Souvenir Ideas in Italy
I'm going to be in Rome and the Amalfi Coast in October. Any suggestions on small gifts I could bring back from Italy? I was thinking along the lines of grocery items/delicacies, but these days you can get Nutella pretty much anywhere. So I was hoping for some suggestions of things that are hard to find in the U.S.
Artisanal foodstuffs are a great choice - special honeys, oils, aged cheeses, etc.
May I recommend a store in Rome that has many special items of this kind and also vacuum packs cheeses for travel? Volpetti, on Via Marmorata on the edge of the Testaccio district (see website below). They sold luscious sardinian torrone (walnut or pistachio) by the pound, made with the fragrant and unusual sardinian honey (they sold the honey as well), and many excellent pecorinos, sausages and oils (there may be some novello - brand new oils from the 2002 harvest - in by the time you travel, maybe not). Volpetti's have some english speaking staff too, and will offer tastes of their products.
There are many food attractions in this area of Rome - including, right along the side of the Testaccio market, a wine shop that had literally hundreds of sparkling wines when we were in there on new Millenium's eve in 99. An embarrassment of choices in moscato d'astis, etc. The one we chose was delicious.
Hand painted ceramics, while expensive, will probably still be half the U. S. price since Italy is the source for much of this. Leather, clothing, shoes, etc. also fit this description. Gold jewelry can also be good since much of it is designed and made in Vicenza and Venice. For some things you will do well not to focus on small gifts but sincerely go after larger and more expenisve items considering the price savings. For food remember that almost anything made in Italy (wine, balsamic, reggiano, arborio, etc.) should be half the U. S. price. But the key to ALL of what I have mentioned is that the item/food must be MADE in Italy.
A few ideas:
Pasta di Gragnano comes from the area near the Amalfi Coast and is pretty hard to find in the U.S. Paccheri is the most traditional shape from the area.
The Diavolino peppers as others have suggested
Preserves made with the lemons and oranges of the coast.
Limoncello is easily available for around the same price in the U.S. so I would skip it.
In Rome you will be able to find delicacies from other regions such as Emiglia. Dried porcini and balsamic vinegar (Tradizionale) is way less expensive in Italy than in the states. I pick up some extra vecchio (25 yrs) for around U.S.D. $30 last year.
Too bad you can't bring back some real buffala with you. Check out Battipaglia (South of Salerno near Paestum) and buy a big ball.
My husband and I came back from our Amlfi coast vacation in June. Here are the souvenirs we brought back: Pepperoncino (sold in all kinds of pretty bottles) (the Italians call it diabolino or Natural Viagra - man, is it hot!) Brought one for yourselves and it si so good, we use it all the time.
Limoncello - so obvious since that's what is produced on the coast are lemons.
Great local wines. They will package it for you and at like $4/bottle it's a steal. You can't find these wines here and that makes them a great gift. We transported our wine in suitcases, believe it or not. Well wrapped, nothing broke!
Rum baba - my husband loved this.
Non-food:Handmade leather goods (shoes, handbags)
Amalfi makes their own paper and it is gorgeous - little shops in center of Amlafi town sell this.
Ceramics but it's expensive.
There are other food items like coffee, dry mushrooms, local candy (very good).
re: Tatyana Gourov
I just returned two days ago from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. Just loved the trip and would return again and again--just beautiful. I agree with many of the suggestions of items to bring home. In fact, if I had to do it again, I would have taken fewer items of clothing and filled my suitcase. The Amalfi area does have beautiful hand-made papers and a factory you can visit to see the paper being made, however, we were there on a Sunday and the factory was closed. The dried pasta is incredible and the various pasta shapes are very unusual; I wanted to fill a shopping bag full but I was afraid of it being crushed by the time I got home. Of course there is the lemoncello everywhere and while it can be purchased in the US the many unusual bottle shapes make nice gifts. The babas are everywhere, too, and the wine is indeed very good and inexpensive. One additional item, although not a food item, is the coral harvested from the region. If interested, ask around to find a reputable jeweler, it that's something you might be interested in. Enjoy; it's a beautifl part of the world.