Italian Christmas gift guide: What to get everyone on your list this year

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Italian Christmas gift guide: What to get everyone on your list this year
People walk under Christmas lights in Milan's shopping district. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Whether you're an expat in Italy sending gifts home for the holidays, or simply hope to pick up an Italian-themed gift while visiting the country, Italy is a great place for shopping and the festive season is no exception.


Give your friends and family a little piece of Italy this year by following our guide to the best gifts for everyone on your list.

1. Italian art

Last Da Vinci becomes most expensive artwork ever sold
Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Buying Italian art can be very expensive: the painting above, Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, recently sold for a record $400 million, but you can stock up at more purse-friendly presents for your arty friends at any gallery gift shop, either buying a simple print or an arty mug, tea towel, or other souvenir.

As an alternative to the more traditional pieces, why not try to find a local artist? In Florence, there's street artist CLET, famous for his quirky road sign art, and in Rome there's Alice Pasquini, who has painted murals and street art all over the country, but that's just for starters...

2. Italian food

Photo: N i c o l a/Flickr

Italy has 138 products of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO or DOP in Italian), which means they’re authentic and of high quality. Extra virgin olive oil (make sure to check the label carefully to get the good stuff -- you can also look for special varieties such as truffle-infused oils), Genovese pesto and Modena's balsamic vinegar are a great starting point, and you can't go wrong with Baci chocolates (chocolate-encased hazelnuts that come with a sweet message) or Italian Christmas cake panettone.

Just be 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.

READ MORE: The food and drink you need for an Italian Christmas feast

3. Limoncello

Photo: HiEtec/Flickr

While wine can seem like a bit of an obvious gift, limoncello is more unusual as well as being delicious, and its sunny yellow colour and citrus taste will brighten up any winter evening.

Alternatively, prosecco and grappa always go down well.

4. A Befana doll

Photo: Riccardofe/Depositphotos

This is a great quirky gift for any children on your list and a good way of introducing them to Italian Christmas traditions. According to Italian legend, the good witch Befana delivers presents to good children over Christmas, and you'll see Befana dolls at most Christmas markets and tourist shops.

The story goes that when the Wise Men invited her to search for Jesus with them, she said she was too busy, but later changed her mind and still travels the world in search of the holy baby to this day.

READ MORE: Six quirky traditions that make an Italian Christmas

5. Symbols of your new hometown

Photo: HarshLight/Flickr

If you've been in Italy for longer than the briefest visit, you'll have noticed that regional pride is a big thing here. Each Italian town and city in Italy has its own emblem, and it shouldn't be hard to find out what it is and track down themed products to give to your favourite people so they'll have a constant reminder of your new hometown.

There's the lily in Florence, the she-wolf in Rome, and the lion of Venice for a start, and the traditional symbols are much more sophisticated than 'I Heart Italy' merchandise -- so the recipients might actually use them.

6. A nativity figure

Photo: Roberto Salomone/AFP

We all know someone whose house transforms into a glitzy wonderland each December. Help them bring some variety to the decorations with a traditional Italian presepe (crib). Nativity scenes are hugely popular in Italy so it should be easy to find a suitable size and style - you can go traditional with handcrafted religious figurines, or hunt down something suited to the recipient's individual taste, like a chocolate or Disney-themed nativity.

READ ALSO: Ten of the best and craziest nativity scenes you can see across Italy

7. A modern Italian book

Photo: Pexels

For anyone who loves Italy, a good book can be the next best thing to a flight ticket there, and there's certainly no shortage of great Italian literature. A few contemporary Italian authors we recommend (and whose books have been translated into English) are Paolo Giordano, Dacia Maraini, and Andrea Camilleri of Inspector Montalbano fame. And you can find a list of our top five novels that give an insight into Italian life here.

8. Locally-made ornaments

Photo: Christina/Flickr

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. Alternatively, Italian leather is usually top quality and relatively well-priced, so you could look for bags, belts or leather-bound notebooks.

9. Italian kitchen essentials

Photo: Jing/Flickr

For your foodie friends, help them kit out their kitchen a moka pot for the perfect espresso, a pasta-maker or a mouli (a slightly old fashioned mill/grinder which allows you to puree food without making it completely smooth). Or you could get them a recipe book for fresh inspiration: try Marcella Hazan, Katie Parla, or Rachel Roddy for great writing in English about Italian food.

10. A gift that does good

Finally, there are plenty of ways to help a good cause with your gift-buying, wherever you are in Italy. Several towns and cities across the country have Christmas markets or pop-up shops selling presents for a charitable cause throughout December.

And if you can't find one, there are also several options online which help you choose the charity you want to support and pick out a suitable gift, from Italian food that helps farmers in Italy's earthquake-hit regions, to unique handmade gifts that support charities working internationally. 

You can also donate gifts to be given to those less fortunate than yourself; look for initiatives called "Natale sospeso" or "regalo sospeso" (suspended Christmas or present), which involve leaving gifts with a charitable organization to be distributed to those in need.


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