20 perfect gifts for people obsessed with Italy
If it wasn’t obvious, I have a bit of an obsession with Italy.
I miss the piazza, the smell of fresh sauce, the warm greetings, the sugary tomatoes. I miss the tiny macchiato that fit perfectly in my hand, the one I ordered almost every morning before class or work. I miss riding on the back of my cousin’s vespa in the morning light of the Sicilian countryside. I miss the cheese. I miss…
Okay, okay, you get it.
If you are anything like me, or have an Italophile in your life, give them a gift this season that will transport them to their favorite European peninsula. I sifted through dozens of items and picked out gifts that—yes, I want—remind me so fondly of the motherland.
Happy Holidays to my readers, friends, and family—I hope that Babbo Natale (Italian Santa Claus) and Befana (Italian Christmas Witch) give you all that you ask for this year. Without further adieu, here are 20 perfect gifts for people who love Italy.
1. A subscription to the Nonna Box
I first found out about this incredibly genius subscription box on Instagram, and thought to myself, “Damn. Why didn’t I think of this?!” The Nonna box spotlights a new Nonna each month, featuring artisanal products that are unique to her specific region. The box does a fantastic job highlighting the distinctive characteristics of Italian cuisine, while also providing authentic recipes and stories about the food in a way only a true Italian Nonna could.
2. A personal sized Bialetti moka
Sorry Mr. Coffee, that drip coffee just isn’t cutting it.
3. A package of Panna
For those of you who don’t know what panna is, educate yourself. My father, who is a chef and you can trust, explains panna as “a thickened heavy cream used by Italians to make cream-based sauce for pasta...Americans can certainly use it in any application that calls for heavy cream.” It is weird though, you won’t find panna in the refrigerated section, which seems sketchy but apparently it isn’t (I trust Italians more with food anyway.) I like to think of panna as the OG Alfredo sauce, before Americans added cheese and nasty other things to ruin it. Panna isn’t cheese, though, but it makes for delicious creamy sauces with pancetta or even smoked salmon.
4. This chic "Ciao NYC" cap
So I am completely in love with Vita Tees, and the owner, Virginia Mancuso, is an awesome fellow Italophile slash effortlessly dope globetrotter. Her designs are simple but chic, and I love the fit of the t-shirts. (She was kind enough to make me a special “Ciao, Boston” shirt.) I am eyeing this “Ciao NYC” hat next, so I can rep that Italian-American pride on bad hair days.
5. This Sicily gift box from Eataly
I have a love hate relationship with Eataly. The hate stems from the depression I feel upon entering, as it brings back the fondest gastronomical memories. I can’t go into an Eataly with friends without sounding like a pretentious ass hole, pronouncing each item in Italian. I know I am doing it too, but I just can’t keep from over enunciating words like “stracciatella” and “prosciutto” when I’m in there.
Anyway, since I am Sicilian and would argue it is the best regional cuisine, the Sicilian gift box makes its way on this list.
6. This adorable bicycle pizza slicer
I just love this whimsical little pizza cutter—and the pizza lover in your life will too. It reminds me of the time I biked with my study group in the Tuscan countryside.
7. This espresso-scented candle
There was nothing like the intense scent of espresso brewing at the local bar—the smell alone could jolt a person awake. These candles from Anthropologie have a bunch of great ratings, so I trust this espresso candle to transport me back. Shout out to Italian bars—what we would call cafés—for confusing tourists and serving coffee instead of alcohol.
8. My favorite Italian street food cookbook
My dad (chef, remember?) received this cookbook as a gift, and I pretty much stole it from him—sorry pops. The author is from Australia, and tells amazing stories about the street food she encountered in Italy. The photography in this cookbook is beautiful, and the visually stunning cover makes it the perfect display book.
9. A jar of this rare and scrumptious pistachio pesto
Don’t even get me started on pistachio pesto. After trying it once—sauteed with speck and tossed into pasta—I was absolutely ruined. This pesto is a product of Sicily, so it isn’t consumed as often off the island. My family in Milan spoiled me with this special meal with jars they had brought back from Bronte, Sicily (the motherland of pistachios), and they were so excited to introduce this sauce to me.
