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Carrying Wine Home from Italy

Robert Rainey (Robert)

One of the joys for many slow travelers is to bring wines home from their Italian trip. For many, is is partly trying to capture, in a bottle, the spirit of a magic place; for others, it is just a memory of a magic moment.

For many, there is an obstacle - how are we going to lug all these bottles home, knowing that liquids cannot be carried on the plane? The other problem is that now many international carriers allow only 50 pounds per bag.

I have tried various solutions over the years and have carried home a total of about 10 cases, or 120 bottles. So far, I have had zero breakage and zero problems with customs.

One solution

One of my solutions has been to use a 12-bottle wine shipping box, as noted below. This type is two pieces which fit together. They can be purchased from most large wine stores or you can try www.boxvendor.com. The two pieces protect the bottles and fit together into a cardboard box the same size - the top is sealed with tape. Usually I seal the box before arriving at the airport. I have extra tape just in case they want to look. If your airline FOR SURE allows it, this is a good strategy.

12-bottle Wine Box from BoxVendor.com

12-Bottle Wine Shipping Box

Potential problems with this strategy: Some airlines do not allow these boxes to be checked (Alitalia, for instance). You also cannot depend on finding these shippers in Italy. Yes, it is possible (MAYBE) but do you want to have 24 bottles of wine the day before you go home and find out that the local supplier is back ordered 2 weeks? The one time I was relying on this strategy, it failed (luckily) in the time when you could "carry on". So, you need to check these empty from the US. Another Problem: it's a heavy box with no handles. I like my new strategy see below.

Another solution

Another strategy that I used is a stackable type of Styrofoam (see photo below), three (3) bottles in each layer. In the past I took 18 bottles in one suitcase, but it was slightly overweight with a 60 pound allowance. If you can find a suitcase the correct width, (mine was a skyway), this might work, but maybe for 12 bottles. You would need to make sure there is no movement of the Styrofoam layers using cut foam or clothes. The Styrofoam tends to last only one trip and generally has cracks etc.

3 bottles per layer with this stackable styrofoam

Stackable styrofoam containers - 3 bottles per layer

Newest solution

I think my newest solution is also the easiest and most reusable solution: to rely on the 6-bottle cardboard wine containers that wine is virtually always sold in everywhere. These containers are generally packed so there is very little movement. I just keep the boxes sealed, but you can open them and use bubble-wrap (bring it with you), or you can use socks, etc.

However, those things are not necessary if you do the following:

  1. Obtain a light suitcase: in my case it was a skyway Ultralight (see photo #3 below). It is nearly 10 pounds lighter than one of my other suitcases! I think less than 6 pounds empty.

    Skyway Ultralight Suitcase

    Skyway Ultralight Suitcase

  2. Get high density foam: there is a foam store a mile away from me, but you may need to search furniture places, the Internet, etc. Cut this foam so it's layered on ALL sides (bottom, top, front, back, and right and left). What size? First, put two wine boxes together, then measure the remaining space. Ideally, there is zero extra room and the foam fits very tight. (see photo #4) In my case, the 2-inch foam was the best solution. (Hint: first measure the ends all the way to the sides, and get the foam 1/2 inch longer. Second, when you measure for length, remember that some of this will be covered by the first 2 pieces (look at photo) Third, top and bottom - again, it fits between the side pieces so it is narrower than the suitcase.

    Cardboard Wine Boxes in Suitcase

    Cardboard Wine Boxes Packed in Suitcase

 

If you like, bring two empty 6-bottle wine boxes (or four for 2 suitcases) on the way to Italy, just in case you buy individual bottles only. Also, bring tape and bubblewrap if you think it's necessary.

It is up to you whether it's worth it to bring bottles home but, for me, I bring two suitcases just for wine and one for all my other stuff.

Resources

See information about Wine Tours in Italy.

Find more information about Planning a Trip to Italy.


See Robert Rainey's Slow Travel Member Page

 

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