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.
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.