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MUSEUM

Rome’s nude statues covered to spare Rouhani’s blushes

As the visit to Europe of the Iranian President got underway on Monday, Italy showed its respect for Islamic traditions by covering up the Capitoline Museum's racier exhibits.

Rome's nude statues covered to spare Rouhani's blushes
Just one of the nude statues in Rome's Capitoline Museums. Photo: M Pardy

Hassan Rouhani visited the Capitoline Museums with premier Matteo Renzi, having signed contracts worth up to €17 billion ($18.4 billion) on Monday.

And Renzi was clearly keen to avoid offending his new business partner. The nude statues and sculptures in the museum were completely covered by large white boxes, as can be seen in the video below.

The decision to cover up nudity was seen as a mark of respect for the traditions of the Muslim country, which has only just had its trade sanctions lifted.

In pictures: The statues Italy doesn't want Hassan Rouhani to see

Ansa reported that as a further mark of respect, no wine was served at the official dinner during Rouhani's visit.

Renzi was equally respectful when the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi visited Florence in October, ensuring that a nude statue by the American sculptor Jeff Koons', Gazing Ball, was covered.

This is not the first time Iranian-European relations have been marked by cultural differences. In November, plans to invite Rouhani to a formal lunch at the Élysée in Paris were scrapped when the Iranian president’s request for a halal, alcohol-free menu was declined due to French 'republican traditions'.

Rouhani is undertaking his first European tour since the trade sanctions were lifted, and Italian companies have been amongst the quickest off the block with a major business delegation having visited Tehran in November.

Italy was formerly Iran's biggest European trading partner, but trade has dwindled to a fifth of its former volume as a result of the sanctions.

CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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