Bringing Italy Home: A Guide to Must-Have Italy Souvenirs

A Guide to our favorite Italy Souvenirs


Italy is a treasure trove of art, culture, and history, and bringing home a piece of this beautiful country in the form of souvenirs is a tradition as old as time. When you visit Italy, you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to picking out the perfect memento. In this blog post, we'll focus on some of the best things to buy when traveling to Italy and our favorite Italy souvenirs. 


Can't make it to Italy? Check out Casa Horatio's selection of Italian-made housewares.

1. Murano Glassware

When in Italy, a visit to the charming island of Murano, located in the Venetian Lagoon, is a must for anyone who appreciates fine craftsmanship. Murano glass is world-renowned for its exquisite beauty and craftsmanship. Each piece of Murano glass is a testament to the skill and artistry of Venetian glassmakers. The production process involves a combination of traditional techniques and innovative designs. The glass is created by mixing silica, soda, lime, and other minerals, resulting in a molten glass mixture. The artisans then use a blowpipe to shape and manipulate the glass while it's still in a pliable state.


One of the most iconic Murano glass techniques is "millefiori," which means "a thousand flowers." In this process, glass canes with intricate patterns are created, cut into small sections, and then fused together to form colorful, floral designs. Another famous technique is "lattimo," where glass is treated to appear opaque, often used for creating delicate sculptures and intricate chandeliers.


Murano glass makes exceptional Italy souvenirs for several reasons:


  • Artistic Beauty: Murano glass is renowned for its exquisite beauty. The vibrant colors and intricate designs make each piece a true work of art. It's not just a souvenir; it's a piece of Italian culture and craftsmanship that you can display in your home.


  • Quality and Authenticity: When you buy Murano glass, you're getting a genuine piece of Venetian artistry. Look for the "Vetro Murano" label to ensure the authenticity of your purchase. Beware, as some cheaper souvenirs shops in Venice will look like they sell Murano glassware, but it is in fact made in China. Checking the label  is always key to ensure you are getting authentic and quality Murano glass. 


  • Variety: Murano glass comes in a wide range of products, from vases and figurines to jewelry and home decor items. This variety allows you to choose a piece that best suits your personal taste and style.


  • Unique Designs: The innovation in Murano glass means you can find both traditional and contemporary designs. Whether you prefer classic Venetian patterns or more modern creations, there's something for everyone.

Convenient Shopping in Venice


While the island of Murano is known for its glass factories and showrooms, you don't necessarily need to take a boat ride to Murano to find authentic Murano glass. Venice itself is teeming with shops, boutiques, and artisan galleries that offer a wide selection of Murano glassware. So, you can enjoy the convenience of shopping for this exquisite art right in the heart of Venice without the need for an additional trip. In Venice, you'll find pieces that range from small, affordable trinkets to grand chandeliers, making it easy to find the perfect Murano glass souvenir that suits both your budget and your suitcase. So, be sure to explore Venice's charming streets and bridges and seek out these beautiful, authentic glass treasures during your Italian adventure.

2. Hand-Painted Italian Ceramics

Italy has a long and illustrious history of ceramics manufacturing that dates back to the times of the ancient Romans. The tradition of crafting ceramics in Italy has continued to evolve, and today, the country is renowned for its exquisite hand-painted Italian ceramics. These ceramics are not just functional, but cherished Italy souvenirs that infuse your daily life with Italian elegance and craftsmanship.


Italy's Ceramic Heritage


Italy's ceramic history is deeply rooted in regions such as Tuscany, Umbria, and Sicily, each with its unique style and tradition. In Tuscany, you'll find ceramics characterized by their rustic charm and earthy colors. Umbrian ceramics are famous for their intricate patterns and vibrant designs, often featuring themes inspired by nature and mythology. Sicilian ceramics are renowned for their bold, vibrant colors and Moorish influences, reflecting the island's multicultural history.


