Skip to content

Tarocco Bolognese Dalla Tore with Rivoltini

For over four centuries, every Italian playing card was handcrafted with rivoltini borders. These are created by gluing backing paper onto the card, folding the four sides over to the front, then gluing the borders down. Now, for the first time in over a century, we can obtain a tarot deck made with this labor-intensive, traditional method.

For this production, Marco Benedetti has reprinted his Dalla Torre Tarocco Bolognese, which was published in 2020. He added hand-crafted rivoltini borders, and packaged the deck in his signature custom-made wooden box. This deck is a partially restored facsimile of a nearly complete 17th-century Tarocchini in the Bibliothèque Nationale Française.

The museum owns a single card, the King of Swords, from another Dalla Tore deck. This card is the source for the backs of Benedetti’s cards, and it has clarified the correct name of the deck. The backs of the nearly complete deck of 57 cards are oriented horizontally and have a rather unbalanced design of two cupids and a tree. Benedetti prefers the elegant Artemis with bow and arrow on the back of the King of Swords. This image is oriented vertically, which you expect in a playing card.

The deck has been mistakenly called the Dalla Torre tarot. It has also been referred to as Alla Torre and Alla Tore in various books and catalogs, probably because of the confusing museum listing. The card maker clearly gives us his name on the Ten of Coins. The name on the back of the King of Swords is partly obliterated, but the missing letters can easily be filled in with Dalla Tore.

Bolognese tarot has an unbroken lineage of trump cards that has remained unchanged for five centuries. One exception is the four Papi: The Emperor, Empress, Popess and Pope. In 1725, the Church ordered the card makers of Bologna to replace these figures with four Moors. Then a few decades later, all Bolognese cards became double-headed. The Dalla Tore is the only existing deck that predates 1725 and shows us what these four cards looked like before the change. The Emperor and Empress are easy to recognize; but the Pope and Popess both seem quite feminine and there is some debate about which one is the Pope.

Many Bolognese trump cards differ significantly from Tarot de Marseille imagery. This isn’t surprising, since the TdM is believed to derive from Milanese tarot, which is a different tradition. The order of the cards is slightly different as well. The three virtues are grouped together after the Chariot, and the Angel/Judgment switches place with the World. When I look at these enigmatic trump images, I feel like I’m touching one of the oldest strata of tarot history.

In my opinion, Bolognese decks have the loveliest aces of any tarot.

Technical Details

The Dalla Tore is a traditional 62-card Tarocchini, meaning pip cards two to five of each suit have been removed. Benedetti has recreated these cards to make a 78-card deck for those who prefer a Tarot de Marseille structure. The missing Queen of Coins has been recreated using the Dalla Tore Queen of Batons, along with details like the shield and coins, taken from the Queen of Coins of the Tarocchino Al Mondo.

The thin paper used for the folded borders is amazingly durable and actually makes the cards sturdier. I’ve been shuffling a deck with rivoltini borders for two years and the cards still look like new. Handling these cards is a very different experience from shuffling a mass-produced deck.

One of the last steps in traditional playing card construction was coating the face of each card with soap to protect the surface and make the cards easier to shuffle. Cards treated with soap have a luscious silky feel. (I know because I’ve handled some.) The Favini canvas paper used for this deck comes very close to the feel of antique soaped decks.

The museum’s cards were trimmed down at some point in time. This deck restores the cards to what is believed to be the original size. With the added borders, the cards measure 11.75 x 5.25 centimeters. The custom-made wooden box is numbered, and includes a card with historic information. Because of the labor-intensive handiwork involved, only 20 copies of the Dalla Tore Tarocchino will be made.

With its ancient imagery and traditional construction, this Dalla Tore production brings a unique era of tarot history to life.

See more cards on Benedetti’s facebook page: Marco.c.benedetti.tarot
To purchase a deck email Benedetti at:
Link to the digitized deck on the Bibliothèque Nationale Française website
My review of Benedetti’s Al Mondo Tarocchino gives more historic background on Bolognese tarot
Read a history of Bolognese tarot on the Tarotwheel website


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: