I am very superstitious, like most of my fellow countrymen I guess! I suppose if you grow up in a tiny village in the countryside of Tuscany you are bound to wonder whether it might actually be possible that… Well, I do. No, actually I don’t… I am sure that some things bring bad luck!!! We say “portare sfortuna” in Italian… in Tuscany, we most commonly use the phrase “portare male“, meaning “to bring about bad things”.
I grew up with a great-grandmother who believed that she was responsible for the death of the Lady she had worked for her entire life, because, one day when the woman was not feeling well, she had inadvertently placed a hat on her bed. She obviously did not wake up the following morning. You see? It must be true. And everybody knows that nothing is as bad luck as a hat on a bed. No wait… maybe a bag on the bed. Yes… placing a bag on the bed is pretty bad.
I know, I know… there are apparently no reasons for that. Rational minds say that it all goes back to the times when if a doctor or a priest came to see you at home – and they would place their bag and hat at the bottom of the bed… – it was not a good sign at all. But who needs a rational explanation?! Everybody knows that no hats or bags are to be placed on any bed at any time, and that’s all one needs to know. No… maybe also that you should not get in the bed from one side and get out of it from another side… yes, there’s that as well.
Or that you should never place a mirror right in front of your bed… you don’t want the devil to watch you sleep now. And if you are so unlucky to have a restless night and wake up and see its reflection by mistake, that’s it. It owns you.
Bedrooms are a difficult place to be in the Tuscan countryside if you are superstitious. And everybody knows that mirrors are tricky objects: break one and nobody can free you of 7 years of disgrace: who needs that?!
Also breaking a bottle of olive oil is pretty serious stuff… that can also seriously jinx your life. A friend from Southern Italy once told me that if you pour salt on the spilt oil, everything will be ok. What?!?! No way. Spilling salt is also a no no in Tuscany! You need to throw a pinch (or better 3) over your shoulder to avoid some serious bad days. Now… I can never remember what shoulder, so I always make sure to throw 3 pinches (a couple of grains are enough) with my right hand over my left shoulder, 3 pinches with my left hand over my right shoulder, and then just to make sure 3 pinches with my left hand over my left shoulder and 3 pinches with my right hand over my right shoulder. The result is that I need to pull out the vacuum cleaner to fix the mess behind me but hey, you do not want to mess with your destiny.
And then there are all those little things you rarely think about but can really make a difference: opening an umbrella inside your house will guarantee some bad weather; walking backwards will make sure the devil pays you a visit; having 13 people at your table has never been a good thing since the Last Supper… having to deal with the number 17 is also not that good, whereas 13 is good luck (unless it’s the number of people at the table) as it was the winning number for “Totocalcio”, the most popular lottery game in the 70’s and 80’s; and do I even have to mention seeing a black cat cross the street or walking under a ladder!?!?
Thank God if you step on a poo that brings good luck! Or if you spill wine on a perfectly clean dress or table cloth! Or if you get married on a day when it’s pouring. All things to be hoped for.
This year the minister of tourism jinxed the Palio di Siena too (or so people are saying in Siena anyway). It was already a mess of its own with all 4 “green” contrade racing (Oca, Drago, Selva and Bruco). A rare event, and always accompanied by bad stuff. And indeed, first the president of a French delegation was killed by a stone that fell from a balcony after hanging in there for hundreds of years without ever giving any sign of instability whatsoever. Then a horse was not well, and the contrada risked not racing. Finally, a flag waver hit a Belgian tourist with his flag!!! I mean… how much more proof do you need to believe that Minister Brambilla and the 4 green contrade together are some serious stuff when it comes to bad luck? Well, for tourists at least… but who knows in the end?
Life is a mystery.