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Giacomo Casanova Award

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Since 2003 the Literary Award Giacomo Casanova Castello di Spessa has been dedicated to the illustrious Venetian.

The first seven editions have been dedicated to literature, and the acknowledgment went to the authors of “the greatest work inspired by the values of freedom, tolerance and openness to other cultures”.

The winners of the Casanova Literary Award

2003 - Magdi Allam – Saddam, publisher: Mondadori

2004 - Antonia Arslan - La masseria delle allodole (The Lark Farm), publisher: Rizzoli

2005 - Patrizia Bisi – Daimon, publisher: Einaudi

2006 - Anna Maria Mori – Nata in Istria, publisher: Rizzoli

2007 – Francesca D'Aloja - Il sogno cattivo, publisher: Mondadori

2008 - Giovanni Bianconi - Eseguendo la sentenza, publisher: Einaudi

2009 - Andrea Vitali – Almeno il cappello, publisher: Garzanti

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In 2010 and in 2011 the Giacomo Casanova Award has been awarded to the “most seductive scene in the Italian cinema”, as conceived by Franco Zanetti. As Roland Barthes said: “Seduction is the skill to capture you and take you away with them. One can seduce with the look, with the body, with the voice. With movement and with immobility. One can be seduced by a person, by an object, by a sound, by an image, by a colour, by a detail, by a flavour. By a dress or by a perfume. Maybe one can even be seduced by an obsession".

The artistic director was the film critic Gianni Canova, Dean of the Faculty of Communication, Public Relations and Advertising of the University Iulm in Milan, and he used to select the 10 scenes in competition. The price is conferred every year at the beginning of July, during an evening complexly devoted to seduction, among food, wines, suggestive atmospheres. On those two edition dedicated to cinema there was also the screening of the 10 finalist scenes on the façade of the castle, and the technical jury was composed by: Natalia Aspesi, Paola Jacobbi, Erica Arosio, Giuseppe Longo, Gianni Canova and Gianluca Zappoli and the popular jury, who was consulted through MyMovies (the main Italian cinema website).

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The winners of the Casanova Cinema Award

2010 - Giulia non esce la sera by Giuseppe Piccioni

Casanova Award from the public: Baarìa by Giuseppe Tornatore

2011 – Io sono l’amore by Luca Guadagnino

Casanova Award from the public: Mine vaganti by Ferzan Ozpetek

In 2012 the Giacomo Casanova Award has been dedicated to Music and was conferred to the lyric singer Daniela Barcellona.

In 2013 the Giacomo Casanova Award has been dedicated to Theatre and was conferred to the theatre director and writer Giorgio Pressburger.

In 2014 Giacomo Casanova Award has been dedicated to Music and was conferred to the musicologist and music critic born in Gorice Quirino Principe.

 Since 2015, Giacomo Casanova Award is a tribute to the Friuli Venezia Giulia and is assigned to a character who has brought to the world the image and values.

In 2015 he was awarded to Giannola Nonino, founder of the eponymous distillery known worldwide that has enhanced the image of Friuli around the world.

In 2016 it was awarded to Marco Simonit, the pruner rock, which brought the world the know-how of Friiuli Venezia Giulia and has revolutionized the craft of lifes.

In 2017, the prize was given to Mario Luzzatto Fegiz, for bringing news readers closer to the "unknowing" music seductions, witnessing and spreading their strength and social impact.

In 2018 the prize was given to Andrea Segré, university professor, writer, promoter of visionary projects based on ecological sustainability and the circularity of the economy.

In 2019 the prize was given to Giuseppe Battiston, friulian actor.

In some special editions the Cavaliere di Seingalt Award (Knight of Seingalt Award) has been conferred, a title that Casanova himself used. This initiative is linked to the literary contest and is aimed at awarding a many-sided man, of excellent culture and flexible art of living, the ideal elegant man of our times who deserves the appreciation of the world of women". The jury is made up by women only.

