The “standard” Anglo-French-suited playing cards have eclipsed many of the regional playing cards common throughout the world, along with the games played with those cards. Yet in certain places, regional decks are still very popular, and provide a fascinating (and largely unexplored) new wellspring of cards, games, and lore. I plan on diving deep into this wellspring, beginning today with a look at an Italian Siciliane deck produced by Modiano.
First off, you need to understand that there is no monolithic “Italian” deck. There are about 16 different regional decks, some with 40 cards, some with 52. Southern Italy favors the Spanish style which I’m about to describe, while the North has its own style. French and German suits are also used in certain regions of Italy. Even this is kind of fluid, and each regional deck has its own peculiarities.
The pictures below are from a deck common in Sicily. The most striking element of these cards are their unique suits. In the picture below (beginning at the upper left and going clockwise) we have the 3 of : Clubs (Bastoni), Coins (Denari), Swords (Spade), and Cups (Coppe). These replace Clubs, Hearts, Spades, and Diamonds of the Anglo-French deck.
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