How the City of Milan Put Tarot Cards on the Map

When you hear the name “Milan,” you probably think of one of a few things. First is probably the city’s bustling fashion scene, as Milan Fashion Week gets an estimated 22,5000 unique visitors each year and brings in more than 50 million Euros for the city. You may also think about delicious pasta dishes as meals such as spaghetti Milanese, is a classic Italian dish of tomato, pasta, and seasoned with basil.

However, go back a few hundred years and the thing that most people knew about Milan is its love of tarot. Tarot cards and tarot readings and the mysticism around them got their start in the Italian city. In fact, it’s fair to say that without Milan, tarot wouldn’t be as popular as it is today.

The History of Tarot in Italy

In the 15th century, traditional playing cards were pretty popular in Italy. But then some players decided to shake things up. The game of tarocchi saw new, handpainted cards called “triumphs” added to the 52 card deck. Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, of the important Italian noble family, asked his secretary to create a deck of the Ancient Greek gods with suits such as riches and pleasures. These seemed to form one of the first known tarot decks.

No one knows for sure whether this deck was intended to be used for tarot readings as they are done today, to read people’s futures. However, historians have suggested that as the Duke’s secretary was teaching him the ways of astrology, it seems likely that they made the connection.

Is Tarot Still Popular in Italy?

Tarot readings got their start in Italy, but the popularity of the cards means that readings are now done all over the world. Tarot readings have also become much more accessible, so you don’t have to travel to Italy or buy your own deck to find out your future. There are even over-the-phone and online tarot readings that allow you to get a reading from someone who really understands the deck and what each tarot card means without leaving your home. 

History suggests that tarot is hugely popular in many places in Europe. France has its own tarot decks, as does Germany, and Austria. So, while tarot readings are still popular in Italy, it’s far from the only country that enjoys this special deck of cards.

Is Italy Famous for Other Card Games?

Tarrochi isn’t the only card game that Italy is famous for, though. One of Italy’s most popular pastimes is the traditional card game of briscola, with scopa being another game enjoyed by Italians and in many other Mediterranean countries. It is known as being a difficult game to master, but this makes it good fun in long, warm afternoons enjoying Italy’s many beautiful sights. 

Whether briscola and scopa will become as popular as tarot cards is unclear. However, it seems that Italians really love their card games and those who enjoy shuffling through the decks should be grateful to the European country.

Vincenzo Girasoli

Written by Vincenzo Girasoli

A life dreaming and building a future that has never been so clear and fresh. Made of endless emotions that rise at the sight of the colours that my Mother Land everyday gives me. I travelled, never getting tired, to then stop in front of the blue of my Mediterranean. There I understood that something big, deep, intense and wonderful was happening; and that I would have never stopped. Diving into that sea I knew I could never go back. At the same time, I knew that those feelings would become yours. And that, together, we would have kept going faster towards something pure, authentic, genuine, happy. Something that with pride I call Idressitalian.

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