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Our forums are filled with questions and advice about what our readers should bring to their Italian relatives, host, boyfriend, etc (no matter what country they're located). It's especially tricky for American travelers, who come from a nation that melds the tradition of many parts of the world, to bring something unique and cultural. To keep you from making faux pax we bring you advice that is both sage and kooky from virtualitalia.com readers.
The main thing to keep in mind, as with any Italian affair, is that quality counts! Caterina, who visits relatives in Italy often, cautions "Whatever you take make it nice. Cheap wine is a terrible gift! Would you like a screw top wine as a gift?"
for general occasions
If you're stopping by to visit Italians (usually for a meal!) you should want to bring a hostess gift. Alice, Food editor, suggests in her Italian Table Etiquette Primer that you tell your host . "Vengo a bussare con i piedi" (I will come and knock on your door with my feet), which means that your arms will be filled with gifts!
Raffaella, an Italian transplant to America, tells us that whenever she stopped to visit friends or family, she always brought them a box of fresh Italian pastries. Italians usually serve fresh fruit, cheese and coffee at the end of a meal, so pastries are always a treat. Here are some suggestions for what to bring your host:
Modern Italians are just now catching up with wedding registries-- but many may not have prepared them for logistical reasons (met in one country and married in another)-- so it's always a good idea to ask the couple, or their family, if there are any special requests. The general rule is that if it's not made of silver, crystal or any other precious material you're better off giving money-- it's a common Italian wedding gift. The money is placed inside a blank envelope with only the groom and bride's names on it. Inside you'll find cash and a small card with the name of the person dispensing this monetary gift. The envelope usually given during the reception where you might find a line of relatives holding envelopes in one hand and waiting to shake the hand of the groom with the other. Here is a list of can't miss wedding gifts;
We often get questions from non-Italians that want to impress their new Italian boyfriend or girlfriend. The best gift to a boyfriend, according to Eduardo is good food. He jokingly adds that "if you want to make him really happy, I mean really happy, hook up with his mom and learn how to cook the Italian food he probably grew up on. Italian cooking and eating is the key to the Italian soul!" But if his mother is not readily handy, here are some other things that will do...
Dan's previous gifts have included: a Weber kettle grill and charcoal briquettes, Pendleton blankets (Indian designs or cowboy-themed), Craftsman tools, leather man pocket tools, and All-Clad cookware.
The greatest enthusiasm came from recipients of the blankets and tools; according to mutual friends, they were showing off their gifts to dinner guests for the next few months.
But Dan has a warning to anyone else planning to bring the unexpected, "boxes of cookware sets or a Weber grill with briquettes can be heavy or ungainly carrying through the narrow passageways on older rail cars. Two cases of Craftsman hand tools were no cake walk either but the surprise and gratitude were unbelievable. "
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