Shadowy underground origins of Italian 'tombola' bingo still alive in Naples

Dec 25, 2023 925

BY: Megan Williams

In a cavernous room of the Tombola Vajassa bar, located down a narrow flight of stone stairs off a side street in Naples, 30 or so mostly women sit crammed around small tables, with what look like bingo cards laid out in front of them.

On a small stage, a towering figure in a cascading curly wig and silver sequined top, who goes by the name Lady Taboo, calls out images and their corresponding numbers: "Laughter, 19. Death that talks, 48. The hunchback, 53." As the images get called out, players cross off numbers on their cards, while Lady Taboo cracks jokes and teases the crowd in a Neapolitan slang so fast-paced it's hard for non-locals who speak Italian to follow.

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