Last updated on February 12th, 2024
Undecided about how to use your precious luggage space upon your return from Italy?
Are you looking for the absolute best Italian food gifts to bring back but afraid you won’t hit the nail on the head?
I got you covered! I live in Italy and travel back to the US at least once a year to visit my family so I am always on the hunt for the best Italian food gifts to shower my friends and family with that won’t bore them year after year.
I am going to include my classic favorites: things I bring back every year to keep my parents well stocked but also one-timers: gifts that encompass Italy and tell a story about my travels or life here for people I see rarely.
I will also include kitchen essentials plus some fun items, gifts for kids and additional items to always pack a few extra of incase you forget someone!
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Tips for Creating Italian Gift Baskets
Many of the items listed below can be paired with one another (or several) to make a larger, more substantial gift. These are just A FEW examples but there is no limit to what combinations you can come up with!
- Pair similar items:
- Cheese, crackers, and wine for food lovers
- Various seasonings such as seasoned salt, saffron and bottarga for the more sophisticated home cook
- Espresso cups, moka pot and Italian ground espresso
- Table cloth and dish towels
- Pasta rolling pin and a package of dried pasta such as fettuccine (which they can eventually make with their new rolling pin)
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a salad dressing due
- Dessert wine and dessert: Vin Santo and cantuccini
- Canned pasta sauce and pasta: aglione and pappardelle, both from Tuscany
- Olive oil cutting board and cheese
- Murano glass and a local liquor
- Consider sharing or writing down one of your favorite recipes, cocktails or ways of using that item:
- Provide a recipe you learned to love on your trip such as the Aperol Spritz, with a bottle of Aperol and two Murano glasses for a truly beautiful gift.
- Share or print a picture showing how cheese platters and charcuterie boards were presented on cutting boards in Italy when you give an olive oil cutting board.
- Write or print off a quick guide to using a moka pot along with Italian coffee for espresso newbies.
The following items are kitchen staples in Italy that I now cannot live without, which is why I love to share them as gifts.
Pasta Rolling Pin
To make homemade pasta, many Italians still do it by hand using a special rolling pin. It’s basically just a long rod with a slight shape to it, nothing more. This is ideal for your baker friends and family as it can be used for any rolling, not just pasta!
Check out any local ceramic shop to get a beautifully painted spoon rest to keep next to your stove top. When you are cooking, simply rest your dirty wooden spoon on the small dish, avoiding excess mess.
Stainless Steel Olive Oil Dispenser
There is no other way to keep oil in Italy. The stainless steel helps to keep the oil fresh longer, keeping the light and heat a bay. We use them in the kitchen but also keep them on our everyday table for drizzling. The come in various sizes but I suggest a medium size that can double as a kitchen tool and for serving at the table. And if you are curious about which olive oils to fill them will, read 15 Best Italian Olive Oils – To Enjoy in Italy & Bring Home as a Souvenir
This is a fun little set to bring back to coffee-lovers. I like to get hand-painted ones because they truly speak to Italy’s craftsmanship and dedication to the fine arts.
Handmade tablecloths are a beautiful gift for foodies and non-foodies alike. Perugia (Umbria) is best known for its tradition of making tablecloths but you can find beautiful ones throughout Italy.
We Recommend: B.Del Secco (Via de’ Guicciardini, 20) for hand woven towels and other hand woven cloth in Florence.
Although you can buy moka pots abroad, they are so cheap in Italy. You can get a variety of sizes but I think the three-cup one is the best all-around option. The one-cup version is very cute though! And don’t be afraid to use one – they are super easy if you follow How To Make Coffee In A Moka Pot In 8 Easy Steps.
Pepper and Salt Grinder
Many woodworkers sell handmade pepper and salt grinders made from locally sourced wood, most often from olive trees. They come in a variety of sizes and you don’t necessarily have to buy them together.
Tip: Don’t be fooled, there is a difference between a pepper and salt grinder, no matter what the shop owner says. The pepper grinder has a metal grinder (look underneath to check) while the salt one can be made with a hard plastic.