Hand-Painted Espresso Cups & More


Italy is synonymous with coffee culture, and what better way to enjoy your espresso at home than in a hand-painted espresso cup? These tiny treasures often feature intricate designs and vivid colors, adding a touch of Italian art to your daily caffeine ritual. You can find them in artisan shops, especially in regions like Tuscany and Sicily, each with its own unique style and motifs. Plus, they're small enough that you can easily pack them in your luggage!


While you're exploring Italy, don't miss the opportunity to acquire hand-painted Italian ceramics, which include not only espresso cups but also an array of kitchenware and home decor items such as plates, platters, bowls, and tiles. These ceramics often feature a delightful blend of traditional and contemporary designs, making them an ideal addition to your home's aesthetic.


Where to Find Italian Ceramics

 

When it comes to discovering the finest hand-painted Italian ceramics, there are several towns and regions known for their expertise in this craft. Some of the notable places to shop for these beautiful ceramics include:


  • Deruta, Umbria: Renowned for its meticulously hand-painted majolica ceramics, Deruta is a small town that boasts a long history of ceramic production. Here, you'll find an impressive range of ceramics, from classic tableware to decorative pieces.


  • Montelupo Fiorentino, Tuscany: Located near Florence, Montelupo Fiorentino is famous for its Tuscan-style ceramics. The town's workshops create intricate patterns, often inspired by Renaissance designs, on a variety of ceramic items.


  • Caltagirone, Sicily: Caltagirone, known as the "City of Ceramics," is celebrated for its bold and colorful ceramic creations. The town's main attraction is the monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, entirely adorned with hand-painted ceramic tiles.


  • Amalfi Coast, Campania: This picturesque coastal region is known for its exquisite hand-painted ceramics. Here, you'll find stunning ceramics in coastal designs, featuring motifs like lemons and sea life.

However, even if you aren't traveling to these specific places, you can still easily find hand-painted Italian ceramics in larger cities such as Naples and Florence. These cities host numerous shops and markets that offer a wide array of Italian ceramics, allowing you to explore and find the perfect ceramic pieces without venturing too far from the city centers.


The Allure of Italian Ceramics


What makes hand-painted Italian ceramics such a cherished souvenir is the rich history and artistic tradition they represent. These pieces infuse your home with the warmth and artistry of Italy, transforming everyday items into elegant and meaningful decorations. So, whether it's a set of hand-painted espresso cups, a beautifully decorated plate, or any other ceramic treasure, you're sure to bring a piece of Italy's ceramic heritage into your daily life.

3. Christmas Ornaments

For many travelers, including myself, collecting Christmas ornaments from different corners of the world is a cherished tradition. These small, beautifully crafted treasures hold not only the magic of the destination but also the memories of the journey. They become a part of our holiday traditions, adorning our trees and bringing back fond memories of past adventures.


When you're traveling to Italy, picking up Christmas ornaments is an ideal way to commemorate your visit and bring a touch of Italian festivity into your home during the holiday season. Italy is renowned for its stunning Christmas ornaments, and Murano glass ornaments, in particular, are a standout choice and remarkable Italy souvenirs. These ornaments, intricately crafted with vibrant colors and detailed designs, reflect the artistic elegance of Venice.

 

Italy also offers a delightful variety of ceramic Christmas ornaments, each with its own unique charm. From the intricately painted ceramics of Umbria, to the vibrant and artistic creations of the Amalfi Coast, these ceramic ornaments capture the essence of their respective regions. During our last trip to Naples, we found a neat ceramic lemon ornament that now graces our Christmas tree, adding a dash of Mediterranean flavor to our holiday decor. So, whether you're drawn to the delicate beauty of Murano glass or the rustic charm of Italian ceramics, these ornaments are a wonderful way to bring a piece of Italy into your festive celebrations.

Murano glass Christmas ornaments on a tree.
Murano glass ornaments on a Christmas tree. © Lauren Del Vecchio & Brian Greenfader

4. Nativity Sets from Naples

Nativity scenes, or "presepi" in Italian, are a cherished tradition in Italy. Naples is known for its exceptionally detailed and beautiful nativity sets. These sets often include not only the Holy Family but also an array of figurines depicting everyday life in ancient Bethlehem. The attention to detail in these figurines is truly remarkable. A Neapolitan nativity set is a beautiful and meaningful souvenir, a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.


