Playing-card review 4: Piacentine and Napoletane by Modiano and Dal Negro

This time I’m taking a look at some Italian regional packs. I happen to have two copies of the Piacentine pack by different makers, which offers some comparison possibilities.

Italy has 16 different regional packs, which are divided to four different styles: northern Latin suits, southern Latin suits, French suits and German suits. Both Piacentine and Napoletane represent the southern style. The suits are clubs, swords, coins and cups. This style is influenced by the Spanish style, as the Southern Italy where this style originates was under Spanish rule at the time.

These two are the two most popular patterns in Italy. Piacentine in particular — the pattern is popular in the Central Italy and also used in the North with the local styles. Piacentine dates back to late 18th century, while Napoletane is younger, dating from 19th century.

Both are rather similar and feature the signs of Spanish style. The clubs or batons are knotted wooden cudgels, while the swords are short and straight. Northern styles have long and straight ceremonial batons and long curved swords. Also, the symbols in the card are separate from each other: the swords and the batons don’t cross each other.

These are typical Italian packs: all three have 40 cards with numbers 1-7 in each suit and three court cards: a jack, a horseman and a king.

The games to play with these packs are Scopa and Briscola.

Dal Negro Piacentine card back

Modiano Piacentine back

Dal Negro Piacentine 109 and Modiano Piacentine 81/25. These packs (Dal Negro on the left, Modiano on the right) follow the same pattern and generally look the same. Both are clearly based on the same pictures, but the art is not exactly the game. The Modiano pack has stronger lines and perhaps more vivid colours, while the Dal Negro pack has slightly finer details in the pictures.

It’s entirely a matter of opinion which of these packs is better. Modiano’s stronger lines happen to please me more, but I’m sure someone might prefer Dal Negro. Below you can see the ace of cups from both decks, perhaps that will demonstrate the differences between the packs.

As usual, these packs lack indices, both numbers and suit symbols. It’s not a problem here, in general, as the cards are very clear. Since the numbers only run to seven, counting the symbols and recognising the different number cards is easy. The double-headed courts are easy to tell apart, despite the lack of ladies.

The most mysterious card in these packs is the ace of coins, which sports a large eagle. The eagle has a circle in it and before, the circle was the place where the tax stamp was. In Dal Negro’s pack, the circle is white, so there’s no sign of coins in the card. In Modiano’s pack, the circle has a large coin. Still, it might confuse someone.

In general these are pretty packs, the art is colourful. I also like the very large suit symbols in the lower number cards. The court cards are perhaps somewhat clumsy and the double-headed style doesn’t suit them very well, but this looks like a fun pack to use. Both packs have two extra cards: pointless logo cards in Dal Negro, rules to Briscola and Scopa (in Italian) in Modiano. Both come in regular tuckbox, but Modiano’s is larger and better (their boxes are always very good).

Here are the pictures. Top row is Dal Negro, bottom row is Modiano.

Dal Negro Piacentine Ace of Cups Dal Negro Piacentine Ace of Clubs Dal Negro Piacentine four of Coins
Modiano Piacentine Ace of Cups Modiano Piacentine King of Clubs Modiano Piacentine Five of Swords

Modiano Napoletane back

Modiano Napoletane 97/25. This southern pattern is similar to Piacentine, but has few key differences. The cards are slightly smaller (as wide as Piacentine cards, but almost a centimeter shorter). There are no frames around the cards. The suit symbols are perhaps slightly more minimalistic and generally smaller, especially in the cards with many of them.

The court cards are single-headed and look rather classy, if you ask me. To my eyes Napoletane is more pleasant than Piacentine. The strong, bold style reminds me of some Tarocco packs. There are some interesting details. The ace of coins has an eagle, but the eagle is two-headed, which is unique. The three of clubs has a yellow face with big mustache. Five of swords has a small hunting (or is it sowing? some rural activity anyway) scene drawn in it and the horseman of swords is a Moor.

All in all, Napoletane is a charming pack and if you want just one Southern Italian pack, this would be my recommendation. The pictures are lovely and the cards are good for playing as well, thanks to the very clean design of the cards. No indices here, either, but the cards are easy to read. The pack is of usual Modiano quality.

Modiano Napoletane ace of clubs Modiano Napoletane seven of coins Modiano Napoletane jack of swords
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4 thoughts on “Playing-card review 4: Piacentine and Napoletane by Modiano and Dal Negro”

  1. I was fortunate to pick up a couple of the Modiano Napoletane 97/25 locally. I’m very pleased with them, though my preference would be for the Venetian (Trevigiane) pattern; they’re longer, narrower, and have indices in two corners.
    If you haven’t tried it already, I would recommend trying Scopone (or even Scopone Scientifico) over Scopa, there are fewer unknowns and, I think, more opportunities for strategic play. But, either way, it’s a very enjoyable fishing game. It’s especially fun to exclaim “Scopa!, like a jubilant Greek crying “Opa!, to rub it in when you sweep your opponents.

  2. Yes, Trevigiane is my favourite pattern of the Northern Italian patterns. Those patterns needs indices more than these southern styles, because of the criss-cross nature of the swords and batons makes the cards much harder to read.
    Scopone (and Cicera and Scarabocion) is on my list of games to try… Too many games, too little time and not enough friends who like traditional card games…

  3. Just bot two packs of Napoletane modiano cards. altho I mistakenly ordered them thinking they were regular playing cards (so I could play Brisk). Now that I received the first mentioned type with classical pictures, I would like to know how to play the game. My Italian is not that good, is there a English translation of the rules of the game, etc ??? 860-621-4561 Frank

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