Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tuscan Traveler’s Picks – A Dozen Top Italy Blogs

Every two years or so, everyone who maintains a travel website or blog should clean up their Blogroll. For those who have never clicked on a Blogroll link or even thought “blogroll” was a word: a blogroll is the list of other websites or blogs (hopefully with handy click-through links) that a blogger (or travel writer, a term I prefer) either reads, or believes should be read. A blogger may have exchanged links with other websites in hopes of greater shared readership, or may believe that a blogroll should be created and maintained as part of the website management to-do list, or may have a myriad of other reasons for the list.

Photo by Melika http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/writing/images/9349790/title/pen-paper-wallpaper

The problem with a blogroll is that, unless you are linking to sites like The New York Times (or, come to think of it, even if you are linking to TNYT), the links will  become stale as Tuscan bread, meaning it is impossible to get through anymore. Further, in a place like Italy bloggers tend to pick up and move back to Dallas, Denver or Derbyshire, the story ending with a still relevant “Twenty Things I Love about Italy” post written four years ago. (In Italy the twenty things really don’t change all that much, I’ve found.)

Even if the writer is still in-country and posting away, the frustrations of WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, LiveJournal, and the like, or the failure to maintain the payments for the domain name and/or server, will result in a “404 Not Found” status code or a “503 Service Unavailable” or some such pothole in the internet highway to “Life in Italy.”

So today, I wandered back into my Blogroll, inspired by A.K. at Arttrav.com who is in competition with some other fine writers for Blog Awards 2013 at Italy Magazine. Going through the Italy Magazine Blog Categories I found a number of sites that I hadn’t heard of and will follow in the future. That led me to the job of adding those to my Blogroll, which led me to check the links and do an early spring cleaning of the whole list, which can be found by clicking on the link found right below the Tuscan Traveler banner.

All of the boring back and forth of clicking and checking and deleting and linking and checking again and swearing and starting all over, resulted in the idea that I, too, could do the impossible and pick the twelve best Italy blogs. Of course, this is completely subjective and subject to change next week, next month or next year. But I hope that none of these folks get tired of Italy or done with writing or weary of the process of posting or get a “real” job that eats up all of their blogging time and energy because I love reading what they write and marvel at the photography skills of most of them.

Tuscan Traveler’s Top Dozen Italy Blogs

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Arttrav

Arttrav is a blog about art, travel, and expat life in Florence, Italy.  Alongside art historical information, exhibit and museum reviews, you will find articles about the people and events that make up the lively nature of Italian life. Alexandra Korey has a PhD in Renaissance Italian art history from the University of Chicago and a goal to make art accessible. She has a real job, but luckily it is internet-related so she can keep Arttrav going while at work.

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Emiko Davies Regional Italian Cuisine 

Living in Florence, for seven years taught Emiko Davies a few things about Italian cuisine. One, that recipes of Tuscany are not all there is to Italian food. Instead, there are twenty regional cuisines. Two, that traditions rule. On her site she shares the anecdotes, techniques and history behind some favourite traditional regional recipes. If you’re making a trip to Florence or indeed anywhere in Tuscany soon and you’d like some tips on where to eat or places to visit, you’ll find things throughout her blog, like her favorite gelato shops, breakfast spots, where to eat like a Florentine, panini and wine bars and other food adventures.

Emiko has one of the most beautiful food sites of any country. Her writing and photographs can be found in a number of places, both online and in print, so start with her “About” page to get an idea of where to find more of her stuff after you’ve devoured her Regional Italian Cuisine blog.

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The Bittersweet Gourmet &  Platform 17

Living in the Bel Paese, in the tiny town of Grezzano in Tuscany, about an hour from Florence, Amy Gulick was in love with an Italian, but oceans now divided her from the people to whom she’d been closest. For many of those early years it seemed every minor success she achieved in her adoptive country necessitated a number of setbacks. This tough, perplexing, sometimes sorrowful time was not without its joys, however. On the contrary: it was also thrilling, full of first-time experiences with food, art, travel, new friends, and a new lifestyle she would soon come to cherish. She now says that no word more aptly sums up her initiation into Italian life than “bittersweet.”

