There’s something about a trip to Italy that feels different than visiting other parts of the world. Perhaps it’s because so much of American life and our comfort food staples are shaped by this small European country- it’s maybe it’s truly the breathtakingly unique experience of travel in Italy.
Italy is a country with amazing souvenirs to bring back for your friends and family- but don’t be fooled into buying cheap imported Italian souvenirs, instead, choose from this list of 7 best Italian souvenirs to bring back from Italy. It’s a spinoff from my longer list of the best overall souvenirs from travel.
These souvenirs, which capture the essence and culture of Italy much better than chintzy travel magnets or coffee mugs, are sure to bring delight to all ages of adults. These souvenirs make especially great gifts for friends, siblings, in-laws, or even a spouse or partner who was not able to go on your trip to Italy with you.
How to Find Good Souvenirs
Telling the difference between a good Italian souvenir and a bad one is at least partially a matter of preference.
My rule of thumb for determining whether something would be a good souvenir to bring back from Italy or anywhere else in the world is to ask myself (before I ever buy), where I imagine the object in 10 years. If I can totally imagine the souvenir being proudly displayed on a shelf or bookshelf, it’s a good clue to me that it’s a good buy- especially since most items sold to tourists, like coffee mugs and travel magnets, or decorative spoons are more likely to end up at a thrift store or landfill a decade later.
The obvious exceptions to this rule of thumb are items that can be consumed, eaten, or used up. And there’s a strong argument for gifting this kind of souvenir – read on to learn more about why
Why I like Consumable Souvenirs
Consumable souvenirs include foods, beauty products, or other things with an intentionally short-lived life. Unlike an object that might sit on the shelf for years (or for decades after that in a landfill), consumable souvenirs are great for travelers looking for zero-waste environmentally friendly options for bringing back Italian souvenirs to friends and family. Souvenirs purchased from charity shops and antique stores are also a good way to bring back souvenirs without excessive waste or consumerism.
The main reason I like consumable souvenirs is this: they’re not a gift of a thing they are a gift of an experience.
Bringing Back an Experience as an Italian Souvenir
Our senses connect us. When we touch someone, listen to music together, or share a meal, we are connected in a way that simple gift-giving can’t connect us.
Although international travel means that we are apart from the people we love, bringing back sensory experiences as Italian souvenirs can be a way to say to our loved one “I had this experience and I liked it enough to want to share it with you.” The gift of experiences reminds them that they were remembered, missed, and gives you an opportunity to share that unique experience after you return home.
Best Italian souvenirs to bring home back from Italy
I will confess that both this suggestion and the next are strategies I’ve adapted from a fellow traveler who advised me that “Whenever you go to Italy you should buy a purse and fill it with cheese before returning home.”
The truth is, whether you plan to pack your purchase with cheese or not, Italy is a renowned producer of fine leather goods. Italian leather is known to be some of the softest in the world (although do be sure and check labels and ask questions, as much of the leather that is sold today in Italian stores and markets is now imported from India or Asia).
In Italy, you’ll find Italian leather souvenirs for every budget, ranging from wallets or wristlets to purses and jackets.
🧀 Parmesan cheese
I know, I know but hear me out: really good Parmesan Cheese is a really good souvenir. Because this cheese is hard and mostly dry, it can breeze through EU and US border control and customs without being confiscated. It also does fine unrefrigerated for 24 hours or more on the trip home.
A huge chunk of high-quality parmesan, which might cost over $100 in the United States, can be purchased for much, much less from a cheese shop anywhere in Italy. Parmesan cheese makes a great souvenir from Italy because you can buy just the right amount to fit the space remaining in your luggage for souvenirs, and, if you buy a large hunk, you can slice the block of cheese to give to multiple friends and family members on your return. Parmesan cheese, beloved by Italians and Americans alike, is always received with gratitude.
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Truffles and Truffle products
True truffles are actually quite perishable, but according to the US Customs & Border Patrol, they make the “General List of Approved Products,” meaning travelers are allowed to bring a small amount of truffles home from Italy into the United States as long as they are properly declared.
Truffles, can actually be part of an experience that you bring home as a souvenir. For example, when I last visited Florence I was able to take a hike in the Tuscan foothills with a professional truffle hunter and his truffle-sniffing dog (click here to see photos from my trip or here to book a similar truffle hunting experience in Italy). Experiences like this offer the opportunity to find your own travel souvenirs.
A pizza peel
Pizza peels are the long-handled cutting board-like spatulas that pizza bakers use to move pizzas in and out of a traditional pizza oven. While some Italian pizza peels have very long handles, others have modest grips that allow them to fit inside a standard suitcase.
If the person for whom you are buying a souvenir from Italy enjoys making their own pizzas, a pizza peel can be a great souvenir from Italy that they can enjoy for years. Pizza peels, if cared for properly, can last for decades. Buy a short-handled pizza peel to make it easier to transport the souvenir home from Italy.
Medallions, coins, and plastic cards to make DIY travel magnets.
Travel magnet souvenirs are one of the most popular kinds of souvenirs globally, but you can make your magnet collection stand out from the typical cheaply made plastic travel souvenir by making your own magnets after you arrive home.
Coins, medallions, and other small trinkets can be attached to a strong magnet with epoxy glue to create unique travel magnets to keep as a souvenir for yourself or to give away to friends or family.
Postcards from Italy
I’m biased, but I think the very best souvenirs are the ones that show our loved ones that we were thinking about them even while we were in the midst of experiencing something as profound as travel in Italy.
Sending postcards home accomplishes this in a few ways:
- It’s a tangible reminder (even if it’s received after your return home) that they were on your mind, and
- It’s a way to capture a snapshot of a travel day- almost like a travel journal or bullet journal.
Very few people send postcards during travel, and even fewer send postcards back to themselves at their home addresses. Since I began this practice, however, I find that I treasure the postcards I sent home more than many of the larger items that I bring back as souvenirs. Here are my hints for writing great postcards while traveling.
Art, art supplies, or a travel journal
Italy is known for producing fine art, high-quality art supplies, and gorgeous leather-bound journals. If you have a creative person on your souvenir gifting list, any of these can be a great souvenir to bring back from Italy.
Artists and art appreciators often enjoy the provenance of a piece as much as the actual thing itself, and a souvenir from Italy in the form of a small painting or a set of watercolors is sure to be cherished.
Art: Although Italy abounds with galleries, for affordable paintings and drawings as souvenirs keep your eye on outdoor markets and small shops where local artists – or even other travelers – may sell their art.
Final thoughts on bringing souvenirs back from Italy
Italy has no shortage of great options for souvenirs, whether your idea of a great souvenir is a stunning Italian leather jacket or a modest postcard or medallion.
The best tip for great Italian souvenirs is to be mindful your experience. If you spend all your time in the markets of Florence, take home a leather item to remind you. If you spend your time exploring Elba Island, take home the money, minerals, or olive oil the island is known for. The best souvenir for you is one that matches your trip.
Show your friends and family that you were thinking of them by being mindful of the particular souvenirs that they, as individuals, might most appreciate. With this extra care you’ll find that your Italian souvenirs are cherished – both the ones you keep and that you choose to give away.
Lynli Roman’s unique approach to travel is informed by decades of experience on the road with a traveling family and, later, years spent as a solo international traveler. When she’s not writing about Seattle from her Pike Place Market apartment, Lynli writes on-location while conducting hands-on research in each destination she covers. Lynli’s writing has been featured by MSN, ABC Money, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post. She is passionate about sharing information that makes travel more accessible for all bodies.