Why 17 is Unlucky in Italy

Even if you don’t consider yourself superstitious, you probably notice when Friday the 13th rolls around. However, it is the number 17 that is unlucky in Italy – not 13. That makes Friday the 17th a day to be particularly careful of bad luck.

The belief that the number 17 is unlucky in Italy probably dates backs to ancient Roman times. In Roman numerals, 17 is XVII. One anagram for XVII is VIXI. In Latin, vixi means “I have lived,” the implication being that now I am dead. 

Pythagoras considered the number 17 to be imperfect, unlike the arithmetically more appealing numbers 16 and 18. 

The number 17 is, therefore, a bad omen in Italy and it is to be avoided whenever possible. 

Friday is considered particularly unlucky because Jesus died on Good Friday. The Christian link to Friday the 17th may go even deeper because December 17th and February 17th were dedicated as feast days to important Roman gods. The church branded these pagan and demonized the celebrations.

Put 17 and Friday together and you have what many Italians consider a very unlucky day indeed – sfiga day per antonomasia or il venerdì nero.

To counteract the bad luck, you will probably need some Italian good luck charms. A small red horn is the best portafortuna of all. However, some people will even stay home all day on Friday the 17th to avoid attracting any additional bad luck.

If you are attuned to the superstition, then you will start to notice how unlucky 17 really is as you go about your daily life in Italy.

For example, it is rare to find very tall buildings in Italy, but if you do you might notice that the elevator goes straight from the 16th to the 18th floor. 

If you happen to fly Alitalia, keep an eye out as you board the plane. You will notice that there is no row 17.


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