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Slow Tuscany > Tuscany > Grosseto > Superstitions in Massa Marittima
Black cats and bad luck...

Damiano Andreini

Massa Marittima, detail from the Romanesque Cathedral
In Tuscany and in all of Italy, August is the month everyone goes on vacation. Not everyone, to be honest, but the majority of Italians still choose August for their vacations. And so the cities empty out and stores are closed and the public offices slow down to a snail's pace. The custom, so typically Italian, of everyone going "to the beach", can be inconvenient.

But, believe me, at the same time, it has many advantages. An experience in Tuscany helped us understand many things. We were near the city of Massa Marittima, a jewel of a place in southern Tuscany, when we thought we would stop for a few minutes to see the sublime Piazza del Duomo. On our way, we passed the city walls and entered into the semi-deserted city and saw a small group of elders sitting out on the street near the Duomo.

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All of a sudden, one of them stood up and yelled at us to stop. "What is it?", I answered, practically scared. The elder answered, "It's bad luck!!". At the moment, I didn't understand and then I remembered that a black cat had just crossed the street before us. We hadn't given it much thought. We approached the elders, confessing that we didn't believe in superstitions. "Me either!" the elder confessed, "but you never know!".


We exchanged a little bit more conversation and then they offered us a chair and poured us some wine asking us how it was. "Good!" we said and we stayed there until late into the night with them. The topic of conversation, naturally, was of superstitions which we believed no longer existed or had never even heard of.

They warned us to never leave our hat on the bed, or spill oil on the floor, or worse yet, salt- seven years of bad luck. Leaving silverware crossed on the table can help to decrease the amount of bad luck you have. It's considered terrible to hear the howling of an owl at night or to have dreamed about water. "Per Venere e Marte, non si sposa, non si parte, ne' si da principio all'arte" is a well-known phrase in Italian which means, "On Tuesday and Friday, you don't marry or depart, and don't start any big projects".

Massa Marittima<>Bell in Grosseto Tuscany

On the contrary, it is good luck to see a spider at night, to spill wine on a tablecloth and excrements are actually considered symbols of money! Even more complex and sometimes cruel superstitions include: feeding the heart of a swallow to a child to make him more intelligent or putting pins in a toad's heart to cause pain to an enemy. I'll stop here even though the list is endless.

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When we got in the car to go home, it was pitch dark out and the quiet atmosphere of the town, the words of the elders, and the wine all became a part of the past.

Damiano Andreini
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