Italian Superstitions… some well known, some not this much. Discover traditions and customs of Beautiful Italy and see you soon at That’s Amore! Just don’t spill the salt or oil in our restaurant:)) Check out our specials HERE, and when you RSVP, make sure it’s not a group of 13 people :)) you will know what I mean when you finish this article! 561-536-4100
1. Lucky / Unlucky Number
Let’s start with the most common and obvious superstition. As you know, in many countries around the world, the number 13 is considered to be the unlucky one. How many times have you been in an elevator and have not seen the floor 13? And if it happens to be Friday the 13th it is even worse. Not in Italy! Italians consider 17 to be the unlucky number. Do you know why?
When 17 is viewed as the Roman numeral, XVII, and then changed anagrammatically to VIXI (just change the position of numerals), you will get your answer! Vixi (VIXI) in Latin means “I have lived / I lived”, implying “My life is over.”
2. Making A Toast
When you are making a toast in Italy, it is considered unlucky to do it with water. Italian superstition behind it is that it brings bad luck because water is less expensive and appreciated than wine.
In fact, the whole tradition of toasting is a true minefield as it is also a bad luck to cross arms with anyone as you clink glasses. In addition, it is bad luck to avoid eye contact while toasting or to set down your glass before having a first sip. Moreover, do not try to clink plastic cups per favore, it is another no-no in some parts of Italy. If you drink wine from plastic cups while having a picnic etc, then you would touch each others’ fingers holding the cup. So much to remember, right?
3. How Many Guests? Hope not 13… Dinner party and Italian Superstitions
Although, generally speaking, the number 13 isn’t as scary in Italy as in other countries, at a dinner table it means very bad luck indeed. Pay attention when you organize a party, count your guests carefully:) If there are 13 people around the table in Italy, nope… start looking for one more guest:) The origin of this superstition is the fact the there were 13 people at the Last Supper. Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table. Oops!
And, one more thing to add to these sitting arrangements at your next dinner party… If you are single, you need to think where you are going to sit to avoid bad luck. Because in Italy, if a single person seats at the corner of the table, it means he / she will not get married.
4. Spilling Olive Oil and Salt
Whatever you do, DON’T spill any olive oil or salt in Italy. This one is almost as bad as it gets… It is considered an extremely bad luck. And it’s not just because Italians don’t want to see their top quality oil wasted, or because oil stains are tough to get out of the clothes. The superstition probably has 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 more careful when handling them.
Spilling salt is actually even worse than spilling oil. When you think that salt was used as a way of paying for other goods and services it makes more sense, it was so precious. And, by the way, did you know, that Roman legionnaires were paid in salt —“salarium” – it is the Latin origin of the word “salary”.
5. Iron Please! Another Italian Superstions …
Have you seen (or may be even done yourself) people knocking on wood to avoid bad luck? Well, in Italy, we have to touch the iron! The practice of “Tocca Ferro”, which means “Touch Iron”, serves the same purpose in Italy as knocking on wood in other parts of the world. The expression “Tocca Ferro” is an abbreviation from ‘Toccare Ferro di Cavallo’ (Touch horseshoe). This superstition dates back to the times when horseshoes were beleived to chase evil spirits and devil. These days, superstitious Italians might still carry a horseshoe charm or a simple piece of iron around with them, just in case, you never know:).
6. Italians love their “Cornicello” Charm!
One way to ensure that good luck comes your way in Italy is to wear a “cornicello” charm. It actually looks like hot red pepper. “Cornicello” means “a little horn or hornet”. It is an amulet to protect you against the “Maloccchio” which means ‘Evil eye” and it is believed to be a protective tool against bad omens and evil. More often than not, the cornicello, is worn in the form of a necklace or on a bracelet; however, quite often, Italians may also hang it inside their cars for protection.
Do you know about any other Italian superstitions? Please share in the comments below. Grazie!
3 thoughts on “Why 17 is an Unlucky Number for Italians and Other Italian Superstitions”
As Italian we do not let women ‘s bag touching the flour or the ground if we do not want to lose money
Thanks Gill for reminding this one! Absolutely, no purse on the ground, you are right!
The best Boss I ever had was Italian; she always said “On the floor, out the door” meaning it would be stolen. I didn’t realize then that this was linked to her Italian heritage. (RIP Patsy, I miss You and love You!!)