My Husband’s Grandma Was A Witch: Italian Superstitions

I’ve never met my husband’s grandmother on his mother’s side but I’ve heard stories. She was a hardworking farmer, a “no bullshit” type of woman who wore large dresses in the field to make it easier for her to pee. Standing up. Where she stood. I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side. Not only because farmer women from the south of Italy are built like brick houses but because she was also kind of a witch. Like, a real witch, I’m not calling her an asshole. My husband’s stories of her sound a lot like this:


“My grandmother had a dream about black woman and then she died.”

“So a black woman killed her?”


“WTF is the point of that story?”

“You don’t understand anything.”


“My grandmother used to predict the future with coffee grounds in a cup.”

“So, she was a witch?”

“No, she was Catholic.”

“That’s pagan, dude. Catholics don’t believe that humans can predict the future. That’s why they follow the Pope and have priests and all that.”

“Whatever. She was Catholic.”

“You guys really don’t actually know what that means, do you?”


“My grandma used to remove the Malocchio, er, a curse with water and oil.”


“She used to grab a plate fill it up with water and then put drops of olive oil in it based on the shape of the oil drops into the water she could tell if somebody had cursed you or not. If you were cursed she would whisper something and then make a cross sign with her finger on your forehead.”

“How often do people get cursed in your village?”

“I don’t know?”


“Every year my grandma would put oil and water in a bottle and put it outside to solidify in the cold. Then she would bring it in and decide if it was good luck or bad luck.”

“Predict the future?”

“Just if we had good luck or bad luck.”


She wasn’t the only superstitious one in the family. My father-in-law will shit his pants over bread. He freaks out every time I cut the bread. I mean, FREAKS THE FUCK OUT,  because it’s bad luck for the bread to be upside down. I actually had no idea why until right now. Now it sort of makes sense (in a crazy sort of way).

 “The superstition that the bread must never be upside down (placed upside down) has a very complex history: In the Middle Ages, the collective fear of death had created the absolute prohibition of touching anything that had to deal with bodies. It was also a hygienic-sanitary protection against germs. For this reason, the job of the Executioner was a life very isolated one away from the rest of the community. And for the same reason, objects and foods intended for the Executioner could not come into contact with others. Their clothes were washed separately and their foods were prepared separately. On the subject of bread, the bakers had invented an easy way to make the bread intended for the Executioner recognizable, so that even in the furnace, it did not come in contact with the other bread. This system was to turn the bread upside down. For this reason it was called the “bread of the Executioner,” and even today upside down bread carries this sad omen of death.”-According to Yahoo. Could be true, could be bullshit. 

Or, In Italian

“la superstizione invece secondo cui il pane non deve mai essere rovesciato (messo a testa in giù) ha un’origine molto complessa: nel medioevo, la paura collettiva della morte aveva creato la proibizione assoluta di toccare qualsiasi cosa che avesse avuto a che fare con i cadaveri. Si trattava anche di una tutela igenico-sanitaria. Per questo motivo al mestiere del boia era una vita molto isolata dal resto della comunità, non potendo in pratica avere contatti con nessuno. E per lo stesso motivo gli oggetti e cibi destinati al boia non dovevano entrare in contatto con quelli altui. I loro abiti venivano lavati a parte ed anche i loro cibi venivano preparati a parte. In materia di pane, i fornai avevano inventato un sistema facile per rendere riconoscibile il pane destinato al boia, così che anche nel forno di cottura, non entrasse in contatto con quello altrui. Questo sistema consisteva nel girare il pane a testa in giù, rovesciandolo. Per questo veniva chiamato il “pane del boia”, ed ancora oggi il pane rovesciato si porta dietro questo triste presagio di morte.”

Surprisingly, Francesco, my husband, isn’t too superstitious although he does a few things that make me question his sanity. The weirdest thing is his socks. He has a weird issue with putting his socks on the floor. He hangs them up on a chair or something until they go into the laundry hamper. I just realized right now that it’s because he thinks it’s bad luck. I asked him and he said, “Yeah, it’s out of habit now but I guess before it started because of a good luck/bad luck thing. And guys, he gets WEIRD about it. If I throw them on the floor he throws a little fit. About SOCKS. Also, he keeps a thing in his wallet of some saint because it’s “good luck,” to have it but he’s an atheist. Totally. Makes. Sense. Francesco.







