For party-lovers: Limoncello
Sure, Italy’s wine is delicious and cheap, but it's also a bit of an obvious gift. For a bit of variety, add limoncello to your shopping list. The lemon liquor is the perfect digestif and has been popular in Italy for over a century; its sunny yellow colour and citrus taste will brighten up any winter evening.
For Pope Francis fans: Vatican merchandise
Photo: Gent Shkullaku/AFP
Keyrings, mugs, clothes, iPhone cases, toilet paper … it would be quicker to list the products you can’t buy with the Pope’s face plastered over them, especially if you’re shopping in Rome. If you’ve got a friend with a fondness for Francis, let them show the world with their own piece of Pope merchandise.
For cultured friends: Italian art
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
We’re not suggesting you swipe a masterpiece from the Uffizi or shell out at an art auction here. But prints of famous Italian artworks can be found at any gallery gift shops and most souvenir shops. Or for a more unusual present, why not check out what's on offer from local artists? We recommend CLET in Florence (famous for his quirky road sign art) or Alice Pasquini in Rome, who has painted murals and street art all over the country.
For children: a Befana doll
Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
According to Italian legend, it’s the good witch Befana, not Santa Claus, who delivers presents to good children over Christmas – and charcoal to any naughty ones. The story goes that when the Wise Men invited her to search for Jesus with them, she declined because she was busy, but later changed her mind and still travels the world in search of the baby to this day. You can find Befana dolls at most Christmas markets in Italy, and they’re sure to delight any children on your list.
For foodies: as much Italian food as you can fit in your case
Photo: N i c o l a/Flickr
Give friends and family a real taste of Italy with some of its famous dishes. Italy has 138 products of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO or DOP in Italian), which basically means they’re authentic and of high quality. Pesto, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar are our top picks for foodies – or for sweet-toothed relatives, you can't go wrong with Baci or Italian Christmas cake panettone. The only caveat here is to be very careful how you package the gifts if you’re taking them in your suitcase. Arriving home to find your clothes covered in an oily mess is not how you want to start the holiday.
For Christmas obsessives: an Italian nativity scene
We all know someone whose house transforms into a glitzy wonderland each December. Help them add some class to their decorations with a traditional Italian presepe (crib). Most Italian homes, shops and public squares will have one on display, particularly in Naples, and you can find them in the shops in all sizes, materials and styles.
For hard-to-buy-for relatives: locally-made ornaments
Rather than stocking up on cheap snowglobes or fridge magnets, show off your new hometown – and support regional businesses - by gifting trinkets made from local materials. You can find beautiful crockery and ornaments made from Murano glass, Etna lava stone or Umbrian ceramics.
For your favourite toddler: a child-sized scooter or car
Photo: Vernon Chan/Flickr
An actual Vespa or Ferrari is probably a bit over-budget for a Christmas gift, but if there’s a child in your life who you’re happy to spoil, why not treat them to a mini version? Baby Moto offers wooden Vespa-style bikes for kids, and Ferrari sells adorable children’s outfits as well as toy race-cars they can ride around in.
For wannabe DJs: Italian music
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
Not many Italians are currently topping the global charts, but Italy is rich in musical history – after all, this is the country that brought us Pavarotti. You could go for an album of Italian opera, a more modern Italian popstar such as Tiziano Ferro or Baby K, or a CD by Italy’s singing nun Sister Cristina (pictured above) - you can be sure they won't receive the same gift from anyone else. Even Pope Francis has recently released a rock album.
For your closest friends: A trip to Italy!
Photo: Jason Puddephatt/Flickr
Rather than sending them a mere souvenir of your adopted country, why not invite your favourite people to explore Italy for themselves – and visit you? Several companies offer cultural courses, so you could give the gift of learning to draw in Florence, pizza-making in Naples or Italian lessons in Bologna.
And a bonus gift for absolutely everyone: Italy's 'hot priests' calendar
Italy's Calendario Romano, or as many Romans have taken to calling it, the 'hot priest calendar', is possibly the most Italian gift you can buy. It can be snapped up at one of the many kiosks in Rome and provides information about the Vatican and, more importantly, twelve attractive priests (check them out here). The only downside is that the same men are featured each year, so you might not be able to give it again the following Christmas. But then again...