The winners of the Premio Cavaliere di Seingalt

2004 - Ottavio Missoni

2005 - Luca Barbareschi

2006 - Giuseppe Pambieri

2007 - Gelasio Gaetani Lovatelli D'Aragona

2008 - Sebastiano Somma

2009 - Henri Chenot

2010 - Filippo Timi

2011 -  Luca Dini

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The Castle of Spessa in Capriva del Friuli is inseparably linked to the fascinating figure of Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798), one of its most eminent guests. Even though he is universally known for his skills as a seducer, Casanova was above all a distinguished representative of 18th century culture and an inspired man of letters.

Giacomo Casanova, Knight of Seingalt: a brilliant man who demonstrated an "astonishing multilateralism for us modern people”, as Hermann Hesse said about him. Therefore, not only a renowned lover, adventurer, spy of the Venetian Inquisition, but also and firstly a multifaceted and cosmopolitan intellectual who wrote 43 works, translated Homer and invented several different literary genres.

Giacomo Casanova met Count Luigi Torriani during a French comedy performance held in the mansion of the Baron of Königsbrunn in Trieste.

On that occasion the Count invited him to spend some weeks in autumn in his country mansion in Spessa, six miles away from Gorizia. Casanova accepted and in the early September 1773 he arrived in Spessa and stayed there for about two months.

The prominent Venetian dedicated several pages of Storia della mia vita (History of my life), his renowned memoirs, to his stay in Spessa. Among many things, he wrote that the count's estate mainly consisted in his superb vineyards which surrounded the castle and produced "an excellent wine". 

The quietness of country life enabled Casanova to devote himself to his studies and writings and to conclude Istoria delle turbolenze della Polonia (History of the Troubles in Poland) that was published in the following year in Gorizia by the publisher Valerio de Valeri.

Not even in Spessa was Casanova's fame as a seducer proven wrong.  Sgualda, a young widow in service with the Count, was in the good graces of the prominent suitor, who described her as "in love and as mild as a lamb, a very rare feature for Friulian peasant girls".  They met clandestinely, night after night: Sgualda would arrive at midnight in Casanova's room, without being seen, and she would leave at dawn. But the secrecy of their affair was just an illusion. One morning, apparently the same as many others, Sgualda left Casanova’s room, and as soon as she had closed the door, he heard a terrifying scream. He re-opened the door and he witnessed a scene that was by far more than deplorable: the Count was bludgeoning Sgualda, grasping her by her dress. Torriani was the girl’s sworn enemy because she had always denied him, although he had been harassing her since when her husband was still alive. Casanova's reaction was immediate: still wearing his nightgown, he pounced on Torriani, he grabbed him by his throat nearly strangling him and with the same stick that the Count had just used to beat Sgualda, he started beating him and obliged him to run away.

This episode, added to the lack of kindness of the Count on other occasions, persuaded Casanova to leave the castle. Later he lived in Gorizia and Trieste for more than one year, whilst waiting for pardon from Venice (where he was under investigation by the Inquisition). He went back to his homeland in 1774. 

To celebrate this illustrious guest, in the Historic Park of the Castle, a romantic literary walk has been created among centuries-old trees, arbours, balconies decorated with statues: 10 stages marked by wrought iron signs where quotes by Casanova on love, women, friendship and life are engraved.

Giacomo Casanova and The Castle of Spessa

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 History of The Castle of Spessa

Similarly to any old manor house, the Castle of Spessa is able to subtly enchant even the least attentive visitor. This is not only because of the refined elegance permeating each building or because of the grandeur of the secular park, but also thanks to its thousand-year-old history, which is pregnant with meaningful events and personalities.