You might be thinking who needs another dish towel? Boring! This is seemingly the case but Italian dish towels are actually a well-received gift everytime in my experience. They feel special and unique without the price tag of a luxury item!
We Recommend: Papiro is a small paper store in Florence with several locations selling beautifully crafted dish towels
Top Edible Items
Gifting edible items is my favorite way to share my love for Italy because what says Italy more than food, right? Edible gifts are something that everyone appreciates because you can consume and enjoy them without being left with something that is out of style or not even your style to begin with!
Obey The Law: read our guide to Italian food souvenirs to learn more about our top tips to bringing food items into foreign countries.
Pasta weighs nothing so it’s great to pop into huge bags that are already overweight but it’s also a great way to tell a little about your travels. Each Italian region has their own specialty pasta so bring back a bag of pasta from where you have been or what your favorite place was. Here are some favorites:
- Orecchiette: pasta shaped like little ears (Puglia)
- Trofie: small handmade corkscrews (Liguria)
- Cavatelli: meaning “little hollows”, small twisted shell shaped (southern Italy)
- Tagliatelle/Pappardelle: egg ribbon pasta (Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany)
- Lasagne: pick up dried lasagna sheets at supermarkets
Remember: You cannot bring fresh pasta into many countries, including the US!
Make It: Rather than bringing pasta home, try making it fresh using my recipe for homemade tagliatelle.
Almost every region in Italy has their own version. Seek out small producers, which you can easily find at small gastronomie (grocery store), pizzicherie (delis) or enoteche (wine stores).
Tip: Purchase olive oil in tins rather than in bottles as it travels much better and is less likely to break.
Balsamic Vinegar from Modena is an essential item I always bring to my sister when I come back to the US. Although you can find it abroad, it carries a hefty price tag! A little bit goes a long way here, you only need a few drops when making a salad, so a small bottle will do just fine.
Truffles are an Italian delicacy and make one of the best gifts to bring back with you – they are always appreciated and a little goes a long way when using them!
Try bringing truffles home in one of the following ways:
- Preserved in oil – great for drizzling and finishing dishes
- In a pâté or spread – ideal for making sandwiches or crostini
Keep In Mind: You cannot bring fresh truffles to many countries, including the USA.
- Torrone: If you are on the Island of Sardinia then you will notice the mounds of nougat for sale at markets. Made from honey and nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds), the best kind is the artisan variety.
- Panforte: A specialty from Siena made from various dried fruits, nuts and honey. It’s similar to a flat cake in shape but it’s dense and chewy. The best ones are artisan made so head to a small gastronomia for a handpicked selection.
- Regional Cookies: Italy has so many amazing cookies to offer such as baci di dama, savoiardi, cantuccini, buranelli, ricciarelli and amaretti di saronno, just to name a few. If you pack them in a hard container or tin, which they will sometimes come in, they pack even better!
Cookies are one of my Favorite Food Souvenirs from Venice!
- Modica: Made by processing the cocoa beans by hand in a stone bowl called a metate, resulting in a very particular chocolate with a griddy texture. Go for the classic variety if you are shopping for a purist but don’t overlook all the other flavors such as vanilla, coffee and lemon!
- Perugina Chocolates: If you haven’t heard of or tried Baci, a bite-size hazelnut chocolate topped with a whole hazelnut and covered in dark chocolate, then these are for you (and your friends and family if you haven’t finished them on the plane right home!).
- Gianduiotto: A smooth, creamy chocolate blended with hazelnuts that melts in your mouth – heaven on earth for hazelnut lovers. Many commercial brands make their own versions of these chocolates that you can purchase at supermarkets but the artisan ones are the best. These are great last minute gifts to pick up before leaving because you can find them easily!
I like to pair coffee with a moka pot for my coffee-lovers back home. Unless they have a moka pot already, giving Italian espresso ground coffee is kind of like giving a toy without batteries to a kid – they won’t be able to fully enjoy it without the coffee maker itself! The pair makes a great holiday gift item!
Read our full Guide to Italian Coffee Brands but here are a couple of my favorites:
- Lavazza Qualità Oro: 100% arabica coffee for espresso
- Illy Classico: 100% arabica coffee for espresso
In Florence, you can buy directly from some of the coffee roasters.
