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Card games in Italy

At present this page on Italian games is organised according to the type of cards used.

Most parts of Italy have their own regional pattern with latin or French suits. Latin suited cards, with suits of swords (spade), batons (bastoni), cups (coppe) and coins (denari), are prevalent in the North-East (where the pip cards have curved swords and straight batons which cross in a trellis), and in the South (where the pip cards have short separate swords and batons). Elsewhere the regional patterns are French suited, with suits of spades (picche), clubs (fiori), diamonds (quadri) and hearts (cuori). Most of the regional cards come as 40 card packs; 52 card versions of the North-Eastern Italian regional patterns are also made for certain games.

Various forms of Italian suited Tarot cards (Tarocchi) are used in Bologna, Piemonte and a few places in Sicily. The international French suited 52 card pack is also widely available. German suited cards are used in the German speaking South Tyrol. The 40 card single suited Cuccù pack is used in some regions in the north.

40 cards with Italian suits

Each suit has king (re), cavalier (cavallo), jack (fante), 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, ace (asso).

Most Italian games use a 40 card pack. Popular games include

There are also games confined to particular regions, such as Madrasso in Venice, Ciapanò in Lombardy, Beccaccino, Trionfo and Mattazza in Romagna, Coteccio in Trieste, Zecchinetta in Sicily and children's games such as Camicia.

52 cards with Italian suits

Each suit has king (re), cavalier (cavallo), jack (fante), 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, ace (asso).

Although nearly all Italian packs have 40 cards, there are three regional patterns made with 52 cards: the Bresciane, which is used to play Cicera; the Trevigiane, which is used for the similar games Scaraboción in Venice and Foraggio in Padova, and also for Sancagna, Gilet alla Greca and Trionfetti around the Venice lagoon; and the Trentine, which is used to play Dobellone.

40 cards with French suits

Each suit has king (re), queen (donna / dama / regina), jack (fante), 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, ace (asso).

These cards are used in the North-West of Italy (Piemonte, Liguria, Tuscany and Milano) for the same games that are played elsewhere with the Italian suited packs, such as Scopa, Briscola and Tressette. Cirulla, a complex variation of Scopa, is played in Genoa using a 40-card pack of the local French suited pattern (carte genovese).

78 card Tarocco Piemontese

21 trumps, double ended, named and numbered 1-21 in arabic numerals, the fool (matto) numbered 0 and the four suits consisting of king (re), queen (donna), cavalier (cavallo), jack (fante) and pip cards from 1 to 10.

The basic game is Scarto, and there is also a game called Mitigàti, with enhanced gambling features. These games are now rather rare, but are still played in and around Torino. Even rarer is the Tarocchi game played near Asti with 54 cards from the Piemontese pack. For details of both see A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack - Volume 1 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), by Michael Dummett and John McLeod.

In Piedicavallo, Tarocchi is played with 62 cards from this pack, omitting the lowest four cards of each suit.

62 card Tarocco Bolognese

Angel, World, Sun, Moon, 16 - 5, four moors (two identical), Bègato; Matto plus four suits consisting of king (re), queen (donna), cavalier (cavallo), jack (fante) ace (asso) and pip cards from 6 to 10. The cards and games are often known as Tarocchino, the diminutive of Tarocco referring to the reduction of the Bolognese pack from 78 to 62 cards, which probably occurred in the early 16th century.

A number of related games are played with these cards in and around Bologna. The partnership game Ottocento is one of the more popular.

64 card Tarocco Siciliano

Small cards: single-ended numbered trumps from 1 to 20 plus the unnumbered Miseria and Fuggitivo; 4 Italian suits consisting of king (re), queen (donna), cavalier (cavallo), jack (fante) ace (asso) and pip cards from 5 to 10 plus 4 and ace of coins only.

Michael Dummett has discovered that Tarocchi is played in several villages in Sicily, each with its own variation of the game. For details see A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack - Volume 1 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), by Michael Dummett and John McLeod and Michael Dummett: I tarocchi Siciliani (il nuovo melangolo, 2002).

97 card Minchiate

There are 40 trumps: the Trumpets, World, Sun, Moon and Star and trumps with Roman numbers from XXXV down to I. The fool is unnumbered. There are four Italian suits of 14 cards - pip cards from 1 - 10 and the usual four pictures, except that the cavalli depicted as centaurs and the jacks of coins and cups are replaced by maids.

The game of Minchiate, also known as Germini, is associated with Florence. At one time it was played across a wide area of Italy. It is said to have been known in Genoa until the 1930's, but it now appears to have died out. For details see A History of Games Played with the Tarot Pack - Volume 1 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2004), by Michael Dummett and John McLeod. Some packs include a 98th card, whose function is unknown.

Cuccù cards

There are 40 cards - 2 each of: Cuckoo, Bragon, Horse, Cat, Inn, X, VIIII, VIII, VII, VI, V, IIII, III, II, I, O, Bucket, Mask, Fool, Lion)

See A.G. Smith: "The Cambio Packs and the Games played with them" - part III (The Playing-Card Volume XX No 1). According to this the cards are used in Bergamo, the Abruzzo area, the Basilicata and Molise. There is a simple round game Cuccù (= Cuckoo) and trick taking games: Zifuli, Cucco (Cöch) and Cuccù a Trionfo.

36 or 40 cards with German suits

Each suit has Ace (As or Sau), King (König), Over (Ober), Under (Unter), 10, 9, 8, 7, 6. The 6 of bells has signs of the other suits as well and is inscribed WELI.

These "Salzburger Spielkarten" are used in the in the German speaking parts of Südtirol (South Tyrol) and as far South as Trento. The games played include Perlaggen, Watten and Bieten, all of which are also played in the Austrian Tyrol. These games only require 33 of the cards - the sixes other than the WELI are not used. The fact that the pack is made with 36 cards may indicate that it is also used for some other Tyrolean 36-card games, perhaps something similar to Dobbm.

The Italian card makers Dal Negro and Modiano also make a 40-card version of the pack including fives. Domenico Starna informs me that this is used in Südtirol - Alto Adige for Tressette, the ranking of cards being 10, 9, ace, king, over, under, 8, 7, 6, 5, so that the 10, 9, ace and pictures are counting cards. It is also possible to play Tressette with only 32 Salzburger playing cards without sixes and fives, dealing 8 cards to each player. Also in Niederdorf - Villabassa and in Innichen - San Candido they play Blind Watten with 40 cards. In Niederdorf - Villabassa they also play Bieten with 40 cards. In Toblach - Dobbiaco, Blind Watten is played 36 cards, using all the sixes but no fives - see the Watten page for details.

52 cards with French suits

The international 52 card pack is used in Italy as elsewhere for Bridge and (in multiple form with jokers) for Canasta. Since the late 20th century a canasta-based game Burraco has become extremely popular. A double 52-card deck is also used for the rummy games Scala Quaranta and Machiavelli.

Italian Poker and the stud poker variant Telesina are played with a "stripped" 52-card pack, reduced according to the number of players by removing low cards.

Other web pages, software and online games

The Italian site Tretre includes an encyclopedia of Italian card games and a history of playing-cards, and Briscola, Tressete and Scopa can be played on line against live players or against the computer.

Alberosa specialises in software for Italian Rummy games: Ramino, Scala Quaranta and Burraco.

The World Casino Directory includes a listing of Casinos in Italy.