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Bringing Candy and Food Gifts to Italy

t
ttassone Mar 23, 2011 12:19 PM

I am travelling to Italy in May and want to bring candy for children in the families I am staying with, but want to bring something they do not have there .... any ideas?

Also thought of bringing some food gifts for the hosts - but have no ideas.

  1. p
    piero Mar 23, 2011 12:57 PM

    M and M's for the kids. See's DARK chocolate for the adults.

    1. e
      ekc Mar 23, 2011 01:12 PM

      I wouldn't recommend bringing chocolate, as some of the best chocolate I have ever tasted was from Italy. Gummy bears/worms/etc. would be a great gift for the kids. Are there any specialty foods from where you live (i.e. maple syrup if you live in Vermont)?

      2 Replies
      1. re: ekc
        t
        ttassone Mar 23, 2011 01:30 PM

        I live in a suburb of Torono, Canada. Maple syrup is abundant this time of year, but I worry the Italians may not have a lot of use for it in their cooking. The children are small 4 and 5 and I wanted something they didn't have there. When I travel on business to the USA I always bring Smarties and Aero bars and Coffee Crisp for the collegues I work with as they are not available there. was trying to think of something easily carry-able but different forthe kids in that way.

        1. re: ttassone
          z
          zerlina Mar 23, 2011 02:01 PM

          You're right about the maple syrup: Italians wouldn't know what to do with it. One Roman I knew loved maple-sugar candy, but even he wasn't much taken with maple syrup.

      2. katieparla Mar 23, 2011 04:56 PM

        I never mind getting a jar of peanut butter. If they drink (the parents not the kids), a bottle of good bourbon makes a nice gift.

        1 Reply
        1. re: katieparla
          b
          bob96 Mar 23, 2011 06:53 PM

          For the kids, might bring a funky selection of US favorites--M+Ms, Reese's, etc. Moon Pies. Tastee Cakes. Cotlets/Aplets. Junior Mints. Salt Water taffy. Other regional treats. A single batch bourbon s a great idea, maybe an Oregon pear eau de vie.

        2. b
          badwaiter Mar 23, 2011 07:01 PM

          In my experience, here are some things that are hard to find/novel.

          Most kinds of American sweets-- a box of brownie mix or cookie mix might be interesting. Crunch and Munch or peanut brittle.

          American breakfast foods-- one Italian friend thought pop tarts were disgusting (which they mostly are) but another liked them. I'd wager that the kids would like a box of Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

          More savory--We're staying really lowbrow here but something like Stove-Top stuffing is from another planet. A good salsa might go over well too.

          Hope this helps.

          1. z
            zerlina Mar 23, 2011 10:13 PM

            What American/Canadian expats in Italy might enjoy and what Italians might enjoy are two entirely different kettles of fish. Italians would not know what to do with or enjoy brownie mix or Stovetop dressing.

            As a rule, Italians a) are very conservative in their eating habits, b) favour fresh products over prepared foods, and I don't see the point of bringing them American/Canadian junk food.

            10 Replies
            1. re: zerlina
              b
              badwaiter Mar 24, 2011 02:44 AM

              Yes, it's junk food. No I wouldn't give a complete stranger Stovetop but I would be ok with some of the others.

              The OP wanted some suggestions. Now that you've covered what not to bring, how about answering their question?

              I would hate to think that 'campanilismo' is so strong that no American food product would be well received by an Italian family.

              1. re: badwaiter
                z
                zerlina Mar 24, 2011 03:16 AM

                I wouldn't bring food, period, except to someone who had been to North America and found something they liked and couldn't find in Italy.

                If pressed, I might suggest bringing a local product like saltwater taffy from the Atlantic seaboard or pralines from New Orleans. The only local product (and it's not all that local) around Toronto that I know of is maple-sugar candy, which I've already mentioned. Or an artisanal (rather than mass-manufactured) product, but I'm not familiar with candymakers and chocolatiers in Toronto.