I think what my family loves most about me living in Italy is the fact that I always bring them a yearly supply of at least one of the following when I return home:
- Vin Santo: a sweet dessert wine served with cookies (Tuscany)
- Grappa: a northern specialty but enjoyed throughout Italy. My favorite is grappa di miele, honey grappa, which is slightly sweeter.
- Sambuca: anise-based liquor (southern Italy)
- Amaro: all slightly different, depending on the region. This is my personal favorite to have after dinner.
- Campari: one of Italy’s most popular bitter, characterized by its bright red color, great for aperitivo time!
- Aperol: Italy’s favorite bitter used to make the classic spritz cocktail.
- Vermouth: originally from Piedmont, you can find lots of artisan varieties of this fortified wine used in many classic Italian cocktails such as the negroni.
Best For: Regional liquors are best for people who love to drink cocktails and enjoy after-dinner drinks.
Don’t we all wish wine wasn’t so heavy so we could just bring a suitcase full of it home? Unfortunately, it’s not so I stick to one or two bottles of my favorites from smaller producers of some of the most famous varieties as a special treat.
Here are some of my favorite varieties to give listed by region:
- Veneto: Amarone della Valpolicella
- Piedmont: Barolo, Barbaresco
- Lombardy: Francacorta
- Emilia-Romagna: Lambrusco
- Tuscany: Brunello
- Puglia: Primitivo
- Sardinia: Vermentino di Gallura
For All Budgets: Wine varies a lot in price so even if you are on a budget you will find something in your price range. On the other hand, if you are looking for a spendy gift item, the sky’s the limit for how much you can spend on a bottle of wine!
Taralli is Italy’s version of a potato chip snack. What I mean by this is that once you start eating them it’s hard to stop!
The reason I like to bring back these little ring shaped crackers is because I have never seen the artisan versions sold in the US. The difference between commercially produced ones and artisan ones is huge.
I like to go for the traditional olive oil flavor but they make tons of varieties such as fennel, spicy red pepper and whole wheat, just to name a few.
If you are traveling back home and you are not in the heat of the summer months, regional cheese that has been vacuum packed makes a fantastic gift. You can pair it with taralli, a jam or other canned Italian specialty (see below for suggestions) and you have an awesome gift!
Pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano are my two favorites to give.
Tip: If you are traveling a long distance and concerned about refrigeration, buy Italian cheeses at duty free shops at airports!
Learn More: Study up on formaggio with our Complete Guide to Italian Cheese!
Canned and Jarred Goods
Italians are pros at canning goods. The possibilities are endless so you can find something to fit anybody’s tastes and preferences.
My top picks listed below encompass some of Italy’s most beloved flavors:
- Aglione – garlic tomato sauce
- Pâté di carciofi – artichoke spread
- Giardiniera – various pickled vegetables
- Carciofi sott’olio – artichokes packed in oil
- Capperi sotto sale – salt preserved capers
Best Budget & Luggage Friendly Gifts
Budget friendly items go hand in hand with items that weigh nothing and take up little space. These are also items that I like to pack extra of just in case I need a couple of extra things to hand out upon my return.
If you are cramped for space, are on a budget, or simply have a lot of people for whom you are shopping, consider one of the following:
Dried Porcini Mushrooms
Known as porcini secchi in Italian, dried porcini mushrooms are a great way to add a punch of flavor to your cooking without using fresh vegetables. Mushrooms grow extremely well in Italy, although not year round, so to get around this, Italians dry them and use them throughout the entire year. All you need to do is rehydrate them and you’re on your way to a great Italian meal.
Similar to dried porcini mushrooms, pomodorini secchi, as they are known in Italian, are picked ripe, sun dried and added to many cooked dishes as well as simply used in sandwiches or enjoyed with cocktails. They don’t weigh a thing and you can also put them in your carry-on if you are very tight for space!
Known as nero di seppia, this squid ink is sold in small packets at supermarkets and small grocery shops that can be kept in the fridge for several months to make pasta and risotto. They are tiny so you can pack a lot for “just in case items”. This is ideal for your gourmet cook friends!