Amy is maintaining two blogs (I hope, because my favorite is Platform 17 with both its history posts and its “life back of beyond in Italy” stories, and the last post is dated October 2013 . . . ), a scrumptious home food one, The Bittersweet Gourmet, with recipes and the other with a great “About” story of why it is called Platform 17, the unluckiest number in Italy.

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Mozzarella Mamma

How does a young American woman brought up on field hockey, frozen vegetables, washing machines, takeout Chinese food and backpacking become transformed into a functioning Italian mamma with perfect pasta and luscious legs? Impossible, but Trisha Thomas is giving it her best and writing about it as she goes.

Over the past 16 years, she has been raising her children and her “mamma buddies” have provided the understanding and wisdom to get her through. One mamma friend summed up beautifully her concerns about being an Italian-style mamma. She said, “We try to teach them good values, we try to teach them to work hard and do their best, but somehow I think we are turning our children into mozzarellas.”

Trisha has jotted down her humorous experiences as she has both worked for a television news agency and endeavored to become a good Italian mamma without losing her American-ness. She divides the anecdotes into different categories—food tales, health stories, clothing issues, and lately, Italy’s political foibles.

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Rebecca’s Brigolante Blog

Rebecca Winke, originally from Chicago, joined her husband Stefano in Assisi in 1993, and shortly thereafter the couple began a lengthy renovation project on the Brigolante farmhouse, which has been in the Bagnoli family for at least eight generations.

She posts essays that touch on her life as an American transplanted to the Umbrian countryside. If you have ever dreamed of picking up and moving to the Bel Paese, you will enjoy reading the cautionary tales on her blog that arise from life in Umbria.  Her real job of running a fabulous B&B and raising children keeps her really busy, except in the winter when school is in session and the B&B business is slow. So I hope her memory is good and she gets a year’s worth of posts written down in January and February.

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Not Just Another Dolce Vita 

Ever since Sarah Mastroianni can remember she has been fascinated by the Italian language and has felt strongly connected to her Italian roots. She has a Master of Arts in Italian Studies from the University of Toronto, and experience travelling, studying and working in Italy. She like to hang her hat in Siena, but her stories take her all over Italy. This blog gives her an outlet through which to express her love for Italian language and culture, to write (another passion) and also to share her firsthand knowledge with other fans of Italy.

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Parla Food

Katie Parla is from New Jersey and she earned a BA in Art History from Yale. In 2003, shortly after graduating, she moved to Rome and since then has earned a sommelier certificate (FISAR) and an MA in the Cultura Gastronomica Italiana. She has written and edited more than 20 books and her food criticism and travel writing have appeared all over the world. (She never sleeps.) She is now a Rome-based food and beverage educator and journalist so her blog is here to stay.

Parla Food is her personal blog where she gets to take a break from her day job of lecturing, giving private tours, and writing for others. She writes mostly about food issues facing diners in Rome and in Italy. Sometimes she sneaks in a non-food related topic if she is really excited about something and wants to share. She recently picked up an archeological speleology certification from the city of Rome so we should be reading soon about what is underneath the streets of Rome.

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Rubber Slippers In Italy

It’s a long, long way from Hawaii to Italy for Rowena. Living in the land of pasta, pizza, and wine is everything you might imagine, but one thing remains true: You can take the girl out of the island but you can’t take the island out of the girl.  Like many who have suddenly found themselves in a new environment, the desire to document every experience gave birth to Rowena’s humble little page on Blogspot. That page grew into more pages, year after year, developing into compilation of recipes, travels around Italy, and discoveries in a place that is so very unlike Hawaii.

Her dogs Mr. B and Mads are along for the ride whether they want to or not because she is compiling the “100 Ways to Celebrate Italy” (80 and counting) a fascinating compilation of sagras, festivals, parades, and carnivals.

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Green Holiday in Italy

Anna is a freelance journalist living in a stunning corner of Italy, Abruzzo, and doing her bit for the planet: she recycles religiously, grows organic vegetables, shops and eats local and make an effort to keep her holidays as green as possible. She started this site to share her passion for slow travel in Italy.