                I think you'd be surprised how many Italians are unwilling even to try non-Italian food. Ethnic restaurants have made inroads in major cities, but most Italians don't frequent them. The only American "restaurant" that is ubiquitous in Italy is McDonald's. I don't think much of McDonald's contribution to Italian eating habits, and I know many Italians deplore it.

              2. re: zerlina
                mbfant Mar 24, 2011 02:54 AM

                I'm with Zerlina on this. Why bring inferior or useless North American products to Italy? When I stuff a Thanksgiving turkey here, it's like I was from Mars, so Stovetop would be considered bizarre. And when I bring mixes back for myself, I wind up never using them. The only thing might be some truly good fudge or brownies, not mix. Maple sugar candy would be good except it might not be appreciated, and many parents will not appreciate sweet gifts for their already hyperactive children.

                Maple syrup is greatly appreciated by a few people but totally mystifies most. It is generally a waste unless (a) you know the recipient will appreciate it, or (b) you take some trouble to explain how it might fit into the Italian kitchen. On the latter point I can offer two ideas from my maple-loving Italian husband: pour it over really good ricotta or on strawberries (or both). Another Italian friend loves it in her tea.

                What I find goes over better than food gifts is North American ingenuity -- kitchen gadgets and such, and some clever game or toy for the children. Zip-Loc bags may not be the most elegant house present, but in some circles they would earn you undying gratitude. I personally would love to receive a jar of peanut butter, but most Italians would not appreciate it, or worse. Remember, they think our eating habits are the worst in the world.

                It's not an easy question.

                1. re: mbfant
                  b
                  badwaiter Mar 24, 2011 03:49 AM

                  Now that this discussion has some nuance, I must unfortunately agree. What you should bring rises in proportion on a scale of "nothing" to "Stove Top" to how well traveled these folks are and how well you know them. Still, the simple act of bringing a gift is nice and even if they might not truly enjoy it, it's a very positive gesture. Still, in thinking hard about this question, I think I have a good answer for the kids at least. Make some rice crispy treats or bring them a bag of marshmallows.

                  I think the real question raised here is "What is mbfant's favorite brand of peanut butter?"

                  1. re: badwaiter
                    jen kalb Mar 24, 2011 07:16 AM

                    A few years back we faced the same issue when we sent our kids to France to live with familes on exchange programs. I wound up sending some lovely homemade jam my father had made on the theory that it was a recognizable product to a french person, it was personal and above all it was very good! since there are very good artisanal products being made these days in the US, I would consider a similar item, We had a very good marionberry jam from the pacific northwest recently, or blueberry, perhaps, as long as it is very fresh and good. I nice jar of not-to-spicy salsa might also be good.

                    I think the kid gifts are less sensitive - I think we sent "jelly bellies" for them in that instance..

                  2. re: mbfant
                    e
                    ekc Mar 24, 2011 09:21 AM

                    To follow-up on MB's zip-loc bag comment, I had a friend visiting from Italy this last weekend and she LOVED the Glad Press-N-Seal wrap I used for my leftovers. So much so that she bought 2 boxes of it to bring back with her to Italy, and asked that I bring her a couple more boxes when we return to Italy in October. She also said that she had bought her mom a micro-plane grater last time she was in NYC (she couldn't find one in their small town) and she loves it.
                    For a hostess gift she brought me jars of jams and vegetable preserves her family had "put up" this summer, which was the perfect gift for me, and is something that I would bring her, if you do that sort of thing.

                    1. re: ekc
                      mbfant Mar 24, 2011 10:41 AM

                      Microplanes are a good idea. They're serious items, so real gifts. And so are home preserves. I brought a roll of Press-N-Seal back with me last trip, but I keep forgetting about it. I was recently given a gift of heavy-duty foil I appreciated very much. I don't eat enough peanut butter to have a favorite brand, but given the choice, I usually go for chunky, but it's useless. I would have to suffer the derision of my Italian better half. (No, he doesn’t eat Nutella either.) :-) I would really skip the marshmallows without parental permission. Don't encourage them to think of us as addicted to junk food!

