BUON NATALE! AN INGHAMS GUIDE TO ITALIAN GIFT GIVING THIS CHRISTMAS
Fri Dec 2015
In the final run-up to Christmas, sometimes choosing the right gift for the right person can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Perhaps in the year 2015 you’ve been inspired by a trip to Italy, or are looking to a future trip to Italy in 2016- either way, let Inghams inspire you with our fabulous gift guide for Italy lovers!
Whether your friend loves food, fashion, culture or coffee, we’ve searched far and wide across the shelves of Great Britain to bring you some fabulously festive Italian inspired gifts that will put a smile on the face of your friends and family.
For… The Foodie
We all have that one friend who just can’t wait to munch down on something tasty and is always whipping up a delicious meal. Obviously you want to get them a gift that fuels their passion! Italian cuisine is one of the tastiest in the world with plenty of fresh, delicious ingredients and products derived from the groves of olives and grapes that thrive in the Mediterranean climate there.
With this in mind, nothing quite says ‘Italy’ like one of the pinnacle products of their region- Olive oil. Imagine freshly baked warm ciabatta bread dipped into deep green olive oil and dusted lightly with some sea salt on top. Heavenly! For an added twist, toast some cumin seeds and mix those into the oil too.
While nothing quite beats the olive oils fresh out of the Campania (Neapolitan Riveria), Tuscany or Puglia regions, we have some pretty excellent imported products on our supermarket shelves here in the UK. We’ve heard (and tasted!) some truly great things about the Toscana Extra Virgin Olive Oil(£10.00, Marks and Spencer, in store only) which would make a great present accompanied with the following…
Real balsamic vinegar of Modena, fresh from the mother land itself might sound like a store cupboard luxury, but needn’t be a bank breaker. The real deal is made in the providence of Modena in central Italy and is put through the steps of vinegar being caramelized then aged for 12-15 years in a wooden cask. Real, authentic and not mass-produced balsamic vinegar of Modena can cost anywhere between €40 to €100!
But you can breathe a sigh of relief because many imported brands of balsamic vinegar that we stock on our shelves here in Britain are affordable and not at all lacking in taste. Your foodie friend will know very well that a tiny splash of this oil is enough to completely turn a humble antipasti, main or dessert dish right around into a show stopper. We’re a big fan of this Giuseppe Giusti Balsamic Vinegar of Modena(£12.95, Harvey Nicholls), which will accompany the olive oil very nicely!
Perhaps your foodie friend also knows a thing or two about coffee? The picture-perfect image of Italian lifestyle is sipping a small cup of espresso while overlooking a buzzing town piazza. The culture of Italian coffee has spread across the globe, but it started with some fairly humble origins in Venice many hundreds of years ago when the city was a metropolitan centre of trade. Coffee culture in Italy is strong and no doubt your foodie friend will love to have their own pack of freshly ground Italian Arabica coffee in their cupboard! The coffee brand Lavazzahas won numerous awards for their delicious Arabica blends and has a wonderful gift range on sale at John Lewis.
For… The Fashionista
For that one friend with the impeccable style and an eye for quality, look to Italy for inspiration for a truly unique and trendy gift for their ever expanding wardrobe. Italians are famous for their effortless style, and if you reckon your friend would be at home in the fashion capital of the world, Milan (move over, Paris!) then perhaps they would appreciate a timeless Italian silk scarf.
Italian scarves are characterized by their rich bold prints and patterns, square shaped, usually quite modest in size, but can bs styled with utmost elegance so you look fresh out of the 1950’s. Thanks to the popularity of fine Italian fashion and design you can pick up some popular brand names like Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, and Versace in large designer stores, and they will never go out of style! We’re particularly in love with this Emilio Pucci Paintbrush Silk Scarf(£245.00, Selfridges) that will complement any outfit for any occasion.
If you’re shopping for a stylish man in your life then you won’t go wrong with Italian inspired leather goods. Italy, in particular Tuscany, is famous for its unbeatable leather craftsmanship. Designer shops in the most popular cities and shopping destinations are filled with simple yet stylish handbags, wallets, bank card holders, belts, briefcases and more. We’re not the ones to be frugal when it comes to recommending the best of the best Italian leather products, but the gents really deserve a bit of luxury themselves sometimes! Which is why we’ve picked out this stunning Pochette Travel Case by the Italian luxe brand Acqua di Parma(£252.00, Acqua di Parma), that is guaranteed to put a twinkle in his eye this Christmas!
For… The Culture Creature
© Greta Gabagllo, 2014. (https://flic.kr/p/ponoLt)
We’re sure we must all have that one friend who’s collection of unique nick-nacks they’ve gathered from around the world is always (somehow!) growing. Every dinner, Christmas and birthday they are pulling out yet another curiosity to talk about, so what do we buy for the friend who loves culture and travel but seems to have everything?
Chances are, if their eyes light up at the mention of Venice then they’d enjoy a fantastic memento from their trip to ‘The City of Masks’. Authentic Venetian Carnival Masks can be quite hard to come by in the UK, but thanks to the rise of online shopping and shipping it is now possible to buy one of these exquisitely made masks from afar and receive it safe and sound in the post. These mysterious yet romantic masks come in a variety of mediums and designs including plaster, glass and papier-mâché and often depict famous stock characters of the courts and theatres from the Renaissance. They can make fantastic wall or shelf ornaments and will no doubt be a conversation starter for years to come.
There are some modern designs that are less ornamental and more wearable, and are ideal for popular masked parties and masquerade-themed occasions. These can also make a fantastic gift if you seek them out online and will truly dazzle them this Christmas.