She sees responsible travel as looking at the world around you closely, making conscious choices and giving back to the places you visit and the people you meet. Her site has some of the beautiful photographs found on the internet and is one of the very few places you can find a post that starts out: “Birdwatching in Italy has just become more exciting! After 400 years the Northern Bald Ibis returned to Northern Italy.”

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Rick’s Rome

Yes, most of the best Italy bloggers are women. But then there is Rick Zullo.  Quite a few years ago he came to Italy on an extended vacation (he called it a “sabbatical” just to make it sound impressive, but let’s be honest…).  About midway through that trip, he fell in love with Rome on his very first night in the city.  On the second night, he fell in love with one of its inhabitants (who is now his wife).  Rick found being an American in Rome to be challenging. Rick’s Rome describes many of his trials and tribulations, how he’s been able to overcome them or at least come to a compromise, making the most out of living in that fascinating, perplexing, chaotic city.

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Timeless Italy

Susan Nelson is happiest walking the cobbled streets of Italy and exploring ruins that have existed for thousands of years. She has an exquisite eye for the the great photo shot, ranging from the quirky corner to the breath-taking vista. Giant aqueducts, earthy catacombs, back streets and back roads, mystical legends of the saints — they all catch her imagination. She shares her thoughts and experiences through Timeless Italy; a perfect companion for the armchair adventurer. 

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Over the Tuscan Stove

Judy Witts Francini adores shopping the markets and being inspired to cook with local seasonal food. She began her career as a pastry chef in San Francisco and when she moved to Florence she started from scratch in learning a whole new way to cook and eat. In 1997, she started her website Divina Cucina with a dining guide to Florence and Chianti and also Tuscan recipes. Soon after she started sharing her thoughts and observations in Over The Tuscan Stove. Now she’s expanding into the world of travel apps.

She writes about meeting the individuals who grow, make and sell the authentic food of Tuscany,  learning from them the age-old family traditions. Her recent tours to Sicily and southern Italy have provided a whole new set of posts and pictures.

Baker’s Dozen

If you want to get into the act, you can always comment on any post that these twelve superb writers produce. But to get a real conversation going about all things Italy (and France and Spain and . . . ) join the Slow Europe Travel Forums at SlowEurope.com, created by Pauline Kenny the creator of the Slow Travel movement with her original site SlowTravel.

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What are your favorite Italy websites? Leave a comment here.

Tuscan Traveler’s Tales – Duomo Façade, a Lesson in Italian Construction Projects

Recently, a photograph from the 1850s in Florence was posted online. It’s one of my favorite photos of the Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, and it got me thinking once again about the wedding cake façade of the cathedral because once upon a time it looked like this.

Florence Duomo in 1850
Florence Duomo in 1850

I always tell people that even though the Duomo was finished in the 1400s, the ornate façade wasn’t added until the late 1800s. The way I put it is: In the 1400s they held a competition for the design of the façade and nobody won … and then they ran out of money and then one hundred years passed … and then another century and then another and four-hundred years later, Florence was going to be the capital of the new Italian state and they couldn’t have an ugly Duomo, so they held a competition … and nobody won … so they put a committee together and came up with the present façade that everybody, except for architectural purists, loves.

But I wasn’t completely sure this was absolutely accurate. I decided to dig around in my library and online.

Florence Duomo Façade - 400 years in the making
Florence Duomo Façade – 400 years in the making

The façade of the Cathedral in pink, white and green marble, the statues, rose windows, mosaics and cusps of Gothic inspiration is the fruit of the historic and romantic taste of the architect, Emilio de Fabris (1808-1883), who, until his death, designed and directed the construction that went on for a decade (1876-1886) with input from several architects who had attempted to produce acceptable earlier designs, among them Giovanni Silvestri (1822), Nicola Matas di Ancona (1842) (who just finished the design of the façade of Santa Croce), and Gian Giorgio Muller (1843-44).

The 19th century project was the second façade for the Duomo. The first only covered the bottom third of the front exterior wall of the cathedral. It was conceived by Arnolfo di Cambio and left unfinished at his death (circa 1302-1310). We can get an idea of what Arnolfo’s façade looked like from a drawing by Bernardino Poccetti found in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo. Poccetti’s sketch was created in 1587, when the decision was made to dismantle Arnolfo’s half-finished façade and substitute it with a more complete and modern one.

