Friday, January 27

Field Notes from Basilicata: Who remembers the game Morra?

The question came to us when we were drinking wine, quite a large amount of wine, with lunch and a game of Morra broke out.

Morra is a finger game, like rock-paper-scissors, played between at least two people. In its most basic form, each player will simultaneously throw out between zero and five fingers. The player who guesses the sum of fingers wins the game. Shouting is obligatory.

I’m an American researcher documenting the dialect of my great grandfather’s village, Grumento Nova. But this past Thursday I was in San Paolo Albanese working with another grad student who is researching Arbereshe languages, a cluster of linguistic islands descending from medieval Albanian, spoken in scattered villages throughout southern Italy. Our group was quite surprised to learn that I also knew about morra, thinking that it only still existed in specific areas of Italy.

So the question is who remembers Morra? And where was your family from?

Ross Caputi is a PhD student of history at the University of Massachusetts and a recipient of the Fulbright grant Con il Sud. Over the next several months, Ross will be sharing Field Notes from Basilicata, exploring themes in southern Italian and Italian American culture.