March 15, 2010 / Local Interest
Scopa1Scopa (meaning “to sweep” or “broom”) is a 400-year-old Italian card game, played in most regions of the country using the Piacentine, Napolitane, or Triestine pack of cards. There are other variations such as Scopone, as well as other types of cards, and each region will claim that their way is best in typical Italian fashion.

The traditional Italian deck has 40 cards, divided into four suits, called Denari (coins), Coppe, (cups), Spade (swords) and Bastoni (clubs). Each suit has values from 1 to 7; plus the knave, the horse and the king, which are worth respectively 8, 9 and 10.

The object of the game is to “sweep” the table by clearing the remaining pile cards, thus earning a point. One may also score by…
…capturing more cards than all other opponents
…capturing more Coin cards than all other opponents
…capturing the 7 of Coins, known as settebello (The beautiful seven)
…having the higher primiera (determined by calculating the value from the best card from each suit in your hand, but which uses a wholly different card/value system…7s are highest, then sixes, aces, fives, etc.)


It is common to find friends playing in cafés and talking up a storm, for psyching out one’s opponent is a skill just as valued as memory. So, the next time you see them, put down your cappuccino and challenge them to a game with a few colorful words of your own!

(For more in-depth rules check out this site)

Ian Zurzolo

by Ian Zurzolo

Writer, editor, American University of Rome graduate, Italian Notebook Editorial Intern.

8 Responses to “Scopa!”

  1. Stef Smulders

    This is really a very nice note. More of these please!
    Does anyone know the cardgame tresette (I believe it’s called) ? It’s mentioned in some novels but I never figured out how it works.

  2. Mary Louise

    Thank you for these memories. As Children we spent hours played Scopa with our Grandmother and as adults have reminisced about the game which we remember the experience but little more. We would love to renew those precious hours playing the game with our children and grandchildren. We only need to purchase a deck of these Italian cards. Can you help? Please help us find a way to make a purchase of this deck of cards. Thank you

  3. Pat Ceccarelli
    Pat Ceccarelli

    this is a “keeper”- to be printed out and pasted on the wall above the computer for a reminder of fun! many thanks Ian!

  4. Joseph D. Spano
    Joseph D. Spano

    What a delight it was to see the note ‘SCOPE’. It was of my childhood that I returned. Remembering the many hours playing ‘Scope’ with papa, thank you for a moment of joy. Do you know of ‘sette mezzo’?

  5. Jessica

    Yay – I love this post! I am American, but my mother’s side is all Italian, living in Italy still. My nonna taught me Scopa when I was little and I still have the cards she gave me back then. Now I have taught my kids. Such wonderful memories! Also, seeing people playing cards in the piazzas is another thing I love so much about Italy! Thank you for this post!

  6. Tresette and Briscola are two other Italian card games that are very popular. They are also played with any of the pack of cards, such as Triestine, Napolitane, Piacentine, etc. Watching the men play in particular briscola can be very amusing.

  7. Ian Zurzolo

    You’re welcome! Scopa is my favorite version, although they are all great. I’m not sure where to buy a “Piacentine” deck in the states, but it has to be found somewhere…maybe in New York?

  8. Great! My Italian language teacher in Phoenix taught the class to play and I have completely forgotten! Thanks for giving us the rules etc! Fun!


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