Cultural Cocktail Hour

Escape from the Doge Palace: Casanova and the buttered Gnocchi

Cultural Cocktail Hour reports from the Secret Passageways of the Doge Palace, Venice.

Escape from Doge Palace: Casanova and the Buttered Gnocchi

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Photography and text © 2012 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered trademark

In typical prison escapes, inmates rely on wires, jackhammers, or drills to plan their bold getaways. Not so for Casanova. The eighteenth century’s infamous Venetian ladies man successfully fled from the Doge Palace thanks to….. a heaping plate of buttered Gnocchi.

Cultural Cocktail Hour visited the Doge Palace’s secret passageways, torture chambers, and gloomy inquisition spaces set up by the Doge’s spies. Our tour guide revealed that although Casanova’s cell was fully furnished (which is how he was able to cook up a plate of Gnocchi), the terror of being sequestered in a space by volatile rulers (who never even told him why he had been dragged to prison in the first place) drove the young womanizer to devise an escape.

Casanova’s first prison break scheme, to merely carve a hole in his cell floor, proved a complete fiasco. So the mischievous schemer began dreaming of a more creative plot involving saucy potato dumplings.

Casanova joined forces with Father Mario Balbi, the prisoner in the cell next door. The Venetian government had imprisoned the aristocratic priest for refusing to disown his illegitimate children. Casanova apparently told his jailer that he wished to offer his priestly neighbor the gift of a homemade dinner. If Casanova put as much attention into hand rolling the potato paste as he did into his notorious lovemaking, the pasta pillows should have come out light and delicious, without a trace of the bland doughiness so typical of amateur chefs.

The key to the Gnocchi scheme was that the huffing-and puffing jailer, who was hunched over as he carried the Super-sized plate of Gnocchi to the priest’s cell, did not bother to inspect the second gift underneath the pasta plate: a Bible containing a metal spike.

Father Balbi received a carb-o-licious dinner and a tool to help him break out of the Doge Palace.

Unfortunately, as Father Balbi was hammering away in the cell next door, a minor glitch in Casanova’s plan developed. The jailer brought Casanova a new cell mate, an intensely religious man named Soradaci to potentially spy on the impish libertine.

Casanova, after observing Soradaci relentlessly pray to the Virgin Mary, declared that-good gracious!- they would soon be witnessing a divine miracle. Casanova tricked Soradaci into believing that the Virgin would be sending the inmates an “angel” to escape the walls of the Doge Palace. Sure enough, an angel, in the form of Father Balbi, appeared in Casanova’s room with the spike, ready to break free. When Casanova asked Soradaci to trim his and Father Babi’s long beards (which had grown like weeds during their time in the slammer) Soradaci became dubious. Grizzled beards did not fit in with Soradaci’s vision of fresh faced cherubim. Although Soradaci did not report Balbi or Casanova (Casanova threatened to strangle him if he squealed), he did not join their brazen escape, either.

So Casanova, with the portly priest hanging from his belt, let himself out of the Doge Palace, thrilled to finally say good-bye to prison life.

Hasta La Pasta!

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