Ten of Italy's strangest superstitions

Share this article

Friday the 17th is considered bad luck in Italy? Photo: Bill Dickinson
10:41 CEST+02:00
Did you know putting a photograph of a loved one on a bed is considered bad luck in Italy? The country is home to many weird and wonderful superstitions. Read on to find out more.

If you're the kind of superstitious soul who never walks under a ladder and is always confused about whether black cats are meant to bring bad luck or good, then you will want to know what twists of fate await you according to Italian beliefs.

Friday the 17th

Friday the 13th might be considered unlucky in Western superstition, but Italy has its very own date which is considered to bring bouts of bad luck - Friday the 17th. Some Italians dislike the number so much that some hotels don’t have a 17th level.

The reason for this is because when written in Roman numerals, the number 17 (XVII) can be rearranged to spell the Roman word VIXI, meaning “I have lived”. This is commonly found on ancient tombstones and the number, is therefore thought to tempt death.


Photo: Jakob Montrasio

In Italy it is believed that you should never toast with a glass of water. Nor should you cross arms with anyone when you clink glasses. You must also be sure to look other people in the eye when you toast and always remember to take a sip of your drink before setting it down on the table. Otherwise it’s seven years of bad sex.

The Evil Eye

Photo: Daniele Nicolucci

The malocchio is best described as a curse, which can be invoked simply by paying someone a compliment while feeling jealous. To ward off the evil eye you must make a gesture similar to horns and point it downwards behind your back.


Photo: Keiki Hiyami

When walking arm in arm with a friend, it is custom in southern parts of Italy and Sicily that when approaching a lamppost, you must both pass on the same side. Any straying from this rule means that the friendship could be over.

Sharp objects

Photo: Pete

If you receive, for example, a penknife as a gift, prick the person who gave it to you, or give them a coin in return. If you fail to do this, you risk ruining the friendship forever.


It is believed that if you put a photograph of a loved one on a bed, for example if you move it whilst doing housework, then this will bring bad luck.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Photo: Jonathan Emmanuel Florese

It is believed that if you go to the top of the famous leaning tower whilst you are at university, then you will never be able to graduate.

Story continues below…

Touch your nose

If you say the same word at the same time as someone else, you have to touch your nose, otherwise you’ll never get married.

Thirteen’s a crowd

Photo: Thomas Hawk

Thirteen people at a dinner table is considered bad luck in Italy. This comes from the Last Supper and the fact that Jesus’ traitor, Judas Iscariot, was the last one to be seated.

Seeing an empty hearse

Clearly this means that it could be for you. To ward off this ill fate, men must touch their groin and women their breast as a gesture of good luck.

By Ellie Bennett

Share this article

From our sponsors

Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections

Election Day in the U.S. is less than a month away, and time is running out for Americans living overseas to vote absentee. Here's what to do before it’s too late.


Popular articles