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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.