Games and Jokes

More than two centuries old, but it does not show

Games and Jokes

In the past centuries, it was common to play cards in cafés. Even if it was outlawed, gambling was still practiced. It used to happen in all of the cafés across the town. Actually, in all the cafés of all the cities, to be more precise. Fiorio was no exception, to the contrary. People used to gamble their entire wealth in its halls. When they lost, the rule “debt of game, debt of honor” applied. The police used to patrol, drew up confidential reports, repressed but never stamped it out. All the more so at Fiorio, owing to the respectability of its clients, who covered up for each other and counted on friendships at the right offices. There were also those who used to cheat at cards. If they got caught, they were subject to different treatments depending on whether they were aristocrats or bourgeoisie. A young lawyer felt that on his own skin. He was at Fiorio, playing Gotto and he tried to cheat. But he got caught, beaten, insulted and thrown out of the Café, chased under the porticos of Via Po.

His career, which was promising till the day before, was put in jeopardy. He took refuge in Susa out of shame, where a priest recommended him a life in religion. The lawyer got convinced and he studied and took Holy orders. It is told that his Sunday sermons were very much appreciated. On the other hand, had he not been a lawyer? The only problem is that it did not last much. He applied for a dispensation from the Church, gave up the cassock and got married. His traces were lost. A life which changed course radically on most diverse paths just because he tried to cheat recklessly at the tables of Fiorio… Although some used to get caught cheating, there were many respectable people who devoted themselves to peaceful and thoughtful games. Camillo Benso from Cavour was one of them, who not only gathered adepts for his Whist Society at Fiorio’s, but he even held the first official meeting there in March 1841. Some scholars argue that his society was actually a way to select a more homogeneous elite. Some sort of a cover, so that between one hand and the other, national politics would be shaped.

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