In Britain, this is also the case - however, if the palm faces inwards (towards the person doing the "peace" sign), it is an offensive gesture in Britain, though not considered quite as rude as to "the finger" (but still very rude and offensive).
The "loser" gesture used in some countries is performed by raising the index finger and thumb of one's right hand perpendicular to each other and then placing them on one's forehead with index finger pointing upward.
Despite recent prudish rulings by the Italian legal system, the (public) crotch-grab is still resorted to by more traditionally-minded Italian men as a means of deflecting the ill-luck threatened by objects or people related to death and burial and (more esoterically) the unlucky number 17 (said to be unlucky because it a) resembles a man hanging from a gibbet and b) because when written XVII in Roman numerals is an anagram of 'vixi' - 'I lived', a verb form considered unlucky because of its frequent occurrence in ancient Roman funerary inscriptions).
It is, in this context, an invocation of the benign powers of fertility embodied in the male genitalia and, as such, lies at the root of the magical intent expressed symbolically in the fascinum and probably also the cornicello.
It is universally understood as "fuck you" due to its resemblance to the penis.
It is certainly thousands of years old, being referred to in Ancient Roman literature as the digitus infamis or digitus impudicus.
Novine su skupe, poljubi me u dupe.", which means: "Catch me, catch me, [if you do that] I'll buy you a newspaper.
Newspapers are pricey, kiss my tushie." A gesture in Japanese culture, made by pulling a lower eyelid down to expose the red underneath.