They say that meeting a priest brings bad luck.
Of course they say that. Normally a priest visits you at home because you are very sick and need the olio santo (‘holy oil’, or rather the ‘anointing of the sick’) or because someone around you needs it. Especially in the past, in small community the priest was the only authority and the one who everyone called in case of any emergency or bad news.
In order to keep bad luck away, there is a long list of things to do, including gestures, actions and objects.
gesto delle corna (‘the hornes’)
dita incrociate (‘fingers crossed’)
toccare ferro (‘touching iron’), the equivalent of “knock on wood”.
They say touching iron is considered a propitiatory gesture because coffins had iron handles, is you touched the handles, that means you are outside, and not inside, so you are still alive.
Someone else says that touching iron stands for toccare ferro di cavallo (‘horseshoe’), a universal talisman.
But in Italy, when you see something that porta sfortuna (‘brings bad luck’) you might want to touch.. something else… in particular, a specific part of your own body… and you can do that only if you are a man.
I attended a Catholic school, one of my professor, a priest, once was walking in Rome with a colleague. At one point a guy saw them and, being probably a very superstitious guy, immediately… perform the above mentioned gesture.
The priest stared at him and cry: “Ma toccati la testa che è uguale!”
“You should rather touch your head!”
Scaramanzia creativa italiana.
(See also “I miss Italian creative scaramanzia – 1” https://misshome.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/150-i-miss-italian-creative-scaramanzie-1/ )