Wondering what to bring back from Italy? They don’t call life there La Dolce Vita for nothing, for when it comes to bringing back a piece of it, Tuscany offers up a whole collection of souvenirs, and like us, you’re going to be spoilt for choice. Thankfully, we’ve trawled a whole lot of shops and boutiques, to find the best souvenirs from Tuscany!
- The Wines. We absolutely love our wine, and exploring Tuscany allowed us to taste the best of the best, while discovering lesser known labels along the way. And when you’ve just tasted something, and you know you love it, you can’t not bring some home with you! We’d recommend a good Chianti or our personal favourite- the Brunello di Montalcino Col d’Orcia.
- Grappa. This post dinner “firewater” is a bit too strong for me, but Charles loves it, and we absolutely loved the bottle that came with a bark-textured label at Montechiaro Wine Estate outside Siena.
- VinSanto is a dessert wine that isn’t really drunk. Dipping in the sweet almond biscuits called Cantucci, the wine is soaked up and almost eaten. Again, we absolutely loved the VinSanto at Montechiaro, but since their limited collection is now only reserved for family and friends, we’d recommend tasting a few before you find the one you love.
- Limoncello looks like a harmless fresh citrusy cocktail. But looks can be deceptive as we discovered while leaving our first restaurant in Florence. Going bottoms up with the bartender as he refused to let us leave without trying some of this icy-cold liquor, we felt the sharp bitterness of lemons and a warm glow down the system. Beautiful and perfect for balmy evenings in India.
- Olive Oil is an Italian staple, and we were looking for something that was top notch quality, something you merely drizzle over your dish, to relish the flavours completely. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil 100% by Deivole is liquid gold. Well, more emerald than gold in colour, the aroma is green, and while they say it’s medium body, we found it intensely strong and wonderful.
- Pasta. While the best souvenir would be to carry back pasta making skills after learning them from locals in Tuscany like we did, carrying dried Pasta and the herbs to go with it is another great idea. Look for the less common but very typical pasta like Pici and definitely stock up on the Aglio Olio spices as well as Pepperoncino if you like it hot!
- Balsamico di Modena is another pantry staple in Italy. However, the artisan Leonardi Balsamico is a cream, of which just a few drops can make your salad really sing. The thick, viscous fluid tastes almost sweet and is definitely a worthy indulgence.
- Sausage was something that we sampled plenty of in Italy. And we were delighted when stores across the Tuscan towns offered to cut up the produce into smaller pieces and individually vacuum seal each one, so we could last it out back home. The wild boar was exceptional, and we ended up picking it up in flavours like wine, fennel, truffle and more.
- Truffle Honey was introduced to us on this trip. It was white truffle season, and my favourite aroma seemed to be everywhere. But the honey, on a small piece of cheese, or bread went down so easy, we ran through an entire bottle on the short duration we were in Tuscany!
Tuscany truly is the home of the world’s best leather, and whether you want the designer ware or the truly top quality artisanal goods, you know you’re getting great value for the price. We browsed the Leather School in Florence, but while the leather was of impeccable quality, the design and finish on the bags wasn’t great. Eventually, I caved in at an artisanal boutique and got a deep chestnut coloured pair of the softest gloves, Charles got a stunning tan satchel (that we’re told will darken over time) and red diary, both monogrammed with his initials. The jackets and boots were gorgeous too, and had we any more place in our suitcases, we would have bought a couple.
Apart from the embossed and leather covered diaries, Tuscany is also home to some of the most elegant stationery in the word. The Renaissance city is an excellent place to be inspired, and then document them with a quill on the wonderfully hand-crafted artisanal paper available here.
Then of course, with it being the very birthplace of the world’s greatest art movement – the Renaissance, you can buy all sorts of art from paintings to sculptures from pricey originals to tacky knockoffs. We’d definitely recommend some of the smaller boutique galleries for something unique and tasteful, like the artisanal plaster arts at Gypsea in Montepulciano or the stunning posters by the art and museum store Mandragora.
Even with our resolution to travel light, we managed to pack in a decent souvenir haul while returning from Tuscany. Have you been to Tuscany? What are your picks of the best souvenirs from Tuscany?