The sketch by Pocetti of Arnolfo's façade
The sketch by Poccetti of Arnolfo’s façade

Between 1302 and 1587, there was another attempt to clothe the front of the cathedral. In 1490, the cathedral was declared to be in unsound condition. In the records of the Woolmaker’s Guild, which was responsible for the Duomo’s original construction, is a notice that the design for the original façade was contrary to all architectural rules and orders. The authorities resolved on its reconstruction. This decision was zealously supported by the most influential citizen of the day, Lorenzo de’ Medici. A meeting to consider the matter was convened within the cathedral itself, but, though many eminent artists attended, the discussion ended without coming to a satisfactory conclusion.

The first competition for its completion was announced in 1491, but the jury put off choosing the winner because they did not find any of the presented projects particularly convincing. In one of the upper floors of the Museo Opera del Duomo there are various models and architectural drawings proposed for the new façade to replace the one by Arnolfo.

The façade was left in its unfinished state until the reign of the Grand Duke Francesco I (1575-1587). Finally, the Gothic façade of Arnolfo was torn off in 1587. The court architect Bernardo Buontalenti proposed that the Medici Grand Duke undertake the project by including it in the program intended to modernize the city that had already been started in Vasari’s time. Buontalenti took part in the 1586 competition with a model of classical Baroque inspiration, which we are probably lucky was not carried out. Other participants in the competition included the sculptor Giambologna and Don Giovanni Medici (1566-1621), the illegitimate son of Cosimo I and Eleonora degli Albizzi (he was the architect of the Chapel of the Princes in San Lorenzo).

Madonna and Child by Arnolfo
Madonna and Child by Arnolfo

As part of the removal process, some of the original marble Arnolfo elements were integrated into the new flooring that was being laid in the interior of Santa Maria del Fiore.  A few statues were transported out of Italy and ended up in museums in France and England. But most of the sculptural elements and statues were stored inside the Opera del Duomo, later converted into the present Museum.

These statues can still be seen today in a room on the ground floor. Five were sculpted by Arnolfo himself: St. Zanobus, St. Reparata, the Madonna and Child (1296) with unusual glass eyes, the Madonna of the Nativity and the interesting Pope Boniface VIII, a solidly constructed sculpture whose partial rigidity seems to emphasize the impression of power and authority of the personage. (Dante would have argued against the inclusion of the hated Pope who he reserved a place in the eighth circle of hell in the the Inferno.)

Pope Boniface by Arnolfo
Pope Boniface by Arnolfo

The 1586 competition resulted in no decision, no construction.

A new competition was held in 1633, this time won by the Academy of Fine Arts. The execution was entrusted to the Opera del Duomo’s architect, Gherardo Silvani. The first stone was laid in 1636, but two years later everything was suspended because of the fierce criticism of the project by Silvani himself, who had also unsuccessfully presented a model of his own in the 1633 competition. At this time there was also some sort of scandal that erupted over the project. The new unfinished façade was condemned and removed.

Early 19th century postcard
Early 19th cent. postcard with painted columns

In 1689, on the marriage of Prince Ferdinando, the second son of the Grand Duke Cosimo III, with Duchess Violante Beatrice of Bavaria, the rubble and cement on the front of the cathedral were covered with a coating of paint, representing columns and other architectural decorations.  These eventually faded away, worn by time and weather, over the hundred and sixty years that passed before the Cathedral project was revived.

In 1843 Nicola Matas di Ancona proposed a design for the façade. Other architects argued for their own designs. In 1859 a new competition was held. Politics intervened and another competition was commenced in 1861. The judges were dissatisfied with all of the proposals. In 1863, another competition was held.  In 1865, the year Florence became the capital of Italy, a new panel of judges awarded the prize to Emilio de Fabris.

But, subsequent discussion rendered that decision null and void.

Another competition was called for. This time, the panel was chaired by Pietro Salvatico. He liked Emilio de Fabris’s design, but wanted some changes. A bit of back and forth ensued and in 1876, five years after the capital of Italy moved to Rome, the work on the present façade of the Duomo began. Ten years later, it was completed.