Maria is a 30-something (something low) American Texpat, living and working in her husband’s tiny hometown in the province of Reggio Emilia. Her blog, Married to Italy, is home to her rants and raves and serves as her therapeutic search for hilarity amongst the chaos.








Rick Zullo of Rick’s Rome – an American expat living in Rome. Born in Chicago and raised in Florida, he came to the Caput Mundi in 2010 and forgot to go back. When he’s not exploring his adoptive hometown or writing for his blog, he spends his time teaching the world English, one Roman at a time. Rick is also the author of the silly little eBook, “Live Like an Italian,” available on Amazon.



Georgette is an American social media strategist, copywriter, blogger and a certifiable ‘Tuscan Texan’ living and breathing all things Florence. Social inside and out, she lives in the moment and eats way too much pasta. She blogs about life in Italy, travel around Europe {and the world}.  Check out her blog, Girl in Florence.







Gina is 26 year old California native whose unhealthy love of cheese, wine and gossip has made her a perfect transplant to Italy. She blogs about life in Florence, tour guiding for college students abroad, traveling and her dog Gorgonzola. When she’s not busy writing down all the crazy stuff that happens to her, she’s listening to Snoop Dog and trying to figure out how to open an In-N-Out Burger in Italy. Here is her blog: The Florence Diaries


Rochelle Del Borrello





Rochelle Del Borrello – a writer, translator, blogger and journalist from Perth, Western Australia. She has a complex relationship with her adopted island home of Sicily and still has much love for her native antipodean land, even if it is too far away from everywhere. She blogs about all things ‘expat’ at Unwilling Expat and contributes regularly to the Times of Sicily which brings Sicily to the world.  Read her article here.




12 thoughts on “My Husband’s Grandma Was A Witch: Italian Superstitions

  1. Pingback: Don’t mess with the Malocchio, capisci? (Italian Evil Eye Curse). | Married to Italy

  2. Don’t know if this will get to you but I just wanted to say how much you make me laugh. Thank you! x

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Pingback: The power of superstition in Sicily  | Unwilling Expat

  4. Awesome post. My great great grandma wasn’t a witch but she was murderous crazy and “loosely moraled” to the point that the other women at church ganged up and beat her with sticks.

  5. Pingback: Things Have To Be Destroyed Before They Can Be Rebuilt | Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

  6. Pingback: Superstitions in Italy as seen by expats.

  7. Pingback: Blogging About Italy Is Hilarious: Comments, Emails, And Humans | Living In Italy.Moving To Italy. Loving In Italy. Laughing In Italy.

  8. My Greek YaYa used to accuse my (Armenian, hence very foreign, suspect and unworthy) mother of giving her the evil eye and thus making holes in her sweaters. My mother nursed YaYa on her death-bed, and after 30 years or so of harassment, was finally told she was “a good man.” Still, this same YaYa had the guts and grit to emigrate all by herself to the USA, escaping a famine in Greece where she said she had to eat grass. I guess I have no idea what mind-set it takes to survive against real adversity, and what explanations I would need to conjure to cope with a hard life. And here I am, a college-educated American woman who doesn’t walk under ladders.

  9. I have been DESPERATELY seeking a Strega for almost a year now. For more than 2 years I have been victim to the malocchio.

    I believe. Seeing is believing. My Aunt was the one I was a witness to helping others. She helped me, too. Like most others as her, she is dead.

    I am at the lowest point in my life; healthwise, financially… a week doesn’t go by where I get smacked in the face by the curse. I was very well of; making good money, big house, 7 cars. Now no job. 59 year old engineers cannot compete with college graduates. Lost my business, too. I have no car. House is in foreclosure. The list is long, but so is this message. I’ll stop now. I live in NJ. I can travel. Does anyone know where I can find help?

    The church is not the answer. I need a Strega. Mille grazie.

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