Christmas is almost upon us and the last minute search for the ideal gift has begun. Why not bring a touch of Italy to your loved ones this Christmas? With so many perfect Italian gifts to choose from it’s hard to know where to start. Whether your budget is large or small, we’ve put together a list of the ten best Italian gift ideas – some of them can even be made at home.
1. Chocolate Italian brands Venchi, established in 1878, and Amedei, based in Tuscany (though sourcing ingredients from around the world), are two venerable chocolate-makers making some of the most mouth-watering, refined chocolate one can find. Both companies make special Christmas editions and can be found in Italian shops and also online. Baci chocolates by Perugina are known throughout Italy as quality chocolate in an affordable form (and baci means kisses in Italian; perfect for spreading the love at this special time of year!). Baci are the perfect stocking filler.
2. Italian biscuits with Nutella Nutella is to Italians what peanut butter is to Americans. Loved by young and old and considered a special treat. Nutella, found in most Italian food shops, is a creamy roasted hazelnut spread made with chocolate, delicious on crepes, toast, and in pastries. You can try making Baci di Dama biscuits (great recipes available online) and give a tinful to friends, or choose from the many Italian holiday biscuits made with a hazelnut spread which you’ll find in an Italian deli.
3. Italian Wines Which wine lover doesn’t love Italian wine? Italy is famous around the world for good quality wine. Give a good bottle of Barolo or Prosecco this Christmas and you’re sure to be on everyone’s good list.
4. Gift Baskets There’s so much fantastic Italian produce available that you could make a wonderful Italian gift basket. Nowadays you can easily find cured meats, cheeses, herbs, and uniquely flavoured olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as classic holiday sweets like Torrone and Amaretti in your local supermarket. If you’re lucky enough to be doing your Christmas shopping in Italy then drop by a local Agriturismo and see if they have a basket of their produce for sale.
5. A Hand-Made Nativity Nativities, called presepe in Italian, appear throughout Italy during the build up to Christmas. Rome and Naples in particular are well known for the precept in the piazzas, churches and not forgetting private homes. There are plenty of craftspeople throughout the country (and online) selling handmade nativities. A wonderful gift which can be used year after year. Naples is the centre of production for some of the best in Italy, and if you are ever lucky enough to be there during the holidays then we suggest that go to the historic area and walk up Via San Gregorio Armeno where you will discover the beautiful, finely crafted, and original presepi.
6. Italian Leather Goods Italian leather is known throughout the world for its fine quality. Maybe a luxury handbag or some hand crafted shoes would be the perfect gift for that special someone in your life?
7. An Italian Cookbook Know a budding cook? Italy is known for its simple delicious foods, so an Italian cookbook could be a great gift to give someone who likes to spend time in the kitchen. Marcella Hazan is my personal favourite Italian cook and her ‘The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’ is a must for anyone wanting to explore Italian cuisine. Or the Italian classic ‘Il cucchiaio d’argento’ (The Silver Spoon) which has been the best selling Italian cookbook of the past 50 years and with over 2000 recipes to chose from, it’s no wonder why!
8. Italian Design Items Italians are well known for having great style and this extends to their love of great design in their homes. Murano hand-blown glass objects or Alessi home design items are wonderful quintessentially Italian gifts and easily found in shops or online.
9. Italian Christmas Cakes and Wine Jellies Nowadays you can easily find the classic Italian Christmas cakes -like panettone, pandoro, or panforte – in your local supermarket. The Italian tradition is to take one of these cakes, wrapped in colourful paper and ribbons, as a gift for your hosts when you visit one anothers houses. Wine jellies are another Italian tradition which maybe aren’t as easy to find locally but are easy to make at home. Start by mixing wine and pectin with flavours like amarena (sour cherry) or melon; the result is tasty jellies with the consistency of a soft gumdrop.
10. Children’s Wear Italian tailoring in crisp cottons, downy cashmeres, and soft leathers are what Italian fashion is famous for and make the perfect gift to make sure your children are the best dressed this Christmas. The Fendi and Missoni children’s collections are certainly worth a look. Buon Natale!