Italian Myths & Legends 101 - Romulus and Remus, The Befana, Lupo Mannaro, The Dahu, The Lariosauro, Malocchio

While Italy has stolen lots of mythology from Greece (e.g. the Roman Gods and Goddesses are basically just renamed Greek Gods and Goddesses), one cannot deny that Italy itself has quite a few fascinating, sometimes funny legends and myths. Here, we will introduce some of them to you.

Romulus and Remus

Of course, no article about Italian legends would be complete without mentioning the founding of Rome. Romulus and Remus are twin brothers who were either fathered by the Roman God Mars (who basically is the the Greek God of war Ares with a different name) or Hercules (who is, of course, well known as a Greek hero). Their mother, Rhea, had beforehand been condemned to become a vestal virgin by her father's brother, so you can imagine that this was quite a scandal at the time. The poor twins were abandoned (taken to a river by the evil guy Amulius), but fortunately, a female wolf nursed them, and a woodpecker brought them food. Later on, they were taken care of by a farmer couple. Once they had grown up, they learned about their true heritage and decided that this was all wrong. They managed to kill Amulius, and their mother's father was allowed to return to his throne. Romulus and Remus then founded a new city – today known as Rome. Statues of a she-wolf nursing two twins can be found in various places in Rome.

The Befana

The Befana is some sort of witch, but a good one, that turns up during the night of January 6th. Some say that she might live with Santa Claus, others say she is some sort of spinster, and the church (of course) was not very pleased with that myth and came up with their own explanation, i.e. that she is a spawn of the devil. The Befana knows which children have been good. Those receive presents during the night she appears, and the kids who have not been so good get a piece of charcoal as a present. Well, better than nothing, right?

Lupo Mannaro

The Italians had stories about werewolves long before they became popular in modern days. Werewolves were mentioned in old texts, and either described as men who were able to change their skins, or as wolves who do behave like men. So people were not really sure whether the werewolf was originally a man or an animal. What was known though was that a werewolf could be both, and that the transformation always took place during nights. Various remedies were described, and it was said that a werewolf could be treated if he had not yet fully turned.

The Dahu

The Dahu is something you can only find in Northern Italy (the Swiss and French also speak of the Dahu, most likely because the Dahu is a creature usually found in the Alps). The Dahu is described as some sort of goat, however, it has legs of a different length. The two legs that face away from the mountain are usually longer than the ones that are closest to the mountain, so the Dahu can always walk along the mountain. Of course, it can only walk in one direction, otherwise it would have huge problems with the different legs. Male and female versions are said to walk around the mountain in opposite directions and that they are mirror copies of the other gender, otherwise they would never be able to find each other. If you found goats strange, then Dahus are even stranger creatures. So far none of them has ever been caught – what a surprise!

The Lariosauro – Meet Italy's Nessie

If you ever visit Lake Como, then be sure to keep an eye open for the fantastic Lariosauro. It is a create that is supposed to live in the waters of that lake. But like its Scottish cousin, dear Nessie in Loch Ness, nobody ever really found a proof of the Lariosauro's existence. Some suspect that someone with a wild imagination had simply seen a very big eel. But who knows?


The Malocchio kind of is the “Evil eye”. Even in modern Italy people still do believe in the power of a curse, sometimes it goes to far that they do not tell others of good news or important exams because they worry that someone might cast the Malocchio on them. It is said that wearing red (even if it is just red underwear) will help to ward off such bad luck.