Last updated: July 2018
As one of the most popular places to visit, you’ll find no shortage of souvenirs and gift ideas in Italy. But, as fun as mini statues of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and aprons with Michelangelo’s David are, it’s worth looking for something that’s truly worth bringing home with you.
Italy, and in particular Florence, is a world leader in high-quality, designer leather shoes, and a trip to Italy is a fantastic opportunity to pick up a pair. You’ll find a wide range of quality, of course, particularly around the more touristy areas.
Prices aren’t as good as they one were, but you can find big discounts during the sales (saldi) in January and July. The real reason to buy shoes in Italy isn’t so much price, but quality and a variety of styles.
Italian wine has a mixed reputation around the world for the simple reason that Italy tends to export the bad stuff and keep the rest. This is a generalisation, of course: you can find plenty of good Italian wine outside of Italy. Inside of Italy, however, the odds of finding a great bottle of Italian wine increase exponentially.
You may have restrictions on your luggage allowance, but it’s always worth trying to get a bottle or two into your suitcase. It’s a lottery as to whether it survives or not but, if it does, it makes it taste even better at the other end.
Like most food products, balsamic vinegar is sold at many different price points. Most of us only buy the entry-level balsamic vinegar, and part of the reason is that’s often all that’s all that’s on sale near us.
In Italy, and especially in Modena, that’s not the case: an aged 100 mil bottle of balsamic vinegar can often set you back upwards of 50 euros.
For many Italians, it’s a price that’s worth paying and a trip to Italy gives you a chance to see why that is. Many food tour companies, delis, and producers like Villa San Donnino offer tastings, giving you a chance to try a variety of different vinegars and see what the fuss is all about.
Balsamic vinegar may have different price points, but this is even more true of Italian olive oil. Olive oil, real olive oil, isn’t cheap and the recent publication of books like Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil have highlighted just how expensive it is to produce olive oil. More importantly, just how unlikely it is that most of what we’re drinking is real extra virgin olive oil.
In Italy, finding that genuine article is, thankfully, a little bit easier. Sure, counterfeits do exist, but you’re much more likely to find the real thing here. Look out for container that block natural light and have a harvest date. Most importantly, try some.
Italy may not be as famous as Switzerland or even Germany for its chocolate production, but what it does make is better than what you’ll find in most other countries. Like wine, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, you don’t necessarily have to go to a specialist: even brands like Novi, which you’ll find in most Italian supermarkets, are worth bringing home.
For truly mind-blowing chocolate, head to a specialist like Venchi, which has stores throughout Italy, or to a smaller specialist like Caffetteria La Loggia or Galleria in Florence.
Did you pick up any unique souvenirs in Italy? Shoes, chocolate, or olive oil, perhaps? Let us know about your Italian shopping experiences by leaving a comment below.