While I prefer to keep memories and experiences over tangible things, I don’t buy souvenirs. My favorite souvenirs from Italy and elsewhere are those that I can use again and again so that I am reminded of my trip many years later, even if I’m just doing something mundane like unloading the dishwasher.
These are my top picks for useful souvenirs that I bought in Italy. Here are some other ideas.
What are your favorite reusable souvenirs?
I love my moka pots. After my first trip to Italy, I bought my first moka pot, a three-cup Bialetti. I put “three cup” in quotations because they are talking about the Italian espresso-sized cups. This means that even the “three-cup moka pot” produces only half the amount of a standard American-sized mug.
Later, on a trip I took, I was so comfortable making my morning coffee in a one-cup mokapot that I purchased one from the local supermarket. Although it wasn’t the same brand, it worked just as well years later as it did when I bought it new.
Where to Buy in Italy: While you can find Bialetti Moka Pots in fancy department shops (and sometimes in stand-alone Bialetti shops), which are great for browsing in, the generic moka Pots can be found almost everywhere, including in supermarkets and outdoor food markets. There are many sizes, but the smallest one-cup pots are the most adorable. It takes something more than the “nine cup” pot to fill a standard-sized American coffee mug with one brew. The most common one-cup pots are usually very affordable, especially at outdoor markets. You can find a million of them on Amazon. They are called “stovetop coffee pots.”
This is one of those “only Italians would invent that gadget” items. You could store your coffee in any container, and then scoop the grounds into your mokapot basket using a spoon. But once you have a dosacaffe, you will never go back to anything else.
A dosacaffe’s idea is simple. The canister holds the coffee grounds and allows you to refill it. The dispenser at the bottom lets out just enough coffee grounds to cover the rest of your container. They also have similar devices for sugar (dosazucchero), which basically translate to “coffee-doser”.
It helps to keep coffee grounds from getting all over the counter or floor if you are still awake and haven’t had your coffee yet. It’s a clever reminder to remind you every day of your trip in Italy.
Where can I buy in Italy? My friend described it to me as a “casalinga”, which means “housewife”. The space was barely larger than a closet and had shelves stacked floor to ceiling with various hardware, pots, pans, and other household items. Because I couldn’t see the dosacaffe, I had to ask the woman behind counter. She had it. Although it was years ago, I believe it cost less than ten euros. You can sometimes find dosacaffe at Amazon, or on other websites if you don’t want to hunt down a “casalinga”.
Table Linens & Kitchen Towels
I love the fact that table linens, such as cloth napkins and tablecloths, can be used to protect your luggage from damage. Maybe that’s my second favorite thing. It’s my favorite thing to think about where I got them each time I set the table and dry the dishes.
Where to Buy in Italy: While department stores may sell linens made locally, they won’t always stock them. Even though they may not always have locally-made products, outdoor markets can be a good place to check. This may not be important to you. Some people just want visual reminders of their trip no matter where they were taken. That’s also cool. I also have dish towels that I bought at a Corniglia market that have a Cinque Terre ingredients on them. Each towel has an Italian name and a recipe that uses that ingredient. I also own napkins that I bought at a tourist-focused shop in the Dolomites. It’s impossible to predict where linens will be found, so keep an eye out. They also make wonderful gifts.
My former Italian teacher, who was born and raised in Venice, swears that Nutella from Italy is infinitely better than what you get in the U.S. Although I do like the stuff I get here quite well, I don’t necessarily agree with her. The container is what I love most about Nutella from Italy and why I still buy it whenever I’m there.
A Nutella section at an Italian grocery shop typically has a wide range of choices, including many different shapes and sizes of jars. They look similar to the ones you see in American supermarkets. They are smaller and made from glass. They change in design – sometimes they promote a movie or TV series, other times they are emblazoned by characters I don’t recognize (mine being the Pink Panther or Pantera Rosa), but the shape and size remain the same. The plastic lids are removable once the Nutella has gone. The perfect drinking glass.
Confession: I love my glasses for cocktails. Pantera Rosa glasses intended for children, except that I have put a boulevardier in it. It makes me smile every single time.
Where to Buy in Italy: You can find it at almost any grocery store. It is important to have a variety of options in the Nutella aisle. You can even eat the Nutella while you are on the road, whether you’re camping or renting an apartment.
Other Excellent Italian Souvenir Ideas
These are some other souvenirs from Italy that you might like to take home.
- canned tuna– Caned tuna is a speciality in Italy. Try to resist the temptation of eating the tuna straight from the can, even if it’s in oil.
- dried mushrooms I don’t like mushrooms, but I have been told that dried mushrooms from Italy are far more affordable than those made in the U.S.
- Olive oil and vinegar dispensers My mother discovered a beautiful set of glass oil bottles and vinegar bottles with elegant stoppers and spouts in a small shop in Radda, Chianti. They were something she had been looking at in every restaurant that she went to and she finally bought them. They are still very dear to her. Terra cotta ones are also available, which are less fragile.
- Espresso cups, saucers, and spoons. You can find these items anywhere, but it’s much more fun to get them from Italy. The tiny espresso spoons make me feel five years old, and I love having tea with them.
- Olive wood salad tongs These can be found almost everywhere due to the abundance of olive tree.
You can see that I love useful kitchen souvenirs. It’s amazing how you can be transported to another place while you do the dishes by simply drying your hands with the towel you purchased from the lady at the market Siena. These are not all the Italy souvenirs I have, but they are available in other locations.
- glass wine stoppers for Murano. Okay, so it’s a bit kitchen-related but not really. Murano glass can be very expensive and is quite unique. Murano glass is a luxury that can be afforded by purchasing a small wine bottle stamp.
- Lace in Burano– Burano is the best place to find doilies. Make sure you get the authentic handmade stuff, not a Chinese knockoff.
- Florentine Paper – Some people still use real paper to write letters. You’re one of those people? Then treat yourself to a gorgeous stationary set featuring the colorful swirling designs Florence is famous for.
- Leather gloves in Milan I love the fact that there are whole shops that only sell leather gloves. Do yourself a favor by visiting one of these shops if you are looking for gloves.
- Leather purses, belts, or wallets in Florence. The outdoor leather markets of Florence are great for anyone looking for a new purse or other leather items. I love to go to these markets to find the perfect purse for me in any color that is trendy in that season. You’ll see it everywhere, and even on fashion magazines.