Florence Duomo as night falls
Florence Duomo as night falls

Then the critics began to weigh in, viewing the design and execution as those that would be expected from a committee, which attempted a modern concept while having to incorporate four hundred years of architectural history in the design. Architectural purists may not like the Duomo’s façade, but most of us are in awe every time we see it.

When a Florentine speaks of anything which was destined never to be completed, he would compare it to the cathedral, “La non sarà; già l’opera di Santa Maria del Fiore.”  (“It will never be finished; yes, indeed, like the works of Santa Maria del Fiore.”)

Francesca’s Footprints – A Student Finally Learns Something Important

It is a joy to learn something new and surprising. As a teacher, it is even better when I learn from a student. Here’s a story many of you at TuscanTraveler.com may know, at least in part. It’s about Ann, the Tuscan Traveler. She’s published a book! I wrote the Foreward.

Ann was a San Francisco lawyer in search of any enlightenment that nine months in Italy could bring her when she walked into my Italian grammar class in Massa Marittima, near the Tuscan coast, in 1998. To be kind, let’s say that she had no ear for my melodic language.

Francesca Al Vapore!
Francesca “Al Vapore”!

Changing focus, she sought to learn to expand her kitchen skills beyond admittedly delicious chocolate chip cookies and carrot cake to include Florentine and Tuscan recipes. I was conducting cooking classes for Americans and other tourists. Ann, unfortunately, could never master a passable soffritto or achieve al dente when it came to cooking pasta.

I was ready to give up on the notion that Ann was ever going to awaken to the state of being Italian even for a day, but then we started to delve into the customs and practices that make Italian food authentic. Maybe it is the lawyer’s need for defined rules and precedents or Ann’s love for research that, combined with her passion for eating, if not cooking, Italian food led her to collect what she came to call the Italian Food Rules.

Italian Food Rules FINAL DIGITAL FRONT 1000 PIXELS

After nine months in Florence became over fifteen years in Italy, Ann is still clearly American, but she knows more than most Italians about the basis of the food practices that are passed down from generation to generation. Her delight in each discovery has frequently been shared in her writing on TuscanTraveler.com and, now, in this enchanting book.

The facts, fictions, history and reasons behind the Italian Food Rules, as well as the revelation of the mere existence of so many customs or edicts, will assist any visitor to Italy by making their stay easier, less confusing, and richer. For Italians, their response to reading Ann’s list of the rules is usually “giusto, giusto” (“exactly right”) and then delight when they read the rationale and history of the gastronomic commandments passed down from their grandmothers.

I never knew where Caesar Salad originated (certainly not Italy), or why spaghetti with meatballs was considered an Italian dish, or why Americans always wanted a bowl of olive oil with a squiggle of balsamic vinegar delivered immediately to the table when dining at a trattoria. I enjoy eating lampredotto and lardo on a regular basis, being very familiar with these Tuscan specialties, but I never thought much about their origins in Italian history until Ann started asking questions, urging me to translate at Florentine tripe stands, and traveling to Colonnata to see where herbed lard is aged.

The bricks that form the foundation of the most loved cuisine in the world today are important and should be preserved. Ann Reavis has given us the gift of memory in her light and amusing book of Italian Food Rules.

You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Amazon. com (U.S.) eBook for Kindle & Kindle Apps

Amazon. com (U.S.) paperback

Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Amazon.it (Italy)

Amazon.de (Germany)

Amazon.fr (France)

Barnes & Noble (U.S.) eBook for Nook

Italian Life Rules – Superstitions, Familiar and Strange

The first use of the Latin superstitio is found in the writing of the historians Livy and Ovid (1st century BC). At that time the term “superstition” was used in Italy mostly in the negative sense of an excessive fear of the gods or unreasonable religious belief, as opposed to religio, the proper, reasonable awe of the gods.

photo by Ann Reavis

The term superstitio, or superstitio vana (vain superstition) was applied by Tacitus and Domitian (80 AD) to those religious cults (druids, early Christianity) in the Roman Empire that were officially outlawed.

