italian traditions

15 Strange Italian Traditions and Superstitions Explained

italian traditions

Did you know that in Brazil its bad luck to let your wallet or purse hit the floor, as it means you’ll lose money? Or that in France it’s actually good luck to step in dog poop with your left foot?

Like many countries, Italy has its fair share of wacky traditions and superstitions. In fact, Italy is said to be one of the most superstitious countries in the world.

Below, we explore the 15 strangest Italian traditions and superstitions. Review this list before traveling to Italy to make sure that your trip isn’t cursed by Malocchio or the evil eye.

After all, you don’t want to take any chances!

1. Don’t take a bath when you’re sick

When you’re feeling under the weather, chances are you want to take a nice hot bath to soothe your pain. According to Italian traditions, however, taking a bath when you’re sick will only make you sicker as will going outside with wet hair.

italian traditions

2. The unlucky number 17

Have you ever wondered why some hotels in Italy don’t have a 17th floor? It’s because the number is considered unlucky. The Roman numeral for 17 is XVII, but when rearranged to look like VIXI it means “I have lived,” a symbol that’s placed on ancient tombstones and associated with death.

italian traditions

3. Don’t place a loaf of bread up-side-down

According to Italian traditions, a loaf of bread must always be placed facing up. This superstition is based on the religious fact that bread is considered a symbol of life, therefore, its bad luck to turn the bread up-side-down or stick a knife into it.

italian traditions

4. Watch where you lay your hat

After a long day of sightseeing you might be tempted to toss your hat onto your bed—don’t! Putting a hat on a bed is considered unlucky because it’s associated with death. According to tradition, when priests visited the dying to give them their last rights, they would remove their hat and put it on the bed.

italian traditions

5. Never seat 13 people at a dinner table

If you find yourself sitting at a dinner table with 12 other people, then consider yourself unlucky. Having 13 people around the table at mealtime is considered bad luck, as there were 13 people at the Last Supper.

italian traditions

6. Single people, avoid brooms

If you’re single and you see someone sweeping the floor, make a run for it. If someone brushes over your feet by accident, then you’re destined to be single for the rest of your life.

italian traditions

7. Don’t toast to bad luck

When it comes to toasting, there are several things that can cause you to have bad luck. For example, never raise a glass that’s full of water and don’t cross arms with the person next to you when you clink glasses.

italian traditions

8. Stay clear of air conditioners

Wonder why there are no air conditioners in Italy? Italians believe that these evil contraptions blow dangerously cold air in your face, leading to “colpo d’ari” or a “punch of air.”

italian traditions

9. Touch iron to avoid back luck

In the U.S., people will knock on wood to avoid tempting fate. In Italy, it’s common for people to “tocca ferro” or “touch iron.” We just hope they aren’t touching a hot iron.

italian traditions

10. Bless a new home

It’s common for people moving into a new home-especially newlyweds–to rid evil spirits and bless their home by performing certain rituals, such as sprinkling salt in the corners of all the rooms.

italian traditions

11. Eat plenty of lentils on New Year’s Eve

Every culture has it’s own set of New Year’s traditions. According to Italian traditions, it’s customary to eat lentils after the clock strikes 12:00. Also, don’t forget to wear red undergarments, as this too will bring you luck in the coming year.

italian traditions

12. Beware of a black cat crossing your path

If a cat is crossing the street, don’t be the first one to cross it’s path, as you’ll have bad luck. It’s believed that black cats are a symbol of witchcraft and the devil. We, however, think they are super cute!

italian traditions

13. Carry a cornicello charm

If you want to protect yourself against the evil-eye, carry a corincello charm around with you at all times. The charm, which resembles a chili pepper or a small horn, represents the horns of the Old European Moon Goddess and will bring you luck.

italian traditions

14. Don’t place objects in the shape of a cross

Never cross objects in the shape of a cross–for example, your fork and knife–as this is considered to be an insult to the religious symbol of the cross and will bring you bad luck.

italian traditions

15. Don’t spill the salt

This superstition–which states that one must toss a handful of salt over their left shoulder to get rid of bad luck–is also common in the U.S. In Italy, it’s also customary when passing the salt to place it on the table first before handing it over.

italian traditions

 

This is just a sample of the many unique Italian traditions and superstitions. In addition to learning Italian, familiarize yourself with these “wives tales” before your trip to avoid getting into any trouble.

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3 replies
  1. Alessandra Cortona
    Alessandra Cortona says:

    These are not traditions. These are superstition. You are offering no explanation. The salt one for example is very simple. Salt was extremely expensive in the inner part of Italy. Throwing it on the floor or on the table was unlucky because you had to buy it again. The bread one is not precise. In the ancient times and some bakers to do, bakers will cut across on top of the bread to facilitate levitation , and also to bless the bread so to say. Putting the bread upside down was disrespectful for the cross not the bread. However these superstitions were probably through 50 years ago certainly not now. Most people have air conditioning, a lot of people have black cats, and by the way hotels rarely go over the 5th or 7th floor we certainly don’t have 20 stories hotels, here unless maybe in Milan or Rome. Even in those cases, I can guarantee you, that there is a level 17.
    These were superstition of maybe 50 years ago, the world has moved on, do should you.

    Reply

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