Italian Superstitions

Italian superstitions

While Italian superstitions aren’t crazier than any other country’s, they are interesting for someone who didn’t grow up with them. We’re talking with Rick Zullo today who wrote about a lot of these on his blog which talks about his expat experiences throughout Italy.

Topics we cover with Rick:

  • Rick’s Italian heritage
  • The Italian-American ghettos created by Italian immigrants in the U.S.
  • How these ghettos kept some traditions more strict than even in Italy
  • Where all these ghettos are located, everywhere from New York to Chicago to Lousiana
  • Italian wines
  • How mythology, superstitions and religion mix a lot in Italy
  • Paul’s theory on where the tradition of Easter Eggs comes from
  • The worst insult you can say to someone here in the south, Ki Te Murt.  Which by the way in the inspiration for our new line of hot and spicy products.
  • How a lot of these superstitions and traditions are followed with a sense of obligation to family and culture
  • The tradition of first confession and first holy communion
  • The slight mistranslation in Christ Stopped at Eboli
  • The new civil union law that will hopefully pass in Italy
  • The power of the Catholic church in Italian politics

Below is the list superstitions we discuss:

MalocchioItalian Superstitions

The evil eye. The bane of many an Italian when someone looks at you in an envious manner they can give you the evil eye, even unintentionally. You could be struck with all kinds of sicknesses, most of which include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. The only cure is to search out an Italian grandma who has inherited a talent to rid you of this curse.

Covering the mirrors when someone dies

I have heard that the mirror represents the soul, so breaking means you’ll loose part of your soul thus have 7 years of bad luck. Are you covering/mourning the passing of your loved one’s soul by covering the mirrors? Who knows. Maybe people just didn’t want to see themselves when grieving.

Touch your balls

Italian SuperstitionsEvery time a hearse goes by, a man must grab his balls or be the next to ride in the hearse.

Sweeping our the corners of a new house

When moving into a new home, you must sweep out all the corners to get rid of any evil spirits that might be lurking around. This is probably a good idea as it also gets ride of any lingering dirt and dust.

You have to kiss bread before you throw it awayItalian Superstitions

Bread represents Jesus, so you can’t just throw it away. You have to kiss it good-bye. I’m not sure why this makes it any better that you’re throwing it away, but you have to do it.

You can’t make a bed with three people or the youngest will die

This is a “fond” memory for Paul, as when he was growing up in a household full of women he would always jump in to help with the chores and be shooed away immediately if they were making the bed as he was the youngest. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t make beds to this day?

Throw coins into a newlywed’s bed to bring them good fortune

Showering them with fortune. Seems a pretty straight-forward one. After all, they end up with some money right away.

Throw coins in a newlyweds’ car for good fortune

Same goes for this one, though I’m wondering if you are supposed to do both or just one.

If you spill salt, throw it over your left shoulderItalian Superstitions

Salt was a very important product, used not to flavor food but preserve it, so you didn’t want any to go to waste. If you do spill it, throw it over your left shoulder so you can blind the devil who is bringing you the bad luck.

If you drop a utensil like a fork or knife on to the floor, company is coming

Anyone know the origin of this one? I couldn’t find anything. Just curious how this one developed.

If you want to sell your house, bury a statue of Saint Joseph in your front yard upside down

This was a new one for Paul and I. Interesting one to say the least.

17 is unlucky number, meaning death, while 13 is lucky

Italian SuperstitionsVery different than in America, but as Paul points out, they accommodate both superstitions in Italy, where something you won’t find both a 13th floor or a 17th floor in a building.

Pouring wine underhanded (you palm is facing up and the back of your hand toward the table) is bad luck

It essentially means you want the person you are pouring the wine for to choke to death. It goes back to the time of poison rings where it was much easier obviously to pour the poison from your ring into someone’s glass when pouring this way.

Do you know any we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Sorry, couldn’t resist putting this up:

We’d like to thank Rick again for joining us. You can find him at

And here are just a few of the books he’s written: Live like an Italian, Eat like an Italian, Talk like an Italian






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You might think growing up in a small town in Texas wouldn’t prepare you to live the Italian lifestyle. But in many ways — the family values, the small town culture, the love of food — is very similar to what you’ll find in Italian culture. In fact, I expect it’s pretty universal. Having been married to an Italian for 20 years, it’s been fun to learn and explore the rich Italian culture and share it with you.


  1. Wow my family came from Calabria and moved to the westside of Chicago also. My grandpa grew up on California and Flournoy Ave. That was a large Italian American neighborhood back then. It’s great to hear about the old storys of everyone in our family liveing within two blocks of each other.