The Italian Cultural Center
of Western Massachusetts, Inc.

Italian Life


Superstitions have a powerful influence in Italy, and they can be thought of as carrying either good luck or bad luck.  The most famous is the mal occhio or malocchio - the evil eye that someone may have cast on you. To ward it off you can form the mano cornuta with the index finger and little finger of one hand (pointed downward), or wear a corno (devil's horn) around your neck. Here's some common superstitions, and a few that you may not have heard of:

  • The number 17
  • A hat on a bed brings death in the family
  • A purse on a bed invites financial setback
  • A burning candle in front of a mirror summons the devil
  • Pouring wine with the left hand, or backhanded, is bad luck to the person who drinks it
  • Sweeping the floor at night removes any blessings which may have been deposited
  • Telling someone their baby is beautiful (it tempts fate, especially if the person is envious)
  • Opening an umbrella in the house
  • Putting new shoes on a table or bed (portends a funeral)


  • The number 13 in gambling (but 13 is sometimes viewed as unlucky as well)
  • Passing a hunchback man (not a woman!), or rubbing the hump on his back
  • Spilled wine
  • Start each new year off with a new broom (some Italians throw old brooms out the window on New Year's Eve)
  • Spilling salt in the corners of a new home
  • Hearing a cat sneeze
  • The phrase "Tocca ferro" - touch iron (same meaning as knock on wood)
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