For… the master host/ hostess
© Tom Driggers 2010 (https://flic.kr/p/qozePw)
For that particular pal who’s parties are legendary, their cooking skills sublime, and they see every weekend as an excuse for a good time- don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about them either! No doubt in this build up to Christmas they’re already planning the best New Year’s Eve firework party, and so perhaps you’d like to get them a little something that contributes to the good times.
When one thinks of Italy, perhaps they imagine basking on a terracotta terrace while sipping a crisp, cool glass of white wine… or maybe enjoying an evening platter of antipasti and settling it with an aperitif as the sun slips below the sea around the lush islands of Capri and Ischia… chances are, that aperitif might be a signature Italian tipple of Limoncello liqueur. This delicious lemon flavoured spirit is best enjoyed ice cold (islands and picture-perfect coastline optional) on its own, but can also make some lovely evening cocktails to put a smile on your master host/ hostesses face!
If you really want to personalise your gift- why not make a bottle of limoncello yourself? It is surprisingly easy to make and all you need is: 5 lemons (preferably organic, unwaxed), high-proof vodka (ideally a 1L bottle, 80-proof or more), 750g caster sugar, 700ml boiling water.
The preparation is done in two stages:
Stage 1- Pare the zest off the lemons with a peeler, making sure to avoid too much of that white pith. Put the peelings in a large clean jar and cover with the vodka. Seal the jar tightly with the lid (make it airtight) and then leave for a week, giving the jar a shake every day.
Stage 2- After a week, make up a syrup from the sugar and boiling water and then add this to the vodka and lemons mixture, making sure it is all well combined then leave again for another week (or longer if possible- up to one month.)
At the end of the time, strain the liquid until it is clear but bright lemon yellow, and then pour into decorative bottles. Wrap it up, put a fancy bow on it and a name tag and leave it under the tree for your festive friend!
If your host or hostess is more at home at a dinner party than a cocktail party, then Italy is a fantastic destination to be inspired by some truly breathtaking kitchenware and serve ware pottery. Anyone who has visited The Amalfi Coast, Puglia and Sicily may have poked their head inside any little souvenir shops and been dazzled by the exquisite array of decorated plates, platters, bowls and more. The signature southern Italy style is dominated by bright, hand-painted colours of fruits, plants and celestial motifs like stars, moons, suns. Serving up a round of antipasti has never been so stylish! You can find some of these lovingly decorated pottery items on online marketplaces, and on home craft websites such as eBay and Etsy.
For… The sweet toothed
© aloalo 2009 (https://flic.kr/p/6PxEXv)
Whatever your age, sometimes there is nothing quite like a good chunk of chocolate or a sweet biscuit to warm your belly and put a smile on your face. Wherever you are travelling in the world, you will always come across candies and sweet treats of that region, but nothing says ‘Italy’ quite like their internationally famous biscotti.
Biscotti literally translates into ‘twice baked’. These dry, crunchy and super sweet biscuits originate from Tuscany and Umbria region, and they are best enjoyed dipped into a glass of Vin Santo dessert wine. The biscuits soak up the wine and make a great little aperitif or nibble. It’s no surprise that biscotti is extremely popular here in the UK, and you can easily hunt them down on the shelves of supermarkets, but we’ve already done that for you-! Arden & Amici Biscotti(£2.49, Waitrose) is absolutely scrumptious and gives us throwback memories to the blissful hazy afternoons on the shores of Lake Como after a big lunch. Even if you’re not planning to dunk these almond biscuits into wine, they are still very enjoyable on their own and make a great gift for children too.
If you’re shopping for a sweet treat to please the little ones then why not a box of Baci? These yummy chocolates that originate from Perugia in Umbria are devilishly moreish, resembling a cross between Hersley’s Kisses (indeed- the word Baci means ‘kiss’ in Italian), and Ferrero Rocher hazelnut chocolates. Creamy milk (or dark) chocolate with a hazelnut centre- if that doesn’t make your mouth water, then we don’t know what will! You don’t even have to search too far for them either, we’ve managed to hunt down a box of Baci Perugina Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Fillingthat sits on the shelves of Tesco (£2.20)!
For… The art deviant
Not to be confused with the culture creature, the art deviant friend loves to spend their time wandering around galleries and museums on a Saturday, marvelling at the feat of artists and engineers from bygone eras. Great for them, because Italy is a hub of Renaissance culture and cornucopia of art from the genius minds of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael and Botticelli- just to name a few! It’s no secret that the Italians treasure their rich artistic heritage and their contributions to the world from the Renaissance era.
With this in mind, perhaps your arty pal is a dab hand in Italian maestros and can name several masterpieces by Michelangelo. Inspired by the seemingly infinite galleries and museums dotted across Rome, Florence, Venice and Verona, we’ve taken time to pull one particular volume off the shelves for you that gives a deep and interesting insight into the masterminds that fueled the artistic revolution: Master Drawings of the Italian Renaissance by Claire Van Cleave(£19.99, Waterstones).
If a book for their coffee table isn’t the treat you reckon your friends might like, then perhaps a framed print for the wall of their living room would be more up their street. Luckily, vintage and retro tourism industry posters from the Art Deco period (and its 1960’s and 70’s revival) have taken the design world by storm. You can snap up a loveable print that advertised Venice, Florence, Rome and Puglia during the heyday at the boom of the tourism industry and give it a trendy frame for an instant bit of chic décor. We particularly love this Venice print by the famous poster artist Géo Dorival, which is pictured at the top of this section! (Venise by Georges Dorival, £54.99, All Posters [online]).