A dive into the past: the Sicilian game of “tuppètturu”

It was a spinning top made from a marble and with a nail protruding outwards. From an etymological point of view, the word has the same root as the word “tùppu” and it indicated both the two-player and the group variant

Today we rediscover a widespread game in Sicily during the last century, which allowed children to spend many hours together on the street or in squares when the weather was sunny. We are talking about one of the most popular games in different areas of the world until 1900, i.e. the game of tuppètturu or tuppèttu, also known as strùmmula.

It consisted of a wooden spinning top made from a marble thinner on one side. At one of its two ends there was a nail protuding outwards. From the etymological point of view, this noun has the same root as the Sicilian word tuppu, which basically indicated a protruding and roundish tool used by artisans. However, depending on its size, it could change its name and be called paparazza, paparedda, tuppètturu, tuppètturu lisinu or ciancianedda.

Regardless of these nuances, each tuppetturu had a long string of twine woven around its nail. The game began when someone asked his mates: «Cu puttau‘ u tuppètturu?» (Did you bring your top with you?). Then, everyone took the toy out of their pocket. You could play the two-player variant or the one conceived for a large group of people, and each of them had different rules. In the first variant, the two challengers threw their ‘lazzata (the rope) holding the string between two fingers. This way, the top began to rotate on the iron tip of its nail. The winner was the one whose tuppètturu made more rotations before stopping on the ground.

If a group of friends wanted to play all together at the same time, instead, a “scissor, paper, rock” turn helped indicating the person who would have to put their top on the ground. The other players had the task of throwing their own spinning top trying to hit the still tuppètturu. In both cases, the pledge of the loser consisted of some pizzàte, that is a certain number of blows that anyone could give to the loser’s top. The goal of this penance was to ruin the surface of the poor top to limit the chances of a future victory of its. Have you ever heard of tuppèturu before? Do you someone who had played it at least once in their life?

Translated by Eva Luna Mascolino

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