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italian card games
(return to sports & games)

   learn to play:
English playing-cards are known and used all over the world. As many travelers to more southerly parts of Europe can tell, the familiar suits of Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs give way to quite different sets of symbols: Hearts, Leaves, Bells (round hawkbells) and Acorns in Germany; Shields, Roses, Bells and Acorns in Switzerland; Coins, Cups, Swords and Clubs (cudgels) in Spain and Mediterranean Italy; Coins, Cups, Swords and Batons in Adriatic Italy where local packs of cards have a decidedly archaic look about them - which reflects the designs of some of the earliest cards made in Europe. In Italy, you'll also find that the cards themselves have different dimensions. For example, the cards from Trento are thin and tall while those from Naples are short and much smaller than American playing cards (view the games, below, for a sample from each deck). In fact, Neopolitan cards are the most polular in Italy and are regarded as the "standard" deck. For a more detailed history of playing-cards, please visit International Playing-Card Society.

the 40 card deck
Most Italian games use a 40 card pack. Popular games include Scopa and Scopone, Briscola, Tressette and Terziglio. There are also games confined to particular regions, such as Madrasso in Venice, Ciapan´┐Ż in Lombardy, Coteccio in Trieste, and children's games such as Camicia.

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 game Scaraboci´┐Żn, and for Sancagna, Gilet alla Greca and Trionfetti; and the Trentine, which is used to play Dobellone.

The best way to obtain a 40 card deck is to stop at the local Tabaccheria (Taboacconist) on your next trip to Italy. If this is not possible at the moment, you can easily take your standard 52 card deck and turn it into the Italian 40 by removing the 8, 9, 10 and Joker cards from the deck. It's interesting to note that Italian cards do not have a "Queen" but they do have a "Knight", or Cavallo.

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