Venice very quickly gained a reputation as a gambling capital. Already in the 15th century it was one of the first manufacturers of playing cards with the opening of the first factory in 1391. In 1638 it was the first city to open a public place to gamble, the famous “Ridotto” in San Moisè in Palazzo Dandolo, which was closed in 1774. In the past centuries, Venetian gamblers were very well represented and narrated in the “ridotti”, in the houses and squares. It is enough to remember the paintings of Francesco Guardi and Pietro Longhi today at the Venetian 18th century Museum of Ca’ Rezzonico or the works of Carlo Goldoni.
Among the most common games of chance, besides cards and dice, there were the “biribissi”, the “bassetta”, the “sbaraglino”, the “royal game” and the “mea game”. The “bassetta” was a card game, with a bank and three players, the “sbaraglino” is the ancestor of backgammon, “biribissi” and “real game” are similar to roulette, with players betting on the square of a table or a playing cloth and a draw. Even the “mea game”, with the tip of a rotating arrow that chooses randomly in a circle of images, was based on betting and randomness.
In cosmopolitan and mercantile Venice, gambling has been part of the custom for centuries. Even some doges and their spouses were famous gamblers. Still today in the Correr Museum many materials, board games, solitaire, patience games, for children or adults are preserved. But certainly there was not only gambling. For example, the work of Giovanni Palazzi, printer and manufacturer of playing cards, created a series dedicated to famous Venetian women, telling a unique story of Venice.
The Venice Casino, founded in 1638 and called the oldest gaming house in the world, was moved to its current location at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi on the Grand Canal in the 1950s and immediately established itself as an entertainment centre of international renown.
Website Museum: www.correr.visitmuve.it
Website Casino: www.casinovenezia.it
Location Casino: Ca’ Vendramin Calergi