Let's face it, it can be a challenge to come up with fresh and novel ideas for your favorite Italophile. You've already given them Christmas ornaments shaped like Michelangelo statues, fancy Sicilian pasta with a potted basil plant and a bottle of olive oil, Chianti in a straw holder, Deruta-esque water pitchers, and Il Postino. Don't stress! I've got you covered. Below are my suggestions for how to WOW the Italy-lover on your gift list, with an eye toward being budget-conscious. Why? Because it's important to me that you put money away for your own trip to Italy. That's just how much I love you.
For the Chef
Letizia Mattiacci is the authoritative voice for Umbrian cuisine. Don't take my word for it, ask the New York Times. This cookbook (click on the photo to be taken to the cookbook in the Amazon store) is her seminal collection of Umbrian recipes, plus traditional Italian recipes flaired with Umbrian sensibilities. I love this cookbook, and am enthusiastically cooking my way through it. Pro-tip: Buy a copy for yourself and make the ciambellini cookies for your friends as heart-felt and delicious treats. I personally enjoyed those cookies during the Game of Thrones season finale. Buon appetito!
For the Clotheshorse
Your favorite Italophile will positivley gasp when they see this shirt from Smitten with Italy. Who wouldn't want to be reminded of "Il dolce far niente" as they they serve up lasagna? The Italian expression means "the sweetness of doing nothing" which Italians know a little something about. It is, after all, what propels us back to Italy again and again (and again). This shirt will remind your loved one of those afternoons languidly sipping wine while gazing out as the ruined castle across the valley. Plus, Smitten with Italy does such a marvelous job with packaging, the gift has an extra layer of delight. Don't tell Gabe, but he's getting the kid's "Holy Cannoli" shirt.
For the Art-Lover
Oh, I'm so unbelievably excited to share this with you. Neal Winfield is a British painter and glass designer who has lived in Umbria. His paintings straddle that balance of solidity yet lightness, and play with colors, that one might expect from someone with his artistic background. He has a collection of paintings that one can order as prints or as homewares. If your loved one has whiled away days in Venice or Gubbio or Assisi or Orvieto (those are my faves, but there is a staggering variety), imagine their utter glee when they see a unique image of this city that resonated with them on a print or phone case or tote or even a yoga mat! I'm going to be buying this iphone case with the "Gates of Spello" for Siena. Though there is a distinct possibility that I'll be slipping it into my own stocking instead. Ssshhhhh..... don't rat me out. What she doesn't know can hardly hurt her.
For the Kid at Heart
When we're in Italy, we stop into a corner shop and pick up Nutella in collectible glasses. They cost almost nothing, are easy to transport, delight us when we're back home, and the glasses are spectacular. They're virtually indestructible, perfect for child-size hands, and after a series of trips, we have a varied collection. If you are headed to Italy soon, bring them back as gifts! If that's not in your scopa cards, then your best bet is to find them on ebay.
For the Sweet-Tooth
It's surprising to me that torrone, Italian nougat, has yet to catch on in the U.S. With its pillowy texture, airy sweetness, and earthy nut crunch, it is far and away my favorite candy. These boxes of torrone are exquisite. Each is filled with individually sized pieces of nougat perfect for snacking (and maybe a little sharing). These boxes make unexpected hostess gifts, teacher gifts, and neighbor gifts. I suggest stocking up (at less than 12$/box it's easy to do) and you'll have a stack ready when you are racing to Frankie's piano lesson and realize you have yet to purchased a thank you for the maestro. It will no doubt be a treasured gift. Click on the image to be taken to the Amazon store.
For the Reader
Just in time for the holidays, it's Santa Lucia, a novel by the author of the Amazon bestseller Il Bel Centro: A Year in the Beautiful Center. Yes, that's me! Originally I published Santa Lucia as a serial on my website. I envisioned the story as a bit like the love child of a telenovela and an espresso—full of suspense, mystery, betrayal, and seduction, and told in dialogue-filled narration. So I was gratified when my editorial team who read the finished manuscript complained that the book kept them up way too late at night, as it is too easy to read just one more chapter. Thankfully, they also tell me that Santa Lucia transported them to Italy from page one. So if there is an Italophile on your list that loves page-turning novels set in Italy, why not check it out? As I've just launched the book, the electronic version is promotionally priced at $2.99. So you can get a copy for yourself to boot! Then you and your buddy can get together and swap suspicions about Massimo just like the villagers of Santa Lucia.
For the Board Game Afficionado
We love games in our house, so in previous gift guides I've told you about fun Italian themed games like Rise of Augustus and Downfall of Pompeii and Scopa. This year I'm presenting an Italian twist on a beloved American classic, Italyopoly. This one is perfect for friends who love games but don't really love learning new games like the ones I've shared before. Italyopoly is easy to learn, with adorable Italian-themed playing pieces, and is great for a crowd. I recommend a glass of wine while you play. For the grown-ups at least, maybe a San Pellegrino for the kids?
For the record: Amazon links embedded in this gift guide are affiliate links and thus I do receive a bit of change from Amazon which funds my continued writing. This costs you nothing, and compensates me to a small degree. Happy shopping!