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Ricordi di Roma

Erica Firpo

Italian Souvenirs

One the questions I am most frequently asked as an Italian native (meaning that I have lived here for more than a tourist period) is "What should I bring home?"

During my childhood, my grandparents filled up our drawers annually with the same "got this in Italy" gifts: statuettes of David, our ever-favorite Ricordi di Roma scarves, mini Gucci purses (yes, they made kid purses back in the day) and boxes of torrone.

While I was studying in Rome during my Semester Abroad, I too was enamored with finding Ricordi di Roma for my friends and family, and still have my prized Leaning Tower of Pisa nightlight.

Searching for appropriate souvenirs for your Grand Tour can be either child's play or extraordinarily frustrating. What could possibly encapsulate that ever-so-quaint hill top town or mega-city in under 10 euro? I have four simple rules for souvenir searching:

  • Look for the typical. Examples:Coliseum statues, Murano glass, masks, soccer shirts.
  • Think out of the box. The more kitsch it looks in Massimo's hands (the name of every souvenir guy), the more celebrated it will be in your friends'. My mantra is: Look for the snow globe. My sister cherishes the Temple of Giove in Snow Globe from Terracina, a southern town where no snow flake has ever visited.
  • Style. If kitsch or mini-statuette/monument is not your cup of tea, channel your inner fashionista. Colorful scarves, ceramic coffee cups and gloves are the Suave Traveller's choice.
  • Food. Olive oil, local liqueurs and wine can be found in almost every town and at Fiumincino airport. I always suggest coffee - every town has a Great Caffe, and they usually sell their coffee beans in a nice collectible tin, like Rome's Caffe San Eustache and Tazza d'Oro. Everyone likes tins.

If the hard-to-find and thus priceless Popener (a Pope John Paul II bottle opener) is not as charming as you originally thought when purchasing in bulk, and the recent dollar lulls won't allow you to style in your gift giving as much as before, then let me suggest the traditional and always a crowd pleaser Ricordi, the postcard - whether sent via Poste Italiane or from Italian Notebook, my newest fix for Italy-lovers.


Erica Firpo lives in Rome and writes for Fodor's and National Geographic Traveler. She co-authored the Rome food guide "Rome, Little Black Book". Her favorite Rome blog is Moscerina.

© Erica Firpo, 2007

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