Italy is an exceptional country famous around the world. Most of us dream about going there for the first time and then, once you experience it, you want to go again and again.
There is a good reason why I wanted to prepare this post about gifts from Italy. I feel that merely visiting the country is not enough. There is so much substance to Italy if you look at it from the history and craftsmanship perspective.
There are just so many of proud and skilful makers, who specialise in making unique things we would enjoy having around us. Let's discover a few together.
ANNA AKHMATOVA (POET)
'Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of
With thousands of small family businesses scattered around Italy, it would be very hard to be detailed and cover all option for Italian gifts. But let me make my best attempt at highlighting key trends and groups of makers that could give you some good ideas.
Bracelets are a great gift. It can take so many forms and shapes – it seems that storytelling around them is endless. So, let's take a look at Italy from the perspective of bracelets too. It is not just about gold and silver or about the design and the designer. There is so much more to discover.
There are so many talented Italian jewellery designers. It would simply not do them justice to just mention a few here. Those are well covered and promoted by dedicated luxury accessory websites anyway.
Instead, I wanted to flag up upcoming brands and highlight some of the unique jewellery that comes with an interesting story attached. By now, you might know me – I am mostly interested in the story behind the things we use.
A perfect example of contemporary design while using traditional Italian craftsmanship. Paul Cortese team did a great job. Hurry, it might sell out.
Tulsi is a shop that specialises in Italian accessories and is very popular in the US. Genuine Italian gift and simple, clean design for the starlet in your life.
Bronzalure is a Milan based Atelier that has been specialising in bronze for three generations. I like that they bringing gems back – less social impact.
Italian textile has been appreciated worldwide since the middle ages. Wool has played a big part in it, of course. With those vast herds of sheep strolling the countryside, the material needed has been there.
The wool industry is quite spread out, but, if you wish to visit some textile houses district of Prato is an excellent place to start. There are still more than 9000 textile businesses operating today.
It is important to note that there are three types of textile workers who make wool accessories. First is your traditional textile houses, large operations that survived the changes in our times. Then there are small family textile businesses. And finally, crafters working alone and selling their wares on Etsy.
It is impossible for me to cover them all; hence I will point out some examples of interesting work done by these Italian craftsmen these days.
Playful and colourful travel bags are an ideal present for frequent travellers. Made in Italy by a Lefrac who is specialising in felt made accessories.
Laura, the owner of Anonima Mente, is the designer and maker of these playful and colourful coasters. All hand made in her studio, in Ravenna, Italy.
BeFeltBag is focusing on making their products from wool felt because of its eco-friendly credentials. Could be a good gift for an eco-warrior.
Peppa Mazzanti is a small one-person business with loads of creativity. She specialises in knitted jumpers for smaller dogs. Mostly use cashmere.
This hand-knitted wool scarf one of many wool accessories that Rosso Venezia is selling. Very small shop, but offers a great personalised service.
Montova Lana actually grows their own sheep. Hence they can guarantee cruelty-free and organic wool. Then they use family craftsmanship to create this.
Italian leather is famous for its quality worldwide. It is quite common to see leather artisans around the world proudly stating that they are using Italian leather. And they are right to do so.
Italian leather accessory makers have been focusing on the right things for centuries, you see. They have been breeding cows specifically for their hide, using different breeds for a different type of accessories. At the same time, they also incrementally improved their tannery techniques to get the softest, the long-lasting leather required for accessory making.
I like that a lot of leather accessory makers these days can utilise platforms like Etsy and others to find the customers like us. In these small shops, a computer has become one of their tools needed for the business. And, it is an excellent way for us to support those small crafty businesses that create such special gifts.
Elegelie is an owner of this Italian Etsy shop. Her wallets, made from soft and colourful leather, have a large number of positive reviews from worldwide.
Maruseitaly is a relatively new shop, but I do like his braver choice of colours. An orange passport holder is unique. Its leather edges talk of quality finish.
Mario Doni, the owner, is proud of her skills in old Tuscan craftsmanship. The leather is vegetable tanned, of course, and the belt is handmade.
Opened since 2012 Italian Handbags shop has a lot of handmade craft available. Shop owner Ralu finds the best designs from local leather workshops.
This is another find by Italian Handbags, and I like it because it can also be a backpack. Loads of raving reviews on how soft the leather is.
Togstrap is a new shop that opened in 2020. Paolo specialises in designing and making camera straps. I like this wrist strap with a touch of yellow.
Leather strap with an Italian flag note. What a great accessory gift idea for an Italian guy. Made in Rome by an artisan specialising in leather straps.
This team specialises in Apple Watch straps only. But boy there is a choice available. Colours and leather types suitable for all Apple watches.
Odorizzi is also a shop for Apple Straps, but with them, you can customise the colour of the leather and the thread used. More of a darker style.
