March 15, 2010 12:00 PM

They haven’t been in Venice long, but so far, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have put an emphasis on famiglia-not just by touring the city with their six kids but also by spending time with a special visitor. On Feb. 21 Jolie and her father, Jon Voight, stepped out in public together for the first time in more than seven years. “I really had a wonderful time,” Voight tells PEOPLE. “I loved being there with my daughter and also with Brad and those children, who are quite spectacular.”

It’s a remarkable reconciliation for Jolie, 34, and Voight, 71, whose rocky relationship has been a source of deep hurt for both over the years. From its roots in Jolie’s childhood to a war of words that exploded in 2002, tensions between the two ran so high that at times a truce seemed out of reach. But quietly their rift has begun to heal over the past year. “Angie and I don’t want to say much [regarding how it came about],” says Voight. Those close to the actor say he is thrilled to be back in his daughter’s life. “Every time I saw him interacting with children, I always felt a certain sadness for him,” says his friend Rabbi Chaim Cunin, whose charity fund-raisers Voight has long supported. “It just makes this moment all the more special.”

Until recently, Voight and Jolie weren’t on speaking terms. She has discussed the pain caused by her father’s infidelity during his marriage to her late mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who was divorced from Voight in 1980. Tensions boiled over in ’02, when Voight publicly claimed that Jolie needed “help” amid the actress’s adoption of son Maddox (see box).

Seven years and five more children later, sources say Jolie and her father are working to put the past behind them. “I think it means everything to Jon,” his friend Donald Trump says of the fledgling reconciliation. “I think this is the way it should be.”

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