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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Italian Playing Cards

One of the things I did while waiting for the Palio to start was I wandered around the local shops. Many of them were tchotchke warehouses, but there was a toy store nearby. I had heard of Italian playing cards before and had seen some being used by kids on the train, so I wanted to see if I could find a deck. I asked at the toy store and they suggested a nearby tobacconist. Apparently cards are more associated with men smoking cigars than with toys in Siena.

I discovered a shelf filled with decks of cards marked with the names of various regions around Italy. The shopkeeper came over and had a conversation with me about the cards and explained than most of the different states around Italy had their own variation, and there were in fact 16 different styles of playing Italian playing cards:

  1. Bergamasche
  2. Bresciane
  3. Genovesi
  4. Milanesi
  5. Napoletane
  6. Piacentine
  7. Piemontesi
  8. Primiera Bolognese
  9. Romagnole
  10. Salisburghesi
  11. Sarde
  12. Siciliane
  13. Toscane
  14. Trentine
  15. Trevigiane
  16. Triestine
Many styles of Italian cards use Tarot-style suits: cups, wands/clubs, swords and coins, and the Queen is considered to be of lower value than the Knight/Jack. Apparently, some styles have 36 cards (A6789TQJK), 40 cards (A56789TQJK or A234567QJK), or the familiar 52.

I bought about four different decks, paying about 4.75€ (around $6.60) each — the Romagnole, Sarde, Napoletane, and Trevisane. They seemed to be the most diverse set of four I could make out of the seven or so different ones the tobacconist had (Siciliane, Trentine and Primiera Bolognese were the others I think).

And it seems you can buy almost the exact same cards I got here for less than I paid for them there.

Yeah... well, I bought mine at the Palio. There were people in medieval costume nearby. That automatically makes it cooler.

Doesn't it?

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.