Zafferano, as it’s called in Italian, grows in Sardinia, Tuscany and Umbria. The stuff you find at a market is going to be the best quality but if not, supermarkets sell them in small packets with the spices, making it easy to pick up at the last minute no matter where you are!
Learn more about Italian Markets:
How to Shop at Markets in Italy
10 Rules for Shopping at Markets in Italy
Incredible Food Markets in Italy
My Favorite Markets in Florence
Food Markets in Florence
Food Markets in Venice
Bottarga is made from the roe of locally caught tuna that is salted and dried. It’s used like parmesan cheese, grated over pasta, beans, and rice. This is a gift I like to give cooks who like anchovies, or at least, don’t have a problem with them. Bottarga is similar in the sense that it adds a lot of flavor but you can’t exactly put your nose on what it is.
Good To Know: It’s usually sold close to where the fresh fish is sold in supermarkets and vacuumed packed, which is mandatory if you plan on bringing it back to the US.
Although a little on the heavier side, this costs next to nothing and is something Italians use on a daily basis. Each butcher or brand will have their own mix of seasonings but most commonly sage, garlic, rosemary and thyme are used to enhance larger salts such as rock salts.
I am always stuffing my bags with kid friendly items when I travel because I have four kids who are always keeping busy with friends when we go back to The States. My kids like to share their Italian favorites just as much as I do!
The world of Kinder is endless in Italy. There are so many little snacks, chocolates, fun shapes with little surprises and more so just have a look around at the checkout aisle of the grocery store where you will find the most popular items. The infamous Kinder Egg is always a hit when we pass them around.
Good To Know: You’re not allowed to bring Italy’s Kinder Eggs into to the United States.
Pastiglie Leone Candies
Pastiglie Leone from Piedmont are small hard candies double as a gift for both kids and adults. For kids because they are a classic Italian sweet that they can pop in their pocket and enjoy whenever! For adults because the packaging is so beautiful you might not want to even open it.
Tip: Opt for a citrus flavor such as lemon for kids but consider something a little more niche for adults such as violet.
Do you know a kid who doesn’t like Nutella? I honestly don’t, so I like to bring back a couple of small jars because it just doesn’t taste the same as the one Nutella produces for the US. If you want something a little more artisan, ask at a gastronomia (small grocery store) for gianduia or check out Novi, sold in supermarkets, which is a smaller company than Nutella with a much purer recipe.
Fun and Luxury
And of course, if you are looking to splurge and give a special gift, I have options for you as well.
Murano is a small island in the Venetian Lagoon, famous world-wide for its artisan glass making. Murano glass is certainly a spendy item but it’s a really beautiful gift if you are shopping for someone special or for a special occasion.
Glass makers make anything under the sun but opt for something that you can pack in your carry-on to avoid accidents. I recommend a couple of glasses.
Fun Fact: Legend has it that if you give your partner a piece of Murano glass, your relationship will hold strong forever.
Olive Wood Cutting Board
One of the nicest wedding presents we received was an artisan produced cutting board made from local olive wood here in Tuscany. Most Italian families own one and so should you and your loved ones!
They are a bit heavy to bring back but I have found these are one of the most appreciated gifts I have ever given. They are so beautiful and practical: use them for cheese and charcuterie boards, as a serving tray, or to serve grilled meats.
Hand Painted Ceramics
You can’t go anywhere in Italy, even the most remote areas, without running into a ceramic shop. Hand painted pottery is an artform in Italy and every household cherishes their own favorite pieces passed down from generations beforehand.
Consider a large serving bowl or platter for a wedding present, major birthday celebration or anniversary gift. Be sure it’s not too big to fit into your carry-on bag because you don’t want to check such a delicate item. I have traveled countless times overseas with ceramics in my carry-on and if you wrap them well and handle your bag with care, you won’t have to worry about them breaking.
Best Italian Food Gifts to Bring Back From Italy 2024 FAQ
It depends on the country but you cannot bring back cured meats, fresh fruits or vegetables or any types of seeds in the US. Most countries outside the EU forbid any fresh produce so be sure to double check with your customs website beforehand!