In a new series looking at how migrant communities have influenced Adelaide, CityMag delves into the inner workings of the Adelaide-Italian community and the first-ever World Briscola Championship this Saturday.
The world in Adelaide: World Briscola Championship
It was my nonna who taught me how to play Briscola. I was in my early teens, just old enough to understand card game strategy, but young enough to have an attention span that kept up with new concepts.
We would sit around the dining room table with my three cousins — a table that has shared so many loud, chaotic and delicious Italian memories — and learn the basics of ‘Brisc’.
Briscola is arguably the most popular Italian card game — played at least from the 17th century. In its simplest form, the game requires teams of two to rally the most points possible by winning the highest ranked cards, which uses the leading ‘Briscola’ suit.
Not played with the well-known 52 card deck of Kings and Queens, Briscola has its own four suits: denari, bastoni, coppe and spade, the cards illustrated with colourful symbols and characters.
The first ever World Briscola Championship, according to the Associazione Molisani community in South Australia, will take place this weekend at Serafino Wines.
Associazione Molisani committee member Charlie DiTore walks CityMag through the community hall where they are preparing for the weekend’s festivities. Inside, the rest of the committee members are ferociously working in what looks like a production line.
Half the team is pouring wine into the bonbonnieres, while the others are labelling small bottles with ‘World Briscola Championship’ stickers. Everyone seems to be chatting loudly, one voice on top of the other, debating about whether this particular ribbon looks the best, or catching up on the week’s events.
It harks back to my early years learning the game: just as loud and passionate, but maybe a little bigger.
Founded in 2005, the Associazione Molisani is a not-for-profit organisation that represents people who have come to South Australia from the Italian region of Molise. Each member volunteers their time, even for something as important as the World Briscola Champs.
This championship is a 24-team competition, with winners taking home a prize of $8000.
“It’s gonna be a great event, one of the best in South Australia — we really think that,” says Serafino Maglieri, president of Associazione Molisani.
“We are very proud and honoured to put something on like this.”
The games begin from 9am at Serafino Wines. The tournament will then be followed by a gala dinner, with entertainment, food and drinks. In true Italian spirit, around 270 people will enjoy the festivities.
“We call it a big event because it’s the first time it’s been done in Adelaide and well, in the world, but definitely Adelaide,” Serafino says.
“We got the singer from Italy [Vittoria Iannacone] with the guitar as well.”
“We got another young Italian talent, he’s only 22 years old. He’s the new voice for the future of the Italian community,” says Frank Salzano, vice president of Associazione Molisani, about Sebastian Vonito, an international student studying in Adelaide.
While no one is flying in for the ‘World Championship’ title, Serafino says it is really an excuse to connect people, reunite and celebrate Italian heritage.
“The main thing is to get together — the idea is to put the Italian community together,” Serafino says.
“We are the Molise Association region, but everybody’s here, you know, from north to the south — we call it the Italian community together. That is the only way to do it — do a function like this.
“If I ring you up [and say], ‘come down to McLaren Vale because we’ll have a drink’, you won’t turn up. But [if I say] ‘Oh we’ll have a game of cards, then we’ll have a beer, and then we’ll have another game’ and the day’s gone — see how easy it is?
“That’s really what it’s all about: get together, have a fun, have a bit of a game and then have entertainment night with great food — all on the seafood side. I’m sure it’s going to be great.”
Benevento-born Briscola player, Enzo D’Apruzzo, will be participating with his with his son, Nicky.
Through his friend and fellow committee member Luigi Pisaniello, translating CityMag’s inadequate Italian and Enzo’s English, he told us that Briscola is “everything” to him.
Enzo taught Nicky to play Briscola when he was 15 years young but says he himself first learnt to play when living in Benevento.
“When I was little, I watch all the time the people play and I learn,” Enzo says.
“All my grandson play — I got a little one, one six years old, he play Briscola. He come my place say ‘Nonno, come here, show me the Briscola’. When he get older he might be the best.”
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Playing Briscola brings Enzo back to his early years, which he explains is part of the reason he wants to participate in the World Champs.
“When I was small, I play all the time — that’s why we enjoy,” Enzo says.
“Plus, when we [play], that’s only one family. Nobody get upset, everybody happy — we play every year.”
When asked what Italy means to him, Enzo simply points to his heart, and explains how when he migrated to Australia at 24 years of age, he was alone and left his entire family in Benevento.
“In Italy, I have a job but I want to see something else. I came here, and I never gone back,” Enzo says.
“You have to enjoy the life.”
Associations and functions like this allow Italians to hold onto their heritage and keep their traditions alive in a country they now call home.
“It’s tradition,” Serafino says.
“If we don’t do it, our kids, grandkids won’t learn — then you lose it, lost it all… Because we’re not going to be here, but after that, we’ve got somebody else coming in.
“So, it’s very important to me to keep this tradition going, that’s the idea — tradition. That to me is number one. That is what I believe in and all of us believe in that.”
To this Italian CityMag writer, Briscola is a way that we can hold onto our Italian roots, and hold onto generations who are slowly fading away. It represents family, community and a way to connect that truly transcends age limits and language barriers.
The World Briscola Championship will take place this Saturday, September 23, from 9am until late, at Serafino Wines, 39 Kangarilla Road, McLaren Vale.
Connect with the Associazione Molisani on Facebook for more.