Monopoly is having its 80th birthday. It was first developed in America in 1934 during the Depression. The original board game is now sold in 40 languages and 106 countries around the world. As a reminder, the game board consists of 40 spaces containing 28 properties (22 colored streets, 4 railway stations, and 2 utilities) three Chance spaces, three Community Chest spaces, a Luxury Tax space, an Income Tax space, and the four corner squares: GO, Free Parking, Go to Jail, and In Jail / Just Visiting. It became so popular that Parker Brothers granted licenses to other countries to produce their own versions using national and local town and street names.
Even Fascist Italy coveted a version, despite the game’s blatant capitalism. In defiance of Parker Brothers and its patents, Italian publisher Emilio Cerreti of Milan in 1935 cleverly designed an Italian version of the game. The firm registered the name Monòpoli in Italy and Mussolini’s office approved it for sale (no “y” for the Italian version). Most of the place names used on the board existed in Milan or Bologna, but Cerreti created 3 imaginary properties, including Via Fascia (Fascist Way) and Corso Imperio (Empire Course) to appease the regime. So even though Italy suffered under the militaristic rule of Il Duce, ironically, its people could still play a version of the popular American real estate game and celebrate American-style winning. (The humble goal is to win everything and make everyone else bankrupt!)
Over the years, many theme editions were published including Monopoly Avengers, Monopoly World, Monopoly Junior (for children), Monopoly Banking with credit cards, Monopoly SpongeBob SquarePants, Monopoly in braille, and so on. The tokens also changed over time—from thimbles to top hats. For Italy, the Ducati!
The celebrated pastime was published in Italy from 1935 for more than 70 years by Editrice Giochi until the summer of 2009 when the Italian distribution passed to Hasbro, the current multinational American corporation that holds worldwide rights to the game. Then, in 2011 in honor of 150 years of Italian unity, an anniversary edition was published based on online voting for the cities to be represented. The results were surprising. The larger cities, like Rome, Bologna, Venice, and Florence failed to make it. One Tuscan city, Viareggio, is one of the 22 Italian cities voted onto the board game (taking the place of Piazza Università in the original game). The majority of cities selected are provincial capitals, not major cities. Only Milan and Turin won spots on the national edition.
To celebrate the voting process, which was very popular among Italians, Monopoly Italy decided to tour the country, making stops in the 22 cities that appear on the iconic game board. Accompanying the 3,000 kilometre tour were 2 other Italian icons: a Fiat 500 and a Vespa. The tour began in Messina and reached Tuscany, where it stopped in Viareggio. It was presented with a papier-mache mask of Mr. Monopoly made by a local artisan.
Now, for a new anniversary edition, a group of Italian lawmakers has written a joke protest to the United States. They heard rumors that the new edition will not have a jail—perhaps in honor of Silvio Berlusconi’s ability to dodge prison.