Every year I say to myself, “Is it Christmas time already?” I mean, the date is pretty much fixed on the calendar, so I don’t how it always seems to sneak up on me. I’m mostly referring to getting my shopping done, of course. Buying for my bambina is pretty easy, but I’m always taxed in coming up with gift ideas for grown-ups.
Italians aren’t as caught up in frenetic consumerism the way US shoppers get this time of year. Furthermore, online purchasing is still met with some resistance in Italy. But if you won’t be making it to the Christmas Markets in Piazza Navona this year, then online stores might be your best option for Italy-inspired gifts.
While I can’t help you with everyone on your list, I can make a few suggestions for gifts for Italy lovers that are sure to bring a “Buon Natale” to your household, regardless of where you live.
The Gift of Language
If you follow my blog, you know that I’m a real fan of using a software program as a primary method to learning Italian. There are several brands, but Rocket Italian is the one I personally use to practice the language on my own (see my screenshot to the right).
The New 2018 Version has some nice tweaks to the platform. But the biggest change is that they’ve upgraded the “language” (in this case I’m talking about the computer language, not Italian) from Adobe Flash to HTML5, which is the gold standard for web-based rich media applications.
What does all that mumbo-jumbo mean? Essentially two huge improvements: full compatibility with all mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.) and an extremely accurate speech to text interface. So now you can speak to your computer in Italian! This means that you get real instant feedback on your pronunciation.
So if you’ve been waiting to buy a software program to accelerate your language learning, now is the time. They are having a 60% OFF Sale of the 2016 version for Christmas (Sale starts at midnight on Wednesday morning, the 16th, and goes for just 48 hours). And as always, a full money-back guarantee. CLICK THE PHOTO to check it out:
Illy is my favorite exported brand of Italian coffee, and they make some pretty slick home espresso machines, too. Taking your daily caffè in an Italian coffee bar is obviously the best option. But when you can’t do that, drinking a real Italian coffee at home is the next best thing.
Just close your eyes and take a sip, imagining that you’ve just been elbowed by an impatient old lady, or ignored by the barista as you wave your scontrino in the air. Ahhh…it’s just like being at Sant’Eustachio in Rome!
Or would you prefer something more “grape-y?”
I’m always happy when someone gives me a nice bottle of wine as a present. It’s the gift that NOBODY will ever return to the store. In fact, a bottle received as a Christmas gift almost never sees the New Year, at least not in my house. Wine is good for you and it makes you happy. What greater gift can you give?
For the gift that keeps giving all year round, you can buy someone a subscription like this one from the American Wine Cellars. (It’s an American company, but yes, they import and sell Italian wines.)
Some people take all of this a bit too seriously for my tastes. For example, if you have a discriminating palate, this quaint little Barbera supposedly, “Offers notes of flowers, red berries, cherry-cola, cedar, and baking spices.”
Ummm…OK. For some reason, I’m never able to detect these subtle nuances. In fact, these descriptions only make me feel ignorant. I get even more uncomfortable when people start adding bizarre smells to wine like, “cat urine” and “mare sweat.” Whatever, just drink and enjoy!
Alla vostra salute!
The Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen
Everybody knows that nearly every Italian dish starts with extra virgin olive oil. However, many (if not most) so-called extra virgin oils are actually low-quality substitutes with fancy (and misleading) labels.
My friend Alina at Il Fontanaro Organic Farm in Umbria produces award-winning olive oils that are extra-virgin and 100% certified organic. I’ve seen her groves myself, and those olive trees are certainly lucky to live in such a picturesque location with the caring touch of Alina to watch over them. While I’ve never helped with the harvest (yet), I have certainly tasted the results. Smooth, golden, peppery, perfection.
Should I mention the health benefits? Nah. I think we all about that, and the fact is, I’m plenty impressed just by the taste. And if you’d like to tasted it, too, her online store is open for business:
Il Fontanaro Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil
Dress Like an Italian
There are many Italian fashion brands available in the US these days, and one of the most popular–and most sexy–is La Perla. It’s mainly for women, and they originally sold only underwear and lingerie; but now they sell clothes that are wearable outside of the bedroom, too, for women and men.
You see where I’m going with all of this…I’m trying to create an overall makeover plan for anyone who wants to reimagine themselves as an Italian. First you use the software program to learn the language, then a little wine appreciation, then finally you can dress the part (even if the “part” that you’re dressing is concealed beneath your outer clothes). Now you only have to learn a few hand gestures, take up smoking, and drive your car more aggressively for the transformation to be complete!
Besides their sexy Italian styles, La Perla customers in the US get free ground shipping on any order. If you live in NY City, then they’ll even get it to you the same day.
For the Armchair Traveler
The Italians by John Hooper. From the book blurb: “How did a nation that spawned the Renaissance also produce the Mafia? And why does Italian have twelve words for coat hanger but none for hangover?”
This is right up my alley. In fact, my blog is a version of this same theme (well, without the elegant prose and insightful observations). So it’s not a travelogue, but instead it’s social commentary on contemporary Italy and the unique character of the Italians.
In a Dark Wood by Joseph Luzzi. I read and reviewed his previous book, My Two Italies, last year, which was a touching account of his family’s immigration and assimilation. However, while reading it, I wondered to myself why he merely mentioned in passing the most significant event of his personal history; the sudden death of his wife.
Well, the answer is because he had already planned to address that difficult subject in this new book, and how studying the poetry of Dante helped him through the tragedy. Very powerful stuff.
Colors of Naples and the Amalfi Coast by Margie Miklas. Margie is a friend of mine with two previous titles to her credit. This one, however, if full of her beautiful photography. Perfect for inspiring your daydreams during those long, dark winter days when you’d rather be on the ferry boat taking you from Naples to the Isle of Capri.
Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World edited by Janna Graber. This is a travel anthology and not exclusively about Italy travel. In fact, there’s only one story about Italy in the book—and I wrote it.
No, you won’t rack up the frequent flier miles, but you’ll see the world through the eyes of veteran travel writers. It’s the next best thing, and without the jetlag.
For the record, I had nothing to do with choosing the cover photo, but needless to say, I approve!
Well, that list should fill your stocking for another year! Buone Feste a tutti!!