The origins of the Castle date back to the Roman time. In fact, the peculiar conformation of the territory where it was erected and the finding of some handmade articles of Roman origins give reasons to believe that a watch tower was built there already since the time of ancient Rome. Furthermore, the finding of pottery, roof tiles, melting scraps and even a well-preserved terracotta bell, which unfortunately got destroyed, witness the existence of an old furnace, just at the foot of the Castle, where exactly the Restaurant La Tavernetta is now located, whose old toponym was indeed Fornasate. Some historians have even assumed the existence of a Roman villa, as it may be indicated by the finding of a bi-colour floor mosaic and of some remains of a lead piping connected to a water pool, 270 meters far away.

The year 899 represents a turning point in the history of the Friulian manor house. The Magyars invaded the Friulian territories and following to the destruction they left behind, also the village of modern Capriva got destroyed, as well as any other surrounding ones. It was just thanks to the orders of the Patriarchs of Aquileia that the village was thoroughly rebuilt, enclosing some of the nearby Slavic peoples, who repopulated the entire area. Thus the origins of the toponym Capriva, which might derive from Kopriva, a word that meant “nettle” in the original dialect spoken by the settlers. The toponym Spessa, on the other hand quite likely represents the transformation of the original Latin expression silva spissa, indicating the local thriving vegetation of that period.

Some other historians identify the year 1200 A.D. circa with the foundation date of a building located on top of the hill, which might have been property of the Ungrispach family. This hypothesis is likely to find evidence in the Ungrispach's coat of arms, which was quartered in the Eck's one and was evidently engraved in the well located beside the stone fountain in the garden facing the residential halls.

Ever since the 15th Century the history of the manor house has been connected to the events in the town of Cormons and to the stronghold situated on top of the mountain Quarin. In 1359 residential feudatory, Andrea di Floyana, resident in the castle of Cormons made his will, which, besides being one of the oldest ones ever handed down to us, provides extremely relevant information about the hill of Spessa, possessed in agistment by the feudatory himself. Upon careful reading of the document, it appears that in those years not only did grapevines, but also olive trees and fruit trees grow luxuriant there.

A further document dated 1532 marks the history of the Castle effectively. It is the testament by Raimondo Dorimbergo, who claimed to have been enfeoffed with the feuds of Spessa and Gorizia by the archduke Carlo of Austria. Raimondo left to his daughter Dorotea the possession of the feud of Spessa, which she brought as a dowry to family Rassauer de Ratscha, coming from Ratschach, in the Carso high plain, by marrying Giuseppe Rassauer. From this marriage in 1547 Giovannina Rassauer was born. She got married to baron Adamo Smetcovitz, manservant of emperor Maximilian II, making the bond with the court of Vienna tighter and tighter. Once be became a widow, Giovanna consented to the proposal by Maximilian II of Austria to marry the count Sigismondo I della Torre, thus bringing along the feud of Spessa as her dowry.

Family Della Torre di Valsassina, even boasting illustrious ancestors such as Charlemagne was one of the most powerful families at the time, and they continuously had ownership of the Castle for over three-hundred years. Family Torriani had close relations with the Augsburgs, but they were also subdued to the authority of Venice, thus making Spessa one of the key players in the main political and war events of the time. For  instance, family Della Torre took part in the wars of Gradisca, also known as war of the Uscocchi, (1615-1617), where imperial troops fought against Venetian ones. Carlo VI della Torre, son of Sigismondo I, notwithstanding the fact that the Venetian government had recalled its feudatories for military service in favour of the Serenissima, decided to go to war supporting the Austrian government, fortunately without suffering any loss of territories.

In his will of 1607, drafted in the Castle of Spessa, Charles VI named his legitimate sons as his universal heir. His son Sigmund II, perhaps the quietest person of the Della Torre family, recognised his first-born Charles VII as the sole heir of his father's wealth. Nevertheless, he was the one who started the first of the three generations of domineering and murderous people that followed, hounded by the imperial and Venetian justice. The last of all the blood-thirsty people was Lucio della Torre who, in 1723, was publicly executed through a sentence signed by Emperor Charles VI of Augsburg, since he was the principal in his wife's murder and he had committed many other heinous crimes.

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