Throughout history, Italian culture has been rich with superstitions for good or evil that continue to form the basis of many of the Italian Life Rules. Today a visitor may be surprised at which superstitions are taken seriously and which are taken with a grain of salt, so to speak.

photo by Ann Reavis

Here is a non-inclusive list of Italian superstitions so that you don’t put a foot wrong during your next visit:

The Evil Eye (Malocchio)

The Evil Eye is one of the most ancient superstitions in Italy. Every region seems to have their own version of the Evil Eye, but some take it more seriously than others. One thing they seem to have in common is that the Evil Eye is caused by jealousy and envy. One test for the Malocchio is done by dropping olive oil in a plate of water. If the oil forms one large drop in the middle of the plate it’s a sure sign of the Evil Eye, but after chanting the right prayers that usually only women are allowed to know, the oil may break up into tiny droplets and spread out, thus breaking the curse of the Evil Eye. The cornicello (see below) is also used to ward off the malocchio.

key ring amulets from Naples

The Devil’s Horn (Corno)

The use of the Corno, or Devil’s Horn, is a curse of impotency or of the cuckold. The twisted phallic red coral, gold or silver amulet (cornicello) is often worn or carried by men to ward off curses on their “manliness” or mojo. Although many claim the amulet represents one of the horns of the devil, the Corno predates Christianity by thousands of years. The horned god Faunus was known for his wild nature and interest in fertility. The ancient Romans knew well  Cernunnos, the horned Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. The horns of an African eland most resemble the original amulets.

Related to the Corno is the hand gesture (extending only the pinkie and index finger like a pair of horns) known as the mano cornuta, which can be used (pointing upwards or directly at the victim (cornuto)) to curse another or not so subtly send the message that a man’s wife or girlfriend is straying. This gesture can also be used  to ward off the Evil Eye (pointing fingers down).

Lucky Numbers

The number 13 is lucky in Italy, especially when gambling. The number 13 is also associated with the Goddess of Fertility and the lunar cycles. It is thought  the number brings prosperity and abundant life. Although 13 is considered lucky, sitting down to a table with 12 others is an ill omen. At the Last Supper Jesus ate with his 12 disciples before one of them, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him. Italians aim to avoid a similar turning of the tables. In modern times it seems the Friday 13 is starting to lose its charm in Italy, as with the rest of the world.

Unlucky Numbers

The number 17 is considered unlucky. This has to do with how it is written. Italians dislike the number so much that some hotels don’t have a 17th level. When 17 is written using Roman numerals XVII, it can be rearranged to spell the Roman word VIXI meaning “I have lived” and is found on ancient tombstones, thus tempting death. When written using Arabic numerals, 17 is still considered unlucky since it resembles a man ( the 1) hanging from a gallows (the 7).

photo by Ann Reavis

Superstitions Pertaining to Bread

A loaf of bread must always be placed face up, or else bad luck will come.  Again, some claim this has a basis in Christianity with the symbol of Christ as the Bread of Life. It is impolite to turn the bread up-side-down or to stick a knife into a loaf of bread. Bread is considered a staple of life and so every precaution is taken in order to prevent cursing the supply.

photo by Ann Reavis

No Birds in the House

The presence of a bird in the house (either as a pet or accidentally) brings bad luck. Mere bird feathers, especially peacock feathers with their Evil Eye, can curse a household or the wearer of a feathery hat. Some say the superstition has a Christian origin from the Bible story where Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times before the cock crowed. Paintings of birds are also be avoided.

Blessing/Exorcising a New House

The blessing or exorcism of a new house in Italy is still practiced, especially when it comes to newlyweds. Moving into a first home was accompanied by the necessary rituals to rid the place of any spirits that may have ben left by the previous owners and could harm the new couple or their first child. A new broom is a common first gift to sweep away evil spirits. Sprinkled salt in the corners of the house will purify it. Neighborhood priests go house to house before Easter to bless each home with holy water (in modern times a tiny note is frequently wedged in the door to notify the residents of the service).

The Witchdoctor (Mago/Maga)

Southern Italians, Sardinians and Sicilians, mostly of the older generation, still mix folk medicine and ancient superstitions. When home remedies did not work and modern medicine was not an option (from either lack of money or language), some neighborhoods have the services of a man or woman trained in ancient practices, bordering on witchcraft.

Older Sicilians can recall ancient rites, involving making dolls to curse an enemy, amulets to protect themselves from evil, or, on the more positive side, love potions to encourage a slow suitor.