The tradition of nativity scenes holds a special place in the hearts of Italians, and the intricate nativity sets from Naples are a testament to this cherished tradition. The roots of nativity scenes can be traced back to the 13th century when Saint Francis of Assisi first introduced the concept of reenacting the birth of Jesus using live animals and people. Over time, this tradition evolved, and Naples, in particular, became a center for crafting some of the most extraordinary and detailed nativity sets in the world.


A Rich History of Neapolitan Nativity Sets


The history of Neapolitan nativity sets is an artful journey that began in the 18th century. These nativity scenes are known for their astonishingly lifelike and intricate figurines, often depicting not only the Holy Family but also an entire world of characters, animals, and everyday life in ancient Bethlehem. Neapolitan artisans meticulously handcraft each figurine, making use of terracotta, wood, and fabric. These miniature masterpieces reflect not only religious devotion but also the vibrant street life and rich cultural diversity of 18th-century Naples.


Where to Find Neapolitan Nativity Sets in Naples

 

If you're traveling to Naples and wish to bring home a piece of this rich tradition, you'll find a multitude of shops and markets in the historic center, particularly along Via San Gregorio Armeno, dedicated to the art of nativity sets. Via San Gregorio Armeno, often referred to as the "Christmas Alley," is famous for its shops that specialize in nativity sets and figurines. Here, you'll encounter an array of meticulously handcrafted figurines, from the Holy Family to merchants, bakers, and even famous historical figures, all beautifully dressed and intricately detailed.


These nativity sets are not merely decorations; they are tangible pieces of history and culture, and they make for treasured Italy souvenirs that encapsulate the spirit of Naples and its enduring devotion to this age-old tradition. So, when visiting Naples, be sure to explore the charming alleys and workshops to find your very own Neapolitan nativity set, a piece of art that brings the story of Christmas to life.

A small, handmade ceramic nativity scene from Naples, Italy.
A small, handmade ceramic nativity scene purchased in Naples, Italy. © Lauren Del Vecchio & Brian Greenfader

5. Italian Leather Goods

Italy's reputation for producing high-quality leather goods is a testament to a rich and enduring tradition of craftsmanship. Leather-making in Italy can be traced back to the ancient Romans, who were among the first to master the art of tanning and working with leather. Over the centuries, this craftsmanship evolved, and Italy became a global leader in leather production, known for its artistry, attention to detail, and commitment to quality.


Italy is famous for its leather craftsmanship, and you'll find a wide range of leather products, from stylish bags and wallets to gloves and belts. Florence is renowned for its leather goods, and a leather jacket from this region is a classic Italian souvenir. When shopping for Italian leather goods as Italy souvenirs, you'll find a wide range of options, from stylish bags and wallets to gloves and belts. The "Made in Italy" label is a testament to the authenticity and excellence of these products, making them not just accessories but timeless mementos of your Italian adventure.


If you are looking for high-quality, handmade genuine Italian leather products, be certain to check out Scuola del Cuoio in Florence. The leather school was opened after World War II with the noble mission of teaching war orphans the art of leather working. Today, it stands as a leading destination in Florence, offering a wide array of top-tier leather goods, from meticulously crafted wallets to elegant purses, and beyond.

6. Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar

Italy is known for producing some of the finest olive oils and balsamic vinegars in the world. Bringing home a bottle of extra virgin olive oil or a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar can be a culinary delight.

 

Italian olive oil, often referred to as "liquid gold," is renowned for its rich and diverse flavors, influenced by the various olive varieties and terroirs across the country. When choosing olive oil as Italy souvenirs, here's what to look for in a quality product:


  • Extra Virgin: Look for the label "Extra Virgin" to ensure the highest quality and purity. Extra virgin olive oil is cold-pressed, retaining the most authentic flavor and health benefits.


