Capodanno Countdown: Top 7 Italian New Year Traditions

December 29, 2023

Around the world, special traditions mark the onset of holidays, especially during the New Year. In Italy, the New Year, or “Capodanno,” is a celebration steeped in rich customs and a touch of superstition.

Delve into the enchanting world of Italian New Year traditions as we unveil seven of the most common and celebrated ones.

girl holding sparkler

Looking forward to the new year ahead. Photo credit: Josh Boot

Some of the most common Italian New Year traditions

Banishing past bad luck—and old pans—Italian-style

Traditionally, here’s how Italians, particularly in southern Italy, have launched their celebrations on New Year’s Eve: by throwing old pots, pans, clothes, appliances, even furniture out the window. Really! It’s meant to symbolize “letting go” of past unhappiness to prepare yourself for the future. Although most Italians have abandoned the tradition, do watch your head on the streets of Naples on New Year’s Eve!

windows on building in Italy

If you’re in Italy on New Year’s, don’t be surprised if you see things flying out of open windows! Photo credit: Sara Cudanov

Having dinner with family and friends (an Italian New Year tradition, and year-round tradition!)

In Italy, a traditional New Year’s Eve meal is all about symbolizing abundance. After all, that’s what you’re hoping the new year will be about.

Depending on the region you’re in, you’ll find various iconic Italian foods on the table. In Piedmont, rice represents coins—so traditional dinner is risotto in bianco (white risotto). Elsewhere in Italy, lots of dishes feature lentils (which symbolize wealth) and raisins (for good luck).

One particularly popular dish is lentils served up with cotechino, a big pork sausage that’s boiled over low heat for about four hours before serving. Although the cotechino from Modena is an IGP (legally-protected) product, it’s also traditional to Lombardy, Molise, Trentino and the Veneto. You might also see zampone, sausage that comes in a hollowed-out pig’s trotter. When either one are sliced, the pieces look like coins, so this too, of course, is meant to give wealth in the new year.

Other regional specialties include fish, seafood, and tortellini in brodo.

stew with lentils, pork and vegetables

One dish that’s common on tables in Italy on New Year’s is lentils with cotechino, a type of pork. Photo credit: Arnaud 25

Eating panettone, and other sweet treats

In addition to the main courses, Italians also enjoy sweet panettone as a festive dessert, Symbolic foods, including pomegranates and citrus fruits, are incorporated for good luck, creating a joyful celebration marked by shared meals, toasts with spumante, and the anticipation of a prosperous new year.

food and champagne laying on a table, as part of Italian new year traditions

Two things you’ll find in almost any household on New Year’s in Italy? Panettone and spumante. Photo credit: Evelina Ribarova

Exchanging treats for good fortune

To ensure a sweet new year, ancient Romans gave each other jars of dates and figs in honey, along with a bay branch for good fortune. Guess what? This hasn’t changed much, at least in Naples, where people exchange figs wrapped in laurel leaves.


Figs are popular in Italy and have been a part of the country’s culinary traditions for centuries, including at New Year’s. Photo credit: Weronika Romanowska

Enjoying a fireworks show

Fireworks and lots of noise also “scare” the bad spirits away. So, of course, expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Practically every city and town puts on a dazzling display. On a riskier note, families and groups of friends will often host their own, or simply throw firecrackers. So be careful walking around!

fireworks are on the list of Italian new year traditions

Fireworks displays mark the beginning of the new year. Photo credit: Yiran Yang

Wearing red undies to ring in luck

In Italy, there’s a belief that donning red underwear brings luck, applicable to both men and women. It’s common to spot an abundance of red undergarments displayed in shop windows during this season. If you’re one to embrace superstitions, consider getting yourself a pair.

red underwear and lingerie

It’s a tradition in Italy to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. The color red is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year. Photo credit: Keith Williamson

Firing up the ol’ Yule Log one last time

Another tradition for some people in Italy is to fire up the Christmas log on the last day of the year. Turns out, evil spirits don’t like fire. It’s also a gesture of invitation to the Virgin Mary, who can warm newborn Jesus next to the warm flames. Afterwards, according to tradition, families would use the ashes as charms to protect the house from damage.

Yule log burning in a fire

Having a fire during the holidays is one way to keep things cozy, although it’s not as famous as some of the other Italian New Year traditions. Photo credit: Nanna Moilanen

Update Notice: This article was updated on December 29, 2023.

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