Forget replica plastic gondolas, bottle openers shaped like Michelangelo’s “David” or other trinkets hailing from the kitsch souvenir industry and concentrate on wholesome Italian crafts next time you’re shopping on holiday.
The souvenir business is worth more than 700-million euros in Italy alone, but this doesn’t mean just Colosseum snow globes, miniature Duomos, or magnets depicting the bridges of Venice. Italy offers much more when it comes to travel memorabilia, and we’ve got your shopping list covered!
Firstly, any foodie will want to pack wine, liquors, cold cuts, parmesan, and many more delicacies, yet food export is neither straightforward nor allowed in many countries, so we’ve compiled a list of artisanal, quintessentially Italian souvenirs according to ten different regions, all of which suit every budget, taste, and traveler visiting the Bel Paese.
Here the choice of gourmet souvenirs is pretty much endless, though one could not visit this region without sampling some of its local wines. Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera – there’s a grape for every budget and every palate. Piedmont’s capital, Turin, is also famed for its chocolate; head to Venchi or Guido Gobino for some of the best available. Looking for something even more refined? White truffle hails from Alba, in Piedmont, and while it does not travel well, products containing white truffles do: truffle salami, truffle oil, truffle spread… Or maybe combine two typical produces and invest in a jar of Piedmontese rice with dried porcini, for an Italian version of instant risotto.
When in Lombardy there are two important shopping experiences you mustn’t miss. The first is a spree in the shopping district in Milan – the famed Quadrilatero d’Oro is home to all the high fashion boutiques, and where better to buy an investment piece if not in its place of origin? The second is equally enjoyable, but further afield from the regional capital. Head to the Franciacorta region, sample the what is often revered as Italy’s finest sparkling wine produced via the Champagne method. Bring back a bottle of Ca’ del Bosco or Bellavista to share with your friends or open on a special occasion.
One of the most beautiful cities in Italy, and one of the most particular in the world, Venice has a lot to offer on the souvenir front. Steer clear of those miniature plastic gondolas and mass-produced carnival masques and head to the cobbled streets for some true Venetian artifacts. As well as glass blown trinkets and souvenirs available on the island of Murano, Venice houses some beautiful artisanal glass boutiques stocking more unique pieces. Lace is also a typical artisanal product which hails from Burano, another one of the outer islands.
One of the richest regions in Italy in terms of tourism, Campania also plenty for those looking to take home a little something to remind them of their trip. If you go to the island of Capri, then a pair of artisanal sandals made on the spot are both useful and a timeless fashion statement. The beautifully white Capodimonte ceramics are unique to the region while colorful majolica can be picked up on the Amalfi Coast. Also, hailing from the Costiera and definitely worth packing in your suitcase, is artisanal limoncello, and if you head to Naples make your way to Via San Gregorio Armeno and choose a hand-crafted (and sometimes profane) nativity statuette.
Its diverse landscape and singular history make Sicily one of the most interesting regions to visit in Italy, and home to unique artifacts. In Caltagirone, make sure to stop at one of the many ceramic workshops and choose a colorful bowl or Moor-head vase to take home with you. When in Palermo, hunt down a Sicilian Pupi, the marionettes fashioned in the form of a knight, protagonists of the Sicilian Pupi Theatre. Also typical of the region are hand-woven baskets and tombolo lace.
Typical of its insular culture, Sardinia has a number of unique artisanal traditions ripe for souvenir shopping. Collectors will appreciate the long tradition of Sardinian knives, while the romantics should opt for a gold filigree Sardinian wedding ring, steeped in tradition and legend. The Mamuthones di Mamoiada, grotesque masques of the Sardinian carnival make for an unusual souvenir and a real talking point. In keeping with Sardinia’s sheep farming traditions, local wool carpets with pretty geometric shapes and bright colors are a way to support local artisans. Last but by no means least – pick up a bottle of Mirto, Sardinia’s typical liquor.