Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Dreams of winning big

wherever possible. And no event attracts as much desire for good luck than Gioco del lotto – Italy’s largest lottery.
While lotto has changed little in decades, with five numbers being drawn from a possible 90 to decide the winners, it does have some interesting precursors which may, or may not, have evolved into the game Italians love today.
Milan in the 15th century was thought to have a game called ‘bags of fortune’ from which lucky numbers were bet on and drawn. The city of Genoa used to draw names to determine the appointment of five city officials, who would each serve a six-month term, and citizens placed bets on which five would be chosen.

As with any lottery, players take great care in choosing their numbers – after all, they could be millionaire-makers. Many systems have been developed which claim to calculate the luckiest numbers and almanacs, which record every number drawn over the years, have been popular for over a hundred years.

Most interesting however is a superstitious book from Naples. Known as the Smorfia, the book encourages players to recall their dreams and use images they see in their sleep to guide their choice in numbers. Relatives, animals, objects or events they may see in a dream each are given a number, making it possible to pick the week’s five lotto numbers based on a dream. Most Italians dream of winning the lotto, the Smorfia gives some of them a chance to use their dreams to do just that.