Italian Superstitions, or How I Learned When It’s Socially Acceptable to Molest Yourself In Public

I’ll never forget the first time I ever encountered the superstitious side of Italy.  Standing on the platform at a train station somewhere in the Cinque Terre with my Italian friend Luca, I was chatting away when I was stopped suddenly by the sight of Luca grabbing his crotch with one hand while forming what I thought was the heavy metal rock & roll sign with the other.  “Dude…what the hell are you doing?!” I exclaimed as he released his junk and looked at me expectantly.

“Now you go,” Luca said, gesturing towards me.  “Hurry up!”

“You want me to grab my crotch?” I asked incredulously.

“Ma daiiiii, Gina, come on!” Luca said, rolling his eyes at me.  “Of course not.  You’re a girl–you have to touch yourself here,” he explained.  “Like this.”  He placed his right hand over his breast.  “Hasn’t anyone ever told you this before?”

“Um, no.  Nobody’s ever told me to touch my boob at a train station,” I said.  “You’re weird.”

And thus began my introduction to the fascinating world of Italian superstition.


Avoiding black cats, crossing your fingers for luck, never walking under ladders…there’s an entire smorgasbord of things that we, as silly humans, often place an inordinate amount of belief in. But if you thought your country was superstitious, then think again–Italy’s been touching its balls to ward off evil since the Middle Ages.  Actually, come to think of it, it’s probably BECAUSE of the Middle Ages and those damn plague-ridden rats that I’m even sitting here writing about these weird superstitions in the first place.  So in my quest to discover all of the weird things that Italians believe will bring you good or bad luck, I found the following rules to abide by if you don’t want to bring the Black Death down upon your family name (which all Italians I know assure me will happen immediately unless you follow these rules below):


1.  Never, ever, ever sit down to dinner with a group of 13 people unless you all want to die a horribly painful death.  Francesco tells me this has something to do with the Last Supper and Jesus getting betrayed by some dude, but I secretly think it’s also because going out to dinner with 13 Italians would pretty much kill anyone.


2.  Always place your bread right side up on the table.  Why? Because upside down bread is for Satan.  Obviously.


3. When passing someone the salt, place the salt shaker on the table for the person to grab on their own.  If for some reason you accidentally place it in the person’s hand, be prepared for a freak-out of massive proportions, including and not limited to leaping 10 feet away from you, dropping the salt shaker on the ground, and then a vigorous grab of the testicles or boob, depending on that person’s gender.


4.  If you see a black cat while driving, put your hazard lights on and immediately pull over to the side of the road until the sucker behind you drives past and crosses its path first.  Good idea in theory, unless the person behind you is also Italian, in which case you could be sitting on the side of the road until you’re 94.


5.  When encountering any potentially unlucky situation, you have the following options: you can tocca ferro (touch iron–similar to us Americans knocking on wood, only more sensible here in Italy because pretty much every major city has some old iron shit left over from the 1600’s) or simultaneously grab your family jewels (or the set nearest to you, most Italian men I know won’t mind, ladies) while making the sign of the horn with your hand.


Hope everyone has a lovely, curse-free Friday the 13th.  Of course if you’re Italian, you know that the real unlucky day is actually Friday the 17th, so you’re probably laughing at all us American morons with your hand safely tucked down your pants (or blouse).  It’s ok, I don’t blame you.  Just don’t expect me to shake your hand anytime soon, you dirtbag.


Read more handy knowledge about how to distract gypsies from using their tears to bewitch you from the most bitchin’ expat gang in Italy!  


georgette gifGeorgette of Girl in Florencean American social media strategist, copywriter, blogger and a certifiable ‘Tuscan Texan’ living and breathing all things Florence. Social inside and out, she lives in the moment and eats way too much pasta. She blogs about life in Italy, travel around Europe {and the world}.  Read her article here.





‘M’ is a 30-something (something low) American Texpat, living and working in her husband’s tiny hometown in the province of Reggio Emilia. Her blog, “Married to Italy, is home to her rants and raves and serves as her therapeutic search for hilarity amongst the chaos.  Read her article here.





M. Elizabeth Evans of  “Surviving in Italy – an American expat trapped between two worlds with her badass husband, his chest hair, and their poodle. She is a writer and partner of House Of Ossimori. Her award-winning blog Surviving In Italy, aims to honestly portray her life in Italy, the sober times, the drunken times, the yelling, food, family, and on occasion her obsession with the majestic Capybara. She’s also terrible at writing Bios. Someone do it for her next time, okay?  Read her article here.



Rick Zullo of “Rick’s Rome – an American expat living in Rome. Born in Chicago and raised in Florida, he came to the Caput Mundi in 2010 and forgot to go back. When he’s not exploring his adoptive hometown or writing for his blog, he spends his time teaching the world English, one Roman at a time. Rick is also the author of the silly little eBook, “Live Like an Italian,” available on Amazon.  Read his article here.



Rochelle Del Borrello Rochelle Del Borrello of “Unwilling Expat” a writer, translator, blogger and journalist from Perth, Western Australia. She has a complex relationship with her adopted island home of Sicily and still has much love for her native antipodean land, even if it is too far away from everywhere. She blogs about all things ‘expat’ at Unwilling Expat and contributes regularly to the Times of Sicily which brings Sicily to the world.  Read her article here.

Author: The Florence Diaries

Living in Florence means always looking out for mystery poo on the sidewalk.

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