Along the Dalmatian coast and on the islands are quite a few activities that everyone shares. Some of the games stems from Italy or France while others are indigenous to Split. Nonetheless, they play an important role in Split culture and its identity; it brings people together for social game, whether outdoors or around a table.
Balota is a game you will often see played all over Dalmatia as well as in Italy and France. Balota is known as Bocce in Italy or Boules in France. The game involves two teams throwing heavy balls as close to a marker ball (known as bulin in Dalmatian or cochonnet in French) as possible on a pitch of about 4 meters wide and 15 meters long. These pitches can be found outdoors all over Dalmatia in city parks and in small coastal villages. The pitches are usually public and are therefore free to use. It’s such a charming site to see elderly men and women who gather for a game and a chat. You will often see overcrowding around the pitches and loud conversation in the making.
Karambol is the billiard version of Balota played in Dalmatia. A Karambol table is similar to a billiard table but has no holes or pockets. Players roll the ball with their hand and without a cue. Again, like Balota, teams have to get as close to the Bulin as possible but first they need to kit two sides of the table first. See here the Karambol rules made easy in Split’s underground café, Zanat, which is where the game is more popularly played.
Briškula and Trešeta are popular card games played in Dalmatia, particularly in Split. The game, originally from Trieste in Italy uses Italian cards, and not the regular decks you would find in a casino or anywhere else in the world. An Italian deck has 40 cards of four suits; coins (Denari), swords (Spade), cups (Coppe) and clubs (Bastoni). Briškula is the simplest and most popular (Briscola in Italian) and is played in the normal Italian fashion though there is also a popular variation called briškula Dalmatian style or briškula na duplo (double briškula). Usually, after completing a round of Briškula, thenTrešeta is played. Trešeta (Tresette in Italian) works on a point system where the winner is the firs to achieve 41 points where akuža scores highest; having three or three aces or three highest ranked cards. If the Trešeta round results in a tie, another round of Briškula needs to be played in order to determine the winner.If you want to learn how to play Briškula and Trešeta, Wikipedia explain the rules of Briscola and Tresette where the Dalmatian variations are explained. If you want to experience a real local vibe where the game is being played, you head to Zanat in Split; an off-the-beaten-path café in the palace where youth come to play the game. Zanat has a tendency to close when its too warm outside but try and find this watering hole anyway by begging a local to reveal its location. Hint: it’s in a side street between Peristil and Pjaca.
Picigin is an amateur sport played in the shallow waters of Bačvice consisting of players tossing a small ball to one another, keeping it from touching the water. Quite rare for these parts, Split’s Bačvice is a sandy beach with quite shallow waters, which spurred the birth of Split’s very own sport. It is not a competitive sport as there are no winners, points or opposing sides, but rather a relaxing way for friends to relax and exercise. As the game grows with intensity, passing tourists are treated to the spectacle of grown men flying in the air in an often vain attempt to keep a small ball in the air and if you ask the women what the best part of the game is, it is that the male contestants are expected to wear mudantine, a tight speedo. The Picigin World Championships were introduced in 2005 and, as the sport is non-competitive, it was decided to determine the champions on a combination of number of touches and acrobatic style. Also, it is a tradition to keep the ball out of the water on New Year’s Day, whatever the weather.
Here is a little Picigin clip: