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Le Superstizioni Italiane

(buona fortuna = good luck       sfortuna = bad luck)



Italians are superstitious and they share some of the well-known beliefs such as:
a.   Do not open an umbrella indoors.  
b.  To break a mirror will bring seven years of bad luck.
c.   Do not walk under a ladder.

But there are some Italian superstitions........  

1.   In addition to the number 13,  in Italy the number 17 is considered unlucky.  If given the choice, Italians will avoid having a room number, ticket, etc. with the number 17 on it.  This belief originates from Ancient Rome and the Latin word VIXI, meaning 'I lived'.  In modern Italian - vissi. 

In Roman numerals the number 17 is XVII and they are contained in the word VIXI.   That is to say, these numerals are associated with the meaning ' I have already lived' and 'I am no longer living'.  

In Italy, Friday 17th. (il venerdì 17) is the most feared date.


2.   It is considered lucky to eat lentils and to wear the colour red on the first day of the new year.  This will bring good fortune during the next twelve months.


3.    On the night of 10 August (the feast day of Saint Lawrence) Italians look up at the sky hoping to see a shooting-star as this is considered to be lucky.  The way to say 'shooting star' in Italian is 'stella cadente' which literally means 'falling star.'  

Saint Lawrence - San Lorenzo - is the patron saint of Rome and the shooting-stars represent sparks of fire and tears when he died in Rome on 10 August in the year 258 AD.

4.    You should not receive anything 'sharp' as a gift.   This includes objects such as a comb, a brooch, a needle, a hair pin, etc.   In order to avoid the bad luck,  you must give a coin (una moneta) to the person who has given you the item.  That way, you are buying the item rather than receiving it as a gift.

5.    In Italy, a black cat - un gatto nero - is considered unlucky, including if it crosses the road in front of you.  This is the opposite of the superstition in the United Kingdom and in other countries that a black cat is lucky!

Grey Kitten

6.    In Italy,  it is considered unlucky to place bread 'upside down' (capovolto) on the table.   In addition, when you are placing the silverware on your plate, be careful that it does not form a cross as this is considered an unlucky gesture.

7.    In Italy, it is considered lucky to touch something made from iron.  This is the equivalent of 'touching wood'.  Instead of saying 'Touch wood!', Italians say 'Tocca ferro!' ('Touch iron!')

8.    It is considered unlucky to change or wash your bed linen on a Friday.  It is also considered unlucky if three people are involved in making a bed.

9.    If you spill salt, it is considered unlucky.  In ancient times, salt was very precious, like money.   The Italian word for 'salt' is il sale.  The word 'salary' originates from the currency of salt.  If you spill salt, you must throw some backwards over each shoulder in order to avoid bad luck. 
It is also considered unlucky to spill oil.

10.    An Italian symbol of good luck is the ladybird - la coccinella.

Ladybug Pins

11.    Italians believe in a form of bad luck called il malocchio - meaning 'the evil eye.'   They believe that envious people can look upon somebody's success, wealth, property, happiness, etc. and cause them to have misfortune, just by being so jealous and envious of what they see.   

In order to protect themselves, Italians carry or wear amulets to ward off 'il malocchio.'  One of the most commonly-used amulets is in the shape of a little horn, known as
un cornicello or un cornetto.


In the Italian region of Sardegna (Sardinia), there is also a special recipe to ward off il malocchio.  It is referred to as 'la medicina' - the medicine.  The recipe is usually taught by a mother to a daughter and continued down through the generations.  Each family has their own special, secret way of preparing la medicina but it normally consists of using a bowl of water, drops of oil and prayers.   The size of the drops of oil, when they react on the water, will indicate how much bad luck has been wished upon a person. 

La medicina is repeated until the oil drops are small and do not expand on the water, meaning that the bad luck has gone away.

12.    An Italian belief is that, if you wear an item of clothing inside-out (al rovescio), it will bring good luck and protect against misfortune! 

13.    Italians believe that Tuesday and Friday are the least lucky days of the week.  There is a proverb:
Né di Venere né di Marte, non si sposa non si parte, né si dà principio all’arte.
Neither on Friday nor Tuesday, should you get married or set off on a journey, or begin a new project.

For this reason, Italians will avoid moving house or arranging an important event on those two days.

14.    To walk in the rain is considered lucky.  There is an Italian saying:
Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata.
Wet bride, lucky bride.

15.    It is considered unlucky to place a hat on a bed.

16.    It is considered unlucky to say 'Buona fortuna!' meaning 'Good luck!'   Instead, Italians say 'In bocca al lupo!' - meaning 'In the wolf's mouth!' when they wish somebody good luck.  The way in which to reply is 'Crepi il lupo!' meaning 'May the wolf die.'


17.    When visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome, the tradition is to turn your back to it, close your eyes and throw a coin over your left shoulder (using your right hand) into the water.  It is believed that this will bring you the good fortune to return to Rome one day!

If you decide to throw a
second coin into the fountain, this will bring you the good fortune to fall in love with someone! 

If you decide to throw a third coin into the fountain, this will bring you the good fortune of getting married! 

18.    When drinking a toast (un brindisi), Italians say 'Salute!' (Health!) or 'Cin-cin!'  The Italian tradition is that as the glasses touch, the drinkers must look at one another in the eyes.  That way they are showing their friendship.   Otherwise,  it could be interpreted that they are not a true friend and are secretly wishing misfortune on the other person.  

This superstition originated in ancient times when people were known sometimes to slip poison (il veleno) into a drinker's cup!  Therefore, by looking at each other you are literally keeping an eye on the people around you!  Attenzione!

19.    When someone is sweeping the floor in Italy, it is believed that if the broom brushes over your feet then you will never get married!  

20.    In Italy, it is considered unlucky to have thirteen people sitting at a dinner table.  When this situation arises, it can be remedied by placing an additional plate at the table for an imaginary fourteenth guest.
Buon appetito!

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