Marriage Superstitions

Singles, don’t let a broom touch your feet when someone is cleaning the floors. If you do, you will never be swept off your feet and get married. Likewise, never sweep over the feet of an unmarried person, or they will never marry.

photo by Ann Reavis

Cats – Good and Bad

It’s bad luck to have a black cat cross your path. On the other hand, it’s considered a good fortune if you happen to hear a cat sneeze.

What Not to Put on a Bed

Don’t put a hat on a bed. Traditionally, when the sick were on their deathbeds a priest would come to receive their final confessions. The priest would remove his hat and set it on the bed so that he could put on the vestments. Thus, a hat’s temporary resting place is associated with eternal rest, a thought that keeps Italians from sleeping peacefully.

A bed should never face the door because it replicate the position of a coffin in a church.

Other unlucky items to keep off the bed are clothes hangers, hairbrushes, and shoes (of course the last is a hygiene issue, too).

Bad Luck Toasting

Never raise a toast with a glass full of water as it is bad luck. Don’t cross arms when you clink wine glasses together. Also, be sure look fellow toasters in the eye when clinking glasses and don’t slip up by forgetting to take a sip before setting your drink down, otherwise you will have seven years of bad sex.

Spills of All Kinds

Don’t spill salt or olive oil for fear of bad luck. This conception may have begun as a trick to motivate people to handle the previously expensive goods with care. If it happens, however, toss a bit of salt over each shoulder or rub a drop of oil behind each ear. If you spill wine at the dinner table, wet your fingers and dab some behind every person’s ear.

photo by Ann Reavis

Hearses – Coming and Going

Don’t follow a hearse that isn’t carrying a coffin. You are in death’s wake and soon people might be attending your funeral. However, if the hearse bears a body, it isn’t in pursuit of another passenger, so you are safe, just like if you pass a hearse driving in the opposite direction.

A Word to the Wise

Never trim toe and finger nails on Thursday.

Don’t start a journey, new project or get married on a Friday or a Tuesday.

Never have your hair cut during the new moon.

Never get a perm during your menstrual cycle.

Eat plenty of lentils on New Years’ Eve.

If you give a gift of a new wallet, always put at least a coin in it.

To prevent a downturn of fortune people practice tocca ferro and touch iron if they think something bad is going to occur. Italian men, knowing what must be protected at all costs, may tap their testicles, known as tocca palle. This is similar to knocking on wood.

photo by Ann Reavis

Good Omens

Seeing a spider at night: a sure sign of monetary income.

When you drop something then someone is thinking of you and their name starts with the first letter of item dropped. (Drop a pen (penn a) and Pamela is thinking of you.)

When your nose itches, it’s either “pugni o baci,” punches or kisses.

Finding a button on the ground: a new friendship is on the horizon.

Dreaming of someone dying and you will have added ten years to their life.

When a new moon appears, the minute you see it say the New Moon Incantation: “Benvenuta Luna che mi porti fortuna!” – “Welcome, moon and may you bring me good fortune!” This is to be repeated, bowing respectfully at the lunar sliver 13 times with a coin in each hand.

Eat lentils on New Years Day and money will follow during the year.

Broken Hand Mirror

Bad Omens

Killing a spider will take money away.

Breaking a mirror will result in seven years of bad luck.

Giving a handkerchief as a gift will bring tears.

Crossing silverware on the table foretells strife.

Passing each other the salt hand to hand (without putting it down on the table) will lead to imminent fight between the two.

Nuns crossing your path (or is this only for school children?).

Walking under a ladder.

Crossing arms when shaking hands in a group.

An owl sighting is a vision of the spirits of the dead.

Sources and Websites of Interest about Italian Superstitions:

About the etimology and general information about superstitions look here, here, here, here and here.

Rick Zulo at rickzulo.com

Eleanora Baldwin at aglioolioepeperoncino.com

VeniVidiVinoItaly.com

LifeInItaly.com

Carol King at ItalyMagazine.com

More recent:

TheLocal.it

Gina Fava at Bostoniano.info

Tuscan Traveler is collecting more Italian superstitions. Please leave a comment if you know of one that needs to be added to the list.

Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

Italian Food Rules: The Book