With less than a month before I leave for a 3-week trip to Italy (yay!!!!) I'm beginning to draw up a little shopping list of things that I simply have to have from Italy. Again, my usual disclaimer: I don't really enjoy shopping. I like to have nice things, but I become pretty ambivalent at the point where I have to part with my cash.
So, I try to plan ahead before a trip, by thinking of practical items that I actually need and use, which -- when bought in Italy -- double as souvenirs because when I use them, they remind me of when and where they were acquired.
For example, in Italy last September, I bought some beautiful ceramic dishes. I needed dishes for everyday use -- bowls, plates, that kind of thing. And I decided that instead of buying more stoneware from a department store, I would buy something with some meaning to it. That meant ceramics handmade in Italy.
That said, I wouldn't have ventured into Deruta (with its 300-plus ceramic stores) if Mary hadn't actually taken me there and escorted me into several shops that she is familiar with. Left to my own devices, I probably would have spent that day loafing around Perugia, drifting from cafes to churches, gawking at beautiful things, wishing I had a piece of Italy's beauty at home, and looking for a washroom (after all of that coffee!) And I would have returned home with nothing but some photos. Not that there is anything wrong with photos. But I really did need dishes.
Incidentally, along with my shopping list, I'm also drawing up an official list of banned items. I will not be allowed to buy any more purses. I have to draw the line somewhere, and here it is. Last year, I bought three purses in Italy. Two, last January in Rome during the winter sales as well as my favourite, a purple borsa from Perugia purchased last September. I really do NOT need more purses.
I'm also barred from buying any more monk-made products. Last year, I brought home a bottle of "Elixir of Happiness" from Il Monasteri in Rome. I really loved the name and the bottle, and we only just opened it last week when I had a cocktail party for Philippe, my pet European who is currently visiting from Frankfurt. The elixir did not, in fact, make me very happy, nor were my guests -- except Nirmala, who claims she liked its herbal undertones and the slightly bitter flavour left on the palate. I must remember to give her the rest of the bottle......
But back to the shopping list. What I really do need is a Moka Express. I've been talking about buying one for years. They don't cost much, but I've resolved that instead of buying one at The Hudson's Bay Co. department store, I'd rather bring the little appliance and all its associated memories back from Italy. That way, each time it boils over on the stove, I'll remember when and where I bought it.
I also need various paper products. I like to get my little purse-sized datebook for the year in Italy, with a beautiful scene on the little hard cover. And various calendars for 2010 (I hope some are available)
I would like to buy some food items. I know I'll be looking wistfully at a giant wheel of Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese when I'm in Parma, but I really don't think I can get one home with me. So, I might buy a small, vacuum-sealed wedge. And honey -- I love some of the Italian honey that is flavoured with wild flowers. I'll also look for anything that is scented or flavoured with lemons.
I'm intrigued to read that our Slow Travel friends Mindy and ColleenK have been looking at eyeglass frames in Bologna. That would be so cool to have Italian frames -- useful, since I'm wearing my glasses rather than contacts, more and more often.
Any suggestions for useful/practical/beautiful "souvenirs" from Italy?