I tried to smuggle 3 jars from Sicily to Siena on a Ryanair flight in 2016 (prior to the whole Italian airline pesto clearance laws...SERIOUSLY?!) to recreate the dish for my friends, but the Italian TSA wouldn’t let me through security. I was PISSED. As I begrudgingly handed over my three jars of pistachio pesto to the security guard, I felt my Nonna enter my body as I muttered in Italian “looks like you’ll be eating a good meal tonight!” I couldn’t believe I had just sassed an Italian TSA agent over 3 jars of pesto. But, then again, that’s just what pistachio pesto will do to a you.
10. This beach towel that will transport you to Positano
Positano is just as beautiful as every Sophia Loren movie and Instagram model makes it out to be. This towel by Chloe and Isabel perfectly captures the vibrancy of the buildings built up into the hillside. Ugh. I need this towel.
11. This discontinued "Limoncello" jewlery collection
This jewelry set is so beautiful—Chloe and Isabel once again perfectly captures the intense colors of Southern Italy. This jewelry set has since been discontinued (PLEASE BRING IT BACK) but you can find brand new sets still selling on Ebay. I really had to dig to find these, but it was worth it because of how beautiful this set is.
12. An Obag, the most popular bag I saw in Italy
These bags were everywhere in Italy. At first, I thought the boxy shapes and plastic-like material were strange, but I quickly fell in love with the distinct modular design of these bags. Each one looks different, because you build your bag from the inside out. The bags come in a variety of shapes, colors, materials, and sizes, and you can always buy different attachments, transitioning your bag with the seasons.
After showing my sister and her boyfriend these bags in a boutique, she fell in love. Her boyfriend (shoutout to him) bought her one for their anniversary from an Obag boutique in Boston–and you could say I was jealous. The bags tend to be a bit pricey, but my sister says it was one of the best gifts she has ever received. (Maybe if I get a boyfriend, I’ll get an O bag too?)
13. This adorable pasta necklace
I recently saw an article on Refinery29 that showcased this jewelry designer that I had never heard of, and their new line of stunning pasta jewelry. I was freaking out, planning to buy the penne and bow tie earrings when all the sudden I noticed the price. Part of my soul proceeded to die—this jewelry costed between $140 to $6,500.
Guess I’ll be sticking to homemade noodle jewelry, I thought. UNTIL I found these adorable—and affordable!—necklaces that won’t cause me to declare bankruptcy. Woohoo for Etsy!
14. This helpful little guide book to learn Italian hand gestures
Because you cannot visit Italy without knowing what the “purse hand” means. (Fun fact, I wrote my senior thesis paper on Italian hand gestures...LOL.)
15. This best-selling pasta machine
I want to make pasta from scratch and pretend I am Aziz Ansari from Master of None season 2. Don’t judge me. Besides, nothing screams ‘la dolce vita” like homemade pasta.
16. A pizzelle press
Tablecloth peeled back, flour dusted over the wooden table, an old metal press stained with burned oil, the faint smell vanilla and annessette in the air—Nonna’s making pizzelle. These snowflake cookies scream Christmas, but they are light enough to eat all year round. In my opinion, a pizzelle press is a very thoughtful gift.
Has anyone else ever eaten pizzelle so fast they accidentally inhale the powdered sugar and choke—but continue eating anyway? You know you have.
17. An Azzurri jersey (even though they won't be in the World Cup...)
Ugh. This makes me sad. But, it is still a good gift.
18. A milk frother for at-home macchiatos and cappuccinos
If you get a Bialetti Moka, why not go all the way and get a milk frother too? This tiny one is even called Schiuma (which means foam in Italian), how cute!
19. A Sophia Loren poster
20. A quaint espresso cup and saucer (or an entire set!)
BONUS: A VESPA BECAUSE HAPPY HOLIDAYS
A girl can dream.