it. (A few days later he took Venice as well, and that was that…)

Anyway, She was born August 20, 1974, at the American Camp Ederle, as her father at the time was employed by the US military. She didn’t stay for long though. The family moved to other army bases in other countries before they returned to the US when Amy was eight.

She says she loves Italy and she even named her daughter Aviana. Aviano is the location outside Vicenza, where the Camp Ederle is situated.  

Arrival
Amy Adams – Courtesy of Activités culturelles UdeM

Famous Venetians that actually weren’t from Venice at all

Famous Croatians – Marco Polo

About Marco Polo there are many things to say… Or very few. He’s among the absolute most famous Venetians, if not the most famous of all. His travels to China and his adventures in the Mongol Empire under Kublai Kahn, the largest contiguous empire the world has ever seen, were epochal. The tales and wonders of far lands described by him extended the world overnight. It was his stories that inspired and convinced other European adventurers to discover America a hundred years later. 

Polo came from a Dalmatian family… And it’s possible, even probable that he was not born in Venice, but on the other side of the Adriatic sea, on the island of Curzola, in today’s Croatia. 

Il MilioneIt doesn’t really matter because Curzola was at the time a part of Venice, as was most of the Dalmatian coastline.

We do not know the details about many people and many events from the middle ages. They didn’t have registry offices. That’s why historians and scientists are so important.

But was it true?

Another argument when it comes to Marco Polo, is whether he went to China at all. His famous book The Million, or Book of the Marvels of the World (It has many names), was written by Rustichello da Pisa, a not very talented Tuscan writer, translator, and scoundrel. Polo probably revised it but the original manuscript is lost. Instead, we have numerous versions of the book in numerous languages. 

The original manuscript (which is lost) was in Franco-Venetian. After that, it came out (I won’t say translated because these were all handwritten and it’s probable that the text suffered editorial changes and errors.) in French, Catalan, Venetian, Tuscan, German, and even Latin. Later it continued its conquer of the world in almost every other language. 

Kublai Kahn
Kublai Kahn

Marco Polo was a trader, like everybody in his family. As a Venetian, he traded with the far east, and anybody in Venice was familiar with the ways and culture of the people along the silk road. 

It is possible that he met his friend Rustichello in prison, and being far from home, isolated from friend and family, who could have verified or denied his claims, he just started fabulating. Rustichello, not having much to do after having been released from prison, decided to make the most of his story. He wrote a book, and it became a sensation. At that point, Polo didn’t have any reason to dissociate himself from the fame and glory. 

The truth, as often is the case, is somewhere in between. Maybe some of the most fantastic stories are a bit exaggerated, and maybe he actually wasn’t appointed personal counselor to the Mongol Kahn and maybe he didn’t travel as much as described in his book. But the modern consensus is that Marco Polo traveled to China. He saw most parts of it… And he came back. 

Famous Venetians who are not from Venice but have become honorary citizens just the same.

Emma Thompson

Venice film stars
Courtesy of Garry Knight

… And there’s only one of those. And that is Emma Thompson. The British actress is as much in love with Venice as the Venetians themselves. Now, technically she is a Venetian, having achieved Venetian honorary citizenship. She and her husband, Greg Wise, have a house in Cannaregio and intend to live there permanently…   

Disclaimer… No, Johnny Depp doesn’t live here.

Johnny Depp doesn’t live in Venice. And he never did. We hear rumors about him having bought the Palazzo Donà. It’s a fabulous house, 700 square meters (7500 square feet) right on the Canal Grande. He himself denies this, and Mortgage brokers in Venice claim that the owner is an American consortium of investors, and it has been since 2008. 

So, no Johnny Depp in Venice…

… But he comes, with all his colleagues from around the world to make movies. His film The Tourist is one of 49 international and Italian films that were shot in Venice.

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