The great Baroque composer, Antonio Vivaldi, is one of the most famous Venetians and, as a big fan of his music, I have long been keen to track down some of the places in the city with which he had a connection.
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born on March 4th, 1678, in the sestiere of Castello, where he would live with his family for much of his life. Vivaldi was baptised immediately by the midwife, because she feared his life was in danger. Antonio survived and two months later, on May 6th, he was baptised for a second time in the parish church of San Giovanni in Bragora.
"Antonio Lucio, son of Giovanni Battista, instrumentalist and son of the late Agostino Vivaldi, and his wife, Camilla, daughter of the late Camillo Calicchio, born this fourth of March, on which day he received home baptism from midwife Margarita Veronese due to danger of death, was brought to the church this day. I, pastor Giacomo Fornacieri, performed the exorcisms and christening…."
Although we cannot identify the exact house in which Vivaldi was born (and where he lived until 1705), we do know that it was situated in the Campo grande alla Bragora (today's Campo San Giovanni in Bragora o Bandiera e Moro).
Vivaldi's father was a barber as well as a highly regarded violinist, who played in the orchestra of San Marco. Although Giovanni taught his son the violin, the young Vivaldi seemed destined for a career in the church. At the age of fifteen he began training for the priesthood and ten years later, on March 23rd, 1703, he was ordained. Nicknamed the Prete Rosso (The Red Priest), on account of his red hair, Vivaldi said mass for the first (and almost the last) time in the church of San Giovanni in Oleo, known in Venetian dialect as San Zaninovo.
Six months later he took up a post as maestro di violino at the Ospedale della Pietà, where he also had duties as a house priest or mansionario. The Pietà took in abandoned children and while it provided the boys with the skills of a trade, it gave some of the girls in its charge a first class musical education. Vivaldi would work on and off for the ospedale for most of his life and many of his compositions were written for its female musicians. The ospedale and its church used to stand on the site where, today, we find the Hotel Metropole.
In 1705 Vivaldi and his family moved to Campo Santi Filippo e Giacomo, where they lived in a house which is now part of the Hotel Rio. They lived there until 1710, returning to the campo sixteen months later to live in the house next door. Where they lived between January 1st, 1710, and April 20th, 1711, remains a mystery!
Between 1722 and 1730 Vivaldi (with his family) lived in the Fondamenta del Dose (5879), in the house at the foot of the Ponte del Paradiso. It was while he was living here that he published (1725) what have become some of the most famous pieces of classical music in the world, namely Le Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons).
Vivaldi's final years (1730-40) in Venice were spent in a house in the Riva del Carbon (no one seems to know which). In 1740 the composer left the city of his birth and moved to Vienna, where he died a year later on July 28th, 1741.