Casanova's extraordinary life carried him across the breadth of Europe in all kinds of scandalous adventures which he memorialized in his "Histoire de Ma Vie"--perhaps the most fascinating source for the social history of The Enlightenment. During his travels Casanova made and lost fortunes and encountered many famous personalities such as the pope, Voltaire, Rousseau and Mozart.
Born in Venice to a family of actors, Casanova started his career in Padua where he studied for the priesthood. His licentious behaviour there resulted in expulsion whence he travelled to Rome to become the secretary to a cardinal. More scandals followed and he moved on to Venice where he made his way by defrauding wealthy socialites with occult tricks a la Cagliostro. The Inquisition in Venice convicted him of witchcraft in 1755 and he was led across the Bridge of Sighs and imprisoned in Il Plumbi ("The Leads"), a famous prison attached to the doge's palace. He escaped and fled to France where he sensationalized the exploit by a pamphlet that made him into a minor celebrity. In Paris he used the name Jacques Casanova and styled himself the "Chevalier de Seingalt". There he made a fortune by starting a lottery. This success was not to last and his restless genius led him to other countries and adventures. Impecunious at the end he retired in 1785 to become the librarian to the Count of Waldstein in the castle of Dux, Bohemia (now Duchcov, Czech Republic) where he died June 4, 1798.
Ironically, Casanova is these days considered the epitome of voracious heterosexuality. In fact, like most "rakes" in his day, Casanova had an active bisexual sex-life. While he certainly seems to have preferred women, his few relationships with men were more emotional and lasting.
Casanova (and the archetype that he has come represent) have appeared in a significant number of both regular and "adult" movies. The first was the 1918 Hungarian movie of that name by Alfréd Deésy in which the director also played the title role. One well known representation was in 1976 by Donald Sutherland in 1976 in Il Casanova di Federico Fellini.