  • Single-Origin: Consider selecting a single-origin olive oil from a specific region in Italy. This way, you can savor the unique taste and aroma of that area.


  • DOP or IGP Certification: DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) and IGP (Protected Geographical Indication) certifications guarantee the oil's origin and quality, ensuring it adheres to strict production standards.


  • Dark Glass Bottle: Quality olive oil is often stored in dark glass bottles to protect it from light, which can cause deterioration.

Italian balsamic vinegar is a testament to patience and craftsmanship, with some varieties aged for decades. When selecting balsamic vinegar as a souvenir, consider these factors:

 

  • Aged Balsamic: Look for "aged" or "Vecchio" on the label, indicating a longer aging process and a more complex, rich flavor.


  • Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena: If you want the crème de la crème, seek out the "Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena" with DOP certification, a luxurious and authentic choice.


  • Thick Consistency: High-quality balsamic vinegar is thick and syrupy, capable of enhancing both savory and sweet dishes.

7. Venetian Masks

Venetian masks, with their intricate designs and vibrant colors, offer not only exquisite artistry but also a captivating glimpse into history. These masks have been an integral part of Venice's Carnival tradition since the 13th century, allowing anonymity and social escapism. Iconic types like the bauta, colombina, and the Plague Doctor mask all carry unique historical significance. Today, Venetian masks are not only cherished as art pieces but also treasured Italy souvenirs, providing a tangible connection to Venice's rich cultural heritage and artistic tradition.

8. Limoncello

Limoncello, with its zesty lemony flavor, is not just a delightful digestif; it's also one of the most beloved Italy souvenirs, capturing the essence of the Amalfi Coast's sun-kissed citrus groves in every bottle.

 

Limoncello, with its vibrant lemony flavor and deep-rooted connection to the Amalfi Coast, makes for a delightful and authentic Italian souvenir that encapsulates the essence of the Mediterranean lifestyle, ensuring your trip's memories linger long after you've returned home. 

 

When shopping for Limoncello, consider purchasing it at a local grocery store, as it's often far more budget-friendly than buying it in duty-free shops at the airport. This way, if you're checking a bag, you can enjoy the same authentic Italian liqueur and save some money in the process.

A bottle of Villa Massa limoncello.
A bottle of Villa Massa limoncello purchased on our last trip to Italy. © Lauren Del Vecchio & Brian Greenfader

9. Fashion

Italy has long been synonymous with high-end fashion and is home to some of the world's most iconic fashion houses. While you're in Italy, exploring the fashion scene is an exquisite experience in itself, and discovering the flagship stores of these renowned Italian fashion houses is a fantastic way to delve into the world of Italian style and bring home stylish Italy souvenirs. Here are some of the most renowned Italian fashion houses and the flagship stores where you can immerse yourself in their designer collections:


  • Gucci - Florence: Gucci, one of the most prestigious fashion brands globally, was founded in Florence. Visit the flagship store in the heart of the city to explore their luxurious clothing, accessories, and more.


  • Prada - Milan: Prada's flagship store in Milan, often referred to as the Quadrilatero d'Oro (Golden Quadrilateral), is an upscale shopping district in the city. Prada is celebrated for its innovative designs and minimalist aesthetics.


  • Versace - Milan: The Versace boutique in Milan is a paradise for lovers of bold and glamorous fashion. Known for its distinctive style and opulent designs, Versace is a true Italian fashion icon.


  • Dolce & Gabbana - Milan: Located in the fashion capital of the world, the Dolce & Gabbana flagship store showcases their exuberant and luxurious creations, making it a must-visit for fashion enthusiasts.


  • Fendi - Rome: Fendi, founded in Rome, boasts a flagship store in the city that showcases their elegant and innovative designs. Their iconic "Baguette" bag is a testament to their fashion prowess.


  • Valentino - Rome: Valentino's flagship store in Rome offers a range of beautifully crafted, high-end clothing and accessories. Known for their exquisite gowns, Valentino embodies Italian elegance.


  • Armani - Milan: The Armani megastore in Milan is a one-stop destination for those who appreciate timeless and sophisticated fashion. Armani is celebrated for its clean lines and classic designs.

