If you are planning on visiting Italy over the holidays – and if you have been following our blog you might have noticed us discreetly trying to get you to do just that – you will be expected to bring back gifts for your friends and family. In some cases you might want to look to Italy as a theme for your Christmas gifts even if you are not actually travelling here. Maybe you want to surprise a true italophile with your in-depth knowledge of the Country and its culture, or you simply want your Christmas presents to be original and glamorous. Whatever the reason, we have selected a few options for you. You will probably be able to find everything you need online, but of course we warmly recommend you come over and pick each item yourself: there’s always something special about a gift that carries the heartfelt charm of a personal experience.
1. An authentic Italian moka pot
Did we mention that we are obsessed with coffee? We are. And no Italophile starter kit is complete without a moka pot, because while we might make do with an americano when we are holidaying abroad, we simply can’t contemplate not making coffee at home without one of these beauties. There are a few brand names that take over most of the market and we are not going to pick favourites obvious reasons, but as long as the product you buy is made in Italy, you are likely to get good quality for a reasonable price. If you are giving this gift to a first time user, however, be sure to include a few packs of the appropriate coffee powder, as the kind you put in your everyday coffee machine (the one that is not a moka and for which we don’t really have a name) is not suited for this kind of preparation. Putting the wrong powder in either device may result in watery and undrinkable coffee that will make your day miserable or in dangerously strong coffee that will keep you awake for a week!
2. Local craft artefacts – think regional!
There are two kinds of people in this world (yes, this is one of those dichotomies): those who buy mass-produced souvenirs from gift shops and those who don’t. If you are the kind of person that does that, when you do, just remember that the locals are not thinking particularly highly of you. Even the person who is physically selling you that plastic replica of the colosseum and taking your money is thinking poorly of you, at that very moment. They are not judging your taste in gifts or interior decoration, they are simply puzzled that you are electing to remember their country or their town by means of a cheap piece of plastic that has nothing to do with it, that was designed and produced elsewhere and that came from a warehouse in which it sat next to millions of badly designed replicas of other international landmarks. On top of this, gift-shop souvenirs are usually ridiculously overpriced. Yes, that holds true for fridge magnets too. If you wish to give your loved ones a unique gift, a true token of your Italian holiday, then head for the local artisans’ workshops and purchase something unique, something that not only you won’t be able to find at home, but that you would not be able to find elsewhere in Italy. Murano glass in Venice is a perfect example, but so are leather goods in Florence and papier-mache in Salento
3. Italian movies – not movies about Italy
For this one, you don’t even need to actually visit Italy, as long as you go for the real thing. A few months ago, I compiled a list of Italian movies everyone should watch and, in order to do that, I researched international rankings and Italian movies that are particularly popular abroad. I came across a particularly disturbing post, suggesting a shortlist of movies that, according to the author, one should watch to further one’s knowledge of Italy and “getting in the mood” before actually visiting the Country. What made the post disturbing was that not only the list did not include one single Italian title, but all of the listed movies were cheap productions, written, directed and shot elsewhere, that played into the most trite Italian stereotypes (and yes, that does include Eat, Pray, Love, even if that one was shot in Rome). If you want your gifts to be authentically Italian, or at least Italian-flavoured, tap into our spectacular movie tradition. I guarantee that you will find something to your liking and that not every scene will be focused on food, jealousy, religion or singing.
4. Made in Italy Christmas gifts you probably can’t afford
There are plenty of Italian brands that are percieved worldwide as the epitome of class and style, but it is unlikely that your close relations will be expecting you to come back from your trip to Italy with Christmas gifts in the shape of a Vespa, an original Armani purse or a Ferrari. You can, however, purchase authentic gifts from these iconic brands without having to take out a second mortgage on your house or even severely impact your holiday budget. And in that case, even though the gifts you will be purchasing may not be strictly local, they will still be authentically Italian. The only recommendation, in this case, is to make sure you make your purchases in real shops, selling original products, and avoid fakes, as they are both illegal and unethical. Spotting fakes is really easy: they are much cheaper than the originals could ever be and they are usually sold in the street or in establishments that will not provide you with a receipt.