As you are enjoying your amazing Tuscan holiday, a niggling voice in the back of your mind might be reminding you not to forget to buy some souvenirs for the family or friends you left behind. Forget about Leaning Tower of Pisa sculptures or Michelangelo’s David aprons or fridge magnets. Here is a list of original but simple gifts that will give your loved ones the chance to experience a piece of Tuscany.
Upon your return, why not invite your friends over for a genuine Tuscan aperitivo or give them some of its key ingredients? All you need is a selection of the region’s amazing cheeses, some prosciutto (cured ham), extra virgin olive oil, and wine. Wherever your journey takes you, you will always be able to find locally-produced cheese. The small city of Pienza, for example, is famous for its Pecorino cheese. You can easily buy vacuumed-sealed Tuscan prosciutto to bring back home, just remember to make the slices as thin as possible for some extra authenticity.
Vegetarians and vegans might enjoy a pinzimonio. Carrots, fennels, cucumbers, and any other vegetable that can be enjoyed raw are cut length-wise and dunked in extra virgin olive oil seasoned with some salt and pepper. Pinzimonios are nice palate cleansers and refreshing on a hot summer’s day! This culinary experience wouldn’t be complete without wine! Tuscany is famous for its Chianti but also has a wide selection of other reds to choose from.
Surprise your loved ones with two typical Tuscan sweets from two different cities. Panforte, a typical Christmas sweet from Siena, dates back to the Middle Ages. Imagine a dense paste filled with an explosion of spices, the crunchiness of almonds, and the sweetness of candied fruit. This special round shaped dessert used to be reserved for the nobility and clergy because the mixture of candied fruit and spices was extremely costly at the time.
The city of Prato is famous for its Cantucci biscuits. Don’t be shocked by the hardness of these almond filled biscuits. They are meant to be imbibed in a local sweet wine called Vin Santo (holy wine). If you choose to give Cantucci, why not take it as an opportunity to visit Prato (20 minutes away from Florence) and go to the original bottega that gave Cantucci their claim to fame as far back as the Universal Paris Exposition of 1867. The Antonio Mattei Bottega Museo not only provides a wide array of different types of cantucci but also retraces the story of the famous biscuit.
A Smell to Remember
Smell is extremely evocative of experiences and memories. Why not give a little piece of Tuscany through a fragrance? The renowned Officina Profumi-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest drugstores of Florence. Started by Dominican monks in the 13th century, it still endures today. The grandiose decor and retro feel this ancient pharmacy located close to the Santa Maria Novella church makes it worth a trip. There are lots of products to choose from: eau de cologne, fragrances for the home, lotions, soaps, and the list goes on. You will doubtlessly find something to bring home for friends and family.
If you want a fragrance to remember a place by, there are also two other options: Acqua di Bolgheri and Acqua di Elba. The first is inspired by the rolling hills and Tuscan countryside while the second is all about the Tuscan Archipelago and the connection to the sea.
Beauty at Your Fingertips
Tuscany has a rich tradition of handcrafted objects. If you are looking for something both visually stunning and more tactile, why not consider Florentine marbled paper? This art form originally came from China but became so popular under Medici times that Florentine craftsmen started creating their own style and methods. Still today, the city is known for its Carta Fiorentina (Florentine paper). This paper is mostly used to line the cover of books, boxes, or other desk ornaments.
Ceramic objects are another option for an original, handcrafted gift. Tuscany has a rich history of pottery that dates back to Etruscan times. The two most famous cities for ceramics in Tuscany are Florence and Siena. The little town of Montelupo Fiorentino (about a 30-minute drive from the capital) has been internationally renowned for its ceramics since the Renaissance. Why not take a quick trip there to discover this long-standing tradition and maybe pick out a few nice objects to bring home?
The Real Deal
There is nothing more satisfying than sharing an incredible experience with loved ones. But photos and souvenirs can only do so much to bring a place to life. Wouldn’t the best souvenir be a chance to experience the incredible beauty of Tuscany for themselves? The tour operator I Just Drive! makes it possible to gift a coupon card that covers the cost of a day tour around Tuscany. It could be just the incentive your friends and family need to have an amazing trip of their own!