Top 13 Italian Superstitions
As Halloween has arrived, Carol King outlines what Italians do to ensure good luck – and ward off bad luck.
1. A Lucky Number
Don’t worry about reading a Top 13: in some countries, 13 is thought of as an unlucky number, but in Italy 13 is a lucky number.
2. An Unlucky Number
You may feel safe now about the number 13 in Italy, but watch out for the number 17 because for Italians it’s an unlucky number.
In some places, if a black cat crosses your path it’s considered a sign of good luck. Not so in Italy, where black cats are thought to be a sign of bad luck.
4. Making A Toast
When you are making a toast in Italy, it’s considered unlucky to do so with water. So do as the locals and make your toast with wine.
5. Wherever You Lay Your Hat
Wherever you lay your hat when you are in Italy make sure it’s not on a bed. For Italians, putting a hat on a bed is unlucky – perhaps because it is associated with death.
6. Meeting And Greeting
When Italians greet each other it’s affectionate involving lots of chat, kisses and shaking of hands. If you have ever noticed a group of Italians shuffling around strangely during the process it’s because it is bad luck to cross arms when shaking someone’s hand, so make sure you do so directly without encroaching on anyone else’s attempt to do so.
7. How Many For Dinner?
Be careful when you sit down to a meal in Italy. If there are 13 people around the table, it’s unlucky. This refers to the fact the there were 13 people at the Last Supper, 12 apostles and Jesus and that it’s said that Judas Iscariot — the one who betrayed Jesus — was the 13th man to take his place at the table.
8. Seating Arrangements
You managed to not sit down at a table of 13 people in Italy but beware – if you are single, you still need to think where you are going to sit to avoid bad luck. Avoid sitting at the corner of a table in Italy because it means you will not marry.
9. Spillig Olive Oil And Salt
Whatever you do in Italy, don’t spill any olive oil or salt. It’s considered bad luck. The superstition may have its roots in times when both items were expensive and considered luxuries, so the idea that spilling them would bring bad luck may have made people just that bit more careful when handling them.
10. Avoid Brooms
Singles also need to be careful when anyone starts cleaning the house. If someone brushes your feet by accident with a broom, you will not get married – so perhaps that’s a good excuse to put your feet up.
11. Some Iron Please
In some countries, people touch or knock on wood to avoid tempting fate. In Italy, the practice of tocca ferro, or touch iron, serves the same purpose.
12. A Charm
One way to help ensure good luck comes your way in Italy is to wear a cornicello charm resembling a red pepper.
13. A Sign
If you want to ward off bad luck then you can make le corna, or the sign of the horns. To make the sign, extend your index and little fingers while holding down your middle and ring fingers with your thumb, and point your hand downwards. Be careful to point downwards because if you make the sign holding your hand upwards it signifies that someone is a cuckold and you could give offence unwittingly.