Italian shoemakers have been famous around the world for hundreds of years. And for a good reason. It seems that they are exceptionally good at fashion, leather works and craftsmanship.
All these skills are passed on from generation to generation. Hence there are more than 4000 family-run businesses in the Italian shoe-making industry. Interestingly, most of those shoes are made in only two regions – Tuscany and Marche (located next to each other).
Not every shoe-making family owns a brand. Most of them are producing based on orders from worldwide known luxury brands. Hence, if you do find a factory shoe shop in Italy, you can expect the same quality, at a lower price.
Custom made shoes is another speciality that is worth investment for a perfect fitting, stylish and long-lasting shoes.
Here are most of the leather shoe styles for men. So, if you do visit a custom shoemaker, you will know where to start your conversation:
For women, there are just too many styles to squeeze into one line; hence I just made my favourite selection. Here is a good excuse to top up your shoe collection.
With Italy offering so many shoemakers at your disposal, I am not going to go into detail or trying to list them. Let me instead recommend my favourite three options when choosing long-lasting shoes for myself or as a gift. First, is of course to visit a designer website for something extravagant or custom made. Second, is online customisation service, which is your 21st-century Italian shoe shopping experience. You choose online, and those crafty people in Italy will put it together for you. And third, utilising superior distribution power of amazon.com to get a reasonable price and fast delivery anywhere you live.
Paolo is one of the star custom shoemakers from Napoli. His shoes are made to order. It is his name on the line so expect real quality.
An excellent website with a wide choice of shoe types available. All editable for colours and materials used. I like their less formal shoes.
Italian workshops, when working with US retailers, use US Brannock Standard. This way they ensure that it fits American feet as well as European
Giuseppe is one of the designers that work with top celebrities. He can list Lady Gaga as one of his clients, for example. It is part of the Icons collection.
Without going to Italy, with Giroti, you can choose the shoes you like and then start changing bits. Choose colours, materials and much more.
Italian ceramics is a fascinating subject. It is a pleasant discovery when travelling around Italy, as it enables you to enhance your home by bringing back a small part of this beautiful country, in the form of these hand-painted ceramics.
Each Italian region will have a different style, patterns and colours. Some makers now start adopting more contemporary styles, while others stick to the classic hand-painted shapes of fruits or animals.
I personally think that often it is enough to get one or two Italian ceramics into your home to add a lot of character to it. You can go for full dinner plate sets or just with smaller accessories like decorated salad forks or bottle stoppers.
It is quite useful to know the main types of ceramics, so you make a more informed decision on what you want or what would work best for you. So, here are the main types to get you started on your discovery:
Although the term 'ceramics' initially meant things made from clay, these days it covers items made from all other materials like glass and variety of mixes.
Hence, as a wider term covering most wares that a fired, it includes pottery and porcelain too.
Pottery describes a variety of things as long as it is made from clay that was heated (fired) in high temperatures.
Then it is divided into earthenware (oldest method), stoneware (scratch-resistant layer) and porcelain (usually white and translucent).
Majolica stands out for its hand-painted decorations and bright colours.
It is created by dipping early-stage earthenware to a special glaze which, when tried, allows hand painting on it.
After the artisan has finished, it is fired for the second time creating its unique look.
Deruta town is based in Umbria, Italy and is famous for its maiolica ceramics and specific style. This handmade coffee container will add charm too.
Deruta Vario Christmas balls are quite special. None of them is the same as each of them is hand-painted individually. It is quite a rare find.
Unique olive oil bottle, handmade and hand-decorated in Italy. Intricate details will add a charm and character to any kitchen. Eco friendly too.
Ultimate classic that would be so much appreciated in any contemporary Italian house. It is part of Italian culture for kids – a dedicated jar for cookies.
Yes, they also do 'normal plates'. To highlight the motif – Rooster pattern is quite common. And it means blessings, prosperity and well being.
Italian food is something that all of us get excited about, and how about your gift helping your loved one to get better at Italian cooking?
Making fresh pasta at home sounds complicated, but actually, it is a very straightforward process. My friend makes it in about 15 minutes, with prepared dough. And the process is easy to follow – anyone can master it in no time.
There are several of Italian companies making great pasta makers. Most of them are pretty compact and manual turning, so no messy cables on your kitchen top. For more advanced chefs I would recommend a pasta extruder – to take their game from spaghetti to other varieties of pasta.
There are a lot of amazing things made in Italy every day. Thousands of artisans use their skills in creating unique authentic things for us to enjoy.
Hence, I hope that these suggestions gave you some new ideas on what to give as a gift, or at least on where to look.
Giving gifts is definitely not about the price. It is more of a gesture of thoughtfulness. People love to know that you think about them.
And hey, by having your gift that they appreciate they will think about you every time they use it too.
So let's think of our loved ones more often – that can be a gift in itself.
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We spent years searching the web, artisan shops and visiting variety of makers in Europe. You welcome.