                      1. re: mbfant
                        b
                        badwaiter Mar 24, 2011 11:52 AM

                        I'm not addicted, I can stop any time....

                    2. re: mbfant
                      b
                      bob96 Mar 25, 2011 12:48 AM

                      I couldn't imagine bringing cling wrap to my cousins in Calabria, or to anyone else, as much as it may be appreciated on some dutifully practical level. I'd try to avoid junking it up (lord knows there's already junk cookies and snacks galore in Italy), but would dare to risk scorn by presenting some examples of distinctive American culinary gems, whether it's a small batch whiskey or artisanal taffy. Could be wine, could be good fudge. I know all about Italian conservatism when it comes to daily diets, but what's wrong with bringing something you felt was among the best we had to offer? Zia Concetta might not really be crazy about it, but someone might, and the gift of something of good quality that is unexpected or unfamiliar or unavailable seems less forced than figuring out what among all things possible they might need. Giving is not about winning or losing, after all; at least I don't think so.

                      1. re: bob96
                        mbfant Mar 25, 2011 01:35 AM

                        Artisanal, traditional items, like taffy and fudge, would be great, as would any genuinely good native product (unless you can't bear to see good maple syrup go to waste), but I really would draw the line at Mars bars and marshmallows. We can do better than that!

                  3. t
                    ttassone Mar 24, 2011 07:20 PM

                    Thanks all - we will be staying in Umbria as 'base camp' at homes of my guy's cousins. He knows the well, but I am the newbie. Because the kids are small (and there are several) I really just wanted to bring a small 'treatie" for them, My sister lives in Florid and when my kids were small, a different breakfast cereal or chocolate bar that we didn't get in Toronto was always a small, special treat for them (they didn't care about one more Florida T Shirt). I thought small treats for the little ones may be more endearing than Canada Olympic T shirts or colouring books with hockey players and maple leaves on them. My guy loved the rice krispie square idea (but it would be better to make them there) and agrees about the peanut butter - not something readlily available yet missed by the NAmericans in the country - so Reeses Pieces may be a fun treat (if they are unavailable in Italy). Cousins in Belgium said their kids missed Mars Bars when they moved - but I agree that when you live an hour from perugia, choclate may not be the best gift to bring. Loving all your ideas ...but please 'play nice'. Tante grazie! T

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: ttassone
                      a
                      ambra Mar 25, 2011 02:19 PM

                      What about Maple candy? :) I also like the idea of candy with peanut butter in it. But I also agree that you should go with what your town is famous for. It's neat for them to be able to say we have "xxx" from CANADA!!!

                      I am going with Katie Parla. My husband coveted his fancy pants Silver Select bourbon that was brought to him from guests once. My husband also loves Macadamia nuts as well as Pecans but I guess he's not your average Italian either. Especially when chocolate is involved.

                      They sell Ziploc bags at IKEA now. They aren't as good as the Ziploc brand bag, but they are still good. (My Italian family loves the ziploc brand so much that they wash and re-use them!) We also have rice crispy treat bars here but it's with chocolate or caramel. But no good marshmellows to make them fresh, so if you are planning on making the treats, you best bring the marshmellows! (We have these wierd marshmellow that are colored and flavored.)

                      I agree about kitchen gadgets and other fun gadgets. (Microplanes can also be found here now, but at a much higher price.) I brought my entire family microplanes and they ADORED Them. What is that brand with the big handle that was invented for people with arthritis? Those were also great gifts. Even just an average potato peeler.

                      For the kids, I might go with fun original toys. The toys/games we get as gifts from the US are much more imaginative and original. My friend brought those silly bracelets a year ago before they got to Italy, and when my son was old enough to have them, he literally went nuts.

                      Good luck!

                      1. re: ambra
                        d
                        DavidT Mar 25, 2011 03:35 PM

                        I think the brand of kitchen utensils with big handles you are looking for is OXO.

                        www.oxo.com

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