Le Carte Napoletane

by Mario Fusco

Italian Aces

Italian Aces

Allora, facciamoci una partita a carte! With these words Italians whip out un mazzo di carte and sit down to play scopa or briscola or tressette. Children use a miniature version of the same card deck and play a game called “asso piglia tutto“, meaning “the ace takes all”.

These are “Carte Napoletane“, ubiquitous all over Italy. There are four suits, as in American cards, but only ten cards to a suit (think of American cards minus the 8, the 9 and the 10.) The face cards instead, called il fante (the groom), il cavallo (the horse) and il re (the king), play the role of the 8, the 9, and the 10 cards respectively.

The Italian artistic flair is evident even in the design of these cards. The four suits parallel the suits in a standard American poker deck – bastone (club), spada (spade), coppa (heart), and denaro (diamond). The cards are slightly smaller than their American counterparts, but generally stiffer. In the smaller towns, perhaps at the only bar in town, one often finds Italians playing cards over a glass of wine for hours and hours, much as in other countries people play chess in public squares. In the “olden days”, before the advent of TV and of the habit of spending most evenings at home, Italian men headed for their circolo or for the neighbourhood bar to play billiards or cards in the evening. Women, of course, stayed home with the children.

These playing cards are available in any “Sali e Tabacchi”. Just go in and ask, in your best Italian, for “un mazzo di carte”. You don’t even to say “napoletane”; it’s the default in Italy.

Fante, Cavallo, Re

Fante, Cavallo, Re

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