Exploring these flagship stores allows you to immerse yourself in the world of Italian fashion and discover the unique styles and trends that have made Italy a global fashion powerhouse. Whether you're shopping for a statement piece or just admiring the artistry, the Italian fashion scene is a cultural experience in itself.

10. Other Notable Italy Souvenirs

Shopping in Italy is an endless delight, with a myriad of treasures waiting to be discovered. From artisanal crafts to delectable culinary delights, you could easily fill multiple suitcases with the unique offerings of this remarkable country. Here's a shortlist of some of our other favorite Italy souvenirs that encapsulate the essence of Italy's culture and craftsmanship.


  • Italian Wine: Italian wine is a delightful souvenir, and the good news is that you can bring a taste of Italy home with a nice bottle easily found at a local grocery store; you don't have to journey to a vineyard to savor the flavors of this renowned wine-producing country. When seeking Italy souvenirs in the form of wine, consider the diverse and renowned offerings such as Chianti Classico, Barolo, and Amarone. These wines capture the essence of their respective regions and are celebrated for their exceptional quality, making them excellent choices to bring a taste of Italy back home.


  • Grappa: Grappa, the distinctive Italian grape-based brandy, makes exceptional Italy souvenirs for its unique taste. Crafted from the remnants of wine production, grappa captures the essence of Italy's winemaking heritage, making it a perfect memento of your visit and an ideal gift for spirits enthusiasts. Its bold flavor and cultural significance make it a memorable and distinctive keepsake of Italy's rich culinary tradition.


  • Chocolate: Italy's chocolate, particularly from Turin, is known for its rich, creamy, and luscious quality. (The most popular chocolate from Turin is Giandujotto Turin, but honestly all of the chocolate in Turin is divine, so you can't really go wrong.) However, our favorite Italian chocolate is Baci Perugina! These chocolate-covered hazelnut kisses are iconic Italian sweets, often wrapped in romantic messages. 


  • Gold Jewelry: Italy has a long tradition of crafting stunning gold jewelry. Cities like Florence and Rome are famous for their artisan jewelers. Italian Gold Jewelry is a luxurious and timeless souvenir that exudes elegance and craftsmanship. It's worth noting that this is not a cheap memento, and the most reputable stores proudly craft their gold jewelry in 18k, ensuring both the highest quality and enduring beauty of each piece.


  • Silk Scarves & Ties: Italy is renowned for its high-quality silk production and craftsmanship. Italian silk scarves and ties make exceptional Italy souvenirs for several reasons. Their quality, craftsmanship, and elegant designs reflect Italy's rich fashion heritage. These accessories not only add a touch of Italian style to your wardrobe but also serve as enduring reminders of your journey through the country known for its impeccable taste and sophistication.


  • Vintage Clothing & Accessories: Italy is a fantastic place to shop for vintage accessories, including vintage designer items. Italian cities like Milan, Florence, and Rome are renowned for their vibrant vintage fashion scenes. You can find a wealth of boutiques, flea markets, and specialty stores offering vintage designer pieces, from clothing to accessories like handbags, scarves, and jewelry. Italian fashion is deeply ingrained in the culture, and shopping for vintage items in Italy allows you to explore a treasure trove of unique and stylish finds, often reflecting the country's rich fashion history and influence. Whether you're a fashion aficionado or simply looking for a one-of-a-kind Italy souvenirs, Italy's vintage shopping opportunities are bound to delight and surprise.

Italy is a traveler's dream, and its souvenirs are a way to bring the magic of this beautiful country back home. Whether it's the artistic beauty of Murano glass, the charm of hand-painted espresso cups, the festive spirit of Christmas ornaments, the tradition of nativity sets from Naples, or any of the other wonderful Italy souvenirs you can find, each piece tells a unique story of Italy's rich culture and history. So, when you visit Italy, be sure to explore local markets and artisan shops to find the perfect treasures to help you remember your journey. Buon viaggio! (Safe travels!)