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A Guide to Hilarious (and Kinda True) Italian Superstitions

Forget pasta perfection (for a moment), we're diving into the hilarious heart of Italy: superstitions! These age-old beliefs, a delightful mix of tradition and a dash of the absurd, offer a glimpse into the soul of Italy, where a spilled espresso can hold more weight than a political debate. So, grab your cappuccino (safe to clink!) and settle in for a whirlwind tour of quirky customs that still hold sway in the Boot. Fun fact? Some might even help you find love, avoid evil spirits, and maybe even score some financial luck (red underwear, anyone?).

First things first

  • Better to Hang Your Hat on a Hook!: Placing your hat on a bed is as unlucky as finding a spider in your spaghetti. Why? Back in the day, when doctors and priests used to make house visits because someone was seriously ill or on the verge of dying, they would take off their hats and place them at the foot of the bed. Because of that, you’ll never see an Italian put a hat on a bed, least of all his own bed. No need to tempt fate, amirite?

  • Clinking Glass with Water? No, Grazie!: “Cin cin!” or “salute!” are the Italian toasts, but forget doing it with H2O! Clinking glasses with water during a toast is like inviting tears instead of cheers. Stick to vino, prosecco, or even fizzy San Pellegrino and clink away!

  • Upside-Down Bread? Sacrilege!: Treat bread with respect, people! Leaving it upside down is a culinary crime! It’s believed to bring bad luck and signify an offer of disrespect to bread itself, which is a sacred symbol of life in Italian culture.

  • No Spills, Please! Spilling salt is bad luck worldwide, but in Italy, olive oil joins the "spills of doom" club. These precious ingredients symbolize abundance and good fortune. In ancient times, these ingredients were precious commodities symbolizing abundance and good fortune. Spilling them is a sign of forthcoming financial losses, so watch those slippery fingers! On the bright side, gifting olive oil brings good luck, so get pouring (responsibly)!

Ward Off Evil Like a Boss

  • Le Corna Wards Off Bad Luck: Feeling the evil eye? Flash some "le corna!" Extend your pinkie and index finger like horns to ward off bad vibes. Amulets and chili pepper charms also work wonders. Just don't try this on your Nonna – she might mistake it for sass!

  • Hanging Garlic for Good Luck: Oh, the power of garlic! Italians adore garlic's flavor, but also its supernatural powers. Strings of garlic near entrances act like vampire repellent, keeping evil spirits at bay. Plus, it adds a certain something to your kitchen decor.

  • Red Undies for Red-Hot Luck: Want to spice up your New Year's Eve? Don some scarlet skivvies! Red underwear is believed to bring financial fortune for the coming year. Who knew undergarments could be so lucky (and stylish)?

Other Quirky Customs

  • Sweep Away Singlehood: Single ladies, beware! Letting someone sweep your feet can sweep away your chances of marriage. Apparently, back in the day, a woman who inadvertently touched her feet with a broom was considered to be bad at housework, and therefore, an unfit wife. Times have changed, but the superstition lingers!

  • Beware the Breeze!: Italians and AC have a complicated relationship. Some believe cold air leads to "colpo d'aria," (literally translated to “a punch of air”), a mysterious ailment caused by a rogue breeze. Maybe it's just an excuse to avoid sharing the AC bill?

  • Post-Panino Plunge? Not So Fast: After a delicious lunch, resist the urge to dive into the sea. Italians swear by a 3-hour wait to avoid "mal di pancia" (tummy trouble). This practice gives your stomach time to settle, avoiding potential discomfort in the water and sickness. Science might not agree, but hey, an extra nap never hurts!

  • Wet Hair, Woe Is Me: Stepping out with damp hair is a recipe for disaster, or so Nonna says. Make sure you allow enough time to blow dry your hair before leaving the house, lest you receive shocked looks from the Italian mothers, tutting at your innate recklessness and and apparent disregard for personal safety.

Remember, these superstitions are all in good fun. While some might seem strange, they offer a fascinating glimpse into Italian culture and its unique blend of practicality, tradition, and a healthy dose of humor. So, whether you're planning a trip to Italy or just want to impress your Italian friends with your cultural knowledge, keep these quirky customs in mind.


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