Tourists Should Be Cautious Of The Clothing Color They Wear To This Destination In Italy

Superstitions exist all around the world. Many people hear warnings like breaking a mirror causes seven years of bad luck and think, "That's just silly. It's a cracked piece of glass. What could it possibly do?" Still, if you encounter them enough, these admonishments can take root in your thoughts. Maybe you have a pair of lucky socks you wear when your favorite sports team plays. Perhaps you grew up throwing salt over your left shoulder. Superstitions may seem unbelievable, but many individuals incorporate them into their lives, just in case. Italians are no exception, and there is one superstition you should know about if you travel to Italy: Don't wear purple to the opera.

Some Italians believe donning purple at the opera will lead to bad luck. While this belief doesn't have a clear origin, the color has quite a history in Italy. In fact, purple's association with bad luck extends beyond the opera house. Depending on your reason for traveling to the country, you may want to keep in mind where you should avoid sporting the hue, along with a few other local superstitions.

Don't wear purple to the opera in Italy

During the Roman Empire, people associated purple (or violet) with wealth due to the difficulty and expense of making dye in this color. Dyemakers needed around 250,000 murex shellfish to create half an ounce of dye in the prestigious shade known as Tyrian purple. Senators wore a stripe of it on their togas, and after Julius Caesar returned from Cleopatra's Egypt, where she had lots of purple porphyry stone, he declared only he could wear full outfits in violet. Famous stoic and Roman philosopher king Marcus Aurelius cautioned against being "dyed in purple" or too focused on power.

Due to purple's association with wealth and power, the opera might seem like the perfect place for the color. However, many Italians consider it rude to wear "viola a teatro" or "purple at the theater." This could stem from the clergy wearing purple during Lent, the 40-day period before Easter, when Catholics often fast or give up luxuries. At one point, theaters and operas closed during Lent, leaving the actors out of work and potentially going hungry. Theaters would often be covered with purple and black during this period, and attendees later may have stopped wearing purple to performances as a mark of respect for the lean times the actors experienced. Plus, Italian culture associates purple and black with mourning. (Color also features in Italy's New Year's traditions, with the locals often wearing red underwear for good luck in the coming year.)

Purple and other Italian superstitions

Performers and technicians have other superstitions, of course. You should never say "good luck" to actors or dancers in favor of "break a leg" to confuse any malevolent forces intent on messing up the performance. In the opera, you could say, "Toi, toi, toi," to mimic spitting and prevent a hex. Like the word "Macbeth" in the theater, one should never say "Tosca" in an opera house. Both titles have a long history of negative events associated with them.

Visitors to Italy will want to avoid the color purple in settings beyond the opera. You should never wrap gifts in purple as some people believe this brings bad luck. If you happen to receive an invitation to an Italian wedding, you'll want to skip wearing purple, a color associated with fasting and giving up luxuries. Those getting married often don't add the shade to wedding schemes for the same reason.

Looking for more actions to steer clear of during your trip to Italia? Don't put a hat on the bed if you wear it to someone's house. In the past, priests and doctors would do this when they visited a dying individual. Italians also consider the number 17 bad luck (unlike Americans, who often shun the number 13). The Roman numeral for 17, XVII, can be shifted to VIXI, which means "I have lived," and is often put on tombstones. If you want to know more about what to avoid in the country, check out Explore's guide on what tourists should never do when visiting Italy.