Ah, Bella Italia. There is nothing like shopping in Italy. The beauty of it is that if you really put some thought into it, you can find a fantastic souvenir that will remind you of your wonderful vacation forever.
One of the things about shopping in Italy is that you can easily be overwhelmed. There are a huge amount of shops to choose from, and each one seems to have just what you never knew you wanted until you saw it at that very moment.
There are a plethora of open air markets, little shops, and famous designer stores. You can spin in a circle deciding where to go first. I have some suggestions to help you.
First off, you have to consider the size and weight of some objects. Most reputable shops are willing to ship gifts home for you, (for a fee) so look in their windows for a sign indicating this to you. (“Lo Mandiamo” means “we’ll send it.”)
International customs are more stringent than ever now. Be careful about what you buy in terms of food and liquor. At the current time, each traveler over the age of 21 is allowed about one liter each. There is nothing more heart wrenching than having to leave behind a souvenir because it doesn’t meet requirements at border security.
This rule also applies to food. Meats and cheeses, especially, have strict regulations. Because these are considered “agricultural products” they are under stricter guidelines than, say, packaged candy. You may not be allowed to bring them home. My husband still weeps over a brick of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that he bought in Parma and left behind in Rome. (He left it in the hotel refrigerator, so they never even had the chance to rip it from his hot little hands.)
Fruit is also carefully screened. “Floral and Fauna” as they are sometimes called under the Agriculture heading can have organisms on them that are foreign to the United States.
A serious word of caution: Italy is very proactive in protecting her treasures. This includes taking rocks from the Colosseum, The Roman Forum, etc. Fines are involved, so do as the Romans do and leave them alone.
Each tiny section of Italy is extremely proud of their local wares. As the title of this article suggests, I will be adding more information in the coming days about what lovely things to buy in each “provincia” of Italy. For example, Montepulciano is known for its honey, lentils and soap. (This is without even mentioning the wines….oh the wines!) Florence is famous for its jewelry. Buying a piece of gold or silver on The Ponte Vecchio is like owning a treasure…in your heart.
The word “souvenir” in Italian is “Ricordo.” I love how it sounds like “recording a memory.” In fact, one of the best parts of a trip is returning home and unpacking your memories. They will stay with you forever.