Southern Italy is full of customs and traditions. It’s wonderful that every town or village has its own customs. These have been handed down from generation to generation and have existed for centuries. Nowadays, some of these customs are slowly disappearing. I have lived in Southern Italy for several years now and have observed the many traditions and customs they have. I would like to share with you 5. You can read more here.
Custom 1 – using lemons for medicinal purposes
We can see the connection with the land in this one. Given the abundance of lemons growing all over southern Italy, it is no wonder that the lemon is in first place. Of course, they use lemons for many purposes, but also for medication. They definitely reduce the risk of serious illnesses, hence the reason the population live to a very old age.
However, if you have flu or a sore throat, it is customary to drink a glass of hot water with lemon in it or to to fill up a large bowl of boiling water and add the juice of a lemon. You should then put a towel over your head and inhale the steam. Some people put menthol in it, but many southern Italians prefer lemon.
If a child grazes his knee, he can rub lemon on it. I remember I had terrible toothache and my Sicilian husband told me to put lemon on it. I had never felt so much pain. It was so painful that I had to go to an emergency doctor for pain relief.
The golden basin of Palermo
Luckily, the next day I found a dentist. The lemon did not help relieve the pain at all. I think it made it worse. Anyway, lemons are like gold in the South of Italy. It is no surprise they called Palermo the “conca d’oro” (the Golden basin) as in the past you could only see lemons. Also the German poet Goethe was astounded by Palermo’s beauty in spring 1787. My husband’s grandfather bought all his daughter’s expensive furniture just by selling his lemons. Read about Palermo here.
Customs 2 – wearing black clothes
It is customary that women wear black clothes when their husband passes away. They must dress in this colour for the rest of their life. It is a sign of respect. It is strange that men do not have to do this. We can see many women wearing black clothes, especially the elderly.
This is quite common in towns and villages. You could almost mistake them in Calabria for Greek women. Some younger women will only dress like this for a certain period of time and then discard this custom, especially in cities.
Customs 3 – weddings
There are many customs linked to weddings in the South of Italy. When a couple gets married in southern Italy, it is customary to give money as a wedding gift. This is usually put in a white envelope with a message. Nowadays, people use their bank to transfer the amount of money they want to give, putting it directly into the wedding couple’s bank account.
The more guests you invite, the more money for the couple. The parents usually decide who to invite, especially the relatives and distant ones. My husband’s brother never knew half of them at his wedding.
This is why there are often 200 or 300 guests at a wedding. Some wedding couples prefer gifts. They choose what they would like and make a list of the items. They usually use one particular store, allowing their guests to choose the gift from their wish list and of course, make payment. Read more here about weddings in the South of Italy.
Customs 4 – Name first child after grandfather
When a married couple have their first child, it is customary to name the child after the father’s father. It is a sign of respect. Subsequently, if they decide to have a second child, they should name the child after the mother’s father.
Nowadays young couples are choosing their own names and others follow this custom as to respect their families. I have also noticed that many of the young generation are choosing foreign names for their children.
Custom 5 – the bride’s parents pay for the house
Of course, this depends on many factors, primarily if the parents can afford to build or buy them their own house. However, in some families, they still believe it is the bride’s parents duty. Some parents start building the house before the daughter decides to marry. In the past, some parents chose the daughter’s husband.
Nowadays, this is almost unheard of. Most daughters choose for themselves. Some are happy to live next door to the parents and others are not so happy. They want to move away and build a life for themselves, usually quite far from their homeland, often in the North of Italy or even abroad.
Keeping their customs and traditions
Then there are those who are happy to stay. Perhaps, that’s why you see so many families occupying entire apartment blocks and sharing the same customs and traditions. many people do not want to lose these customs and insist that the family members follow them. If they disappeared, the town would lose its identity.
Some Italians from the South have even brought their traditions and customs to their new home town whether it is in the North of Italy or abroad, and continue to be proud of them. Read more here about southern Italians abroad.