Tuscan wine is easy to come by anywhere in the city, but be aware of a mark up for tourists in the city centre. Surprisingly, you don’t have to break the bank for a bottle. You can easily pay under €10 for a decent wine and under €20 for a good wine. If you’re buying for someone who knows a thing or two about wine or someone who plans to keep it for some time, be sure to get a red Reserva. You can also find some good wines at the local grocery stores. Most bars and enotecas offer wine tastings, so you can try before you buy. Why not do a tasting and grab a sandwich at Il Panino del Chianti. If you want something a bit fancier, try Borgo Sapori Toscana in the San Lorenzo neighbourhood. Keep in mind though, that most airlines won’t allow you to travel with more than two bottles per person. Be sure to wrap them well, or ask the store if they can wrap them for you.
Although you can probably find olive oil in your local stores back home, why not bring the good stuff back from Tuscany. As with most local products in Florence, it’s hard to find bad olive oil. Almost anything you buy will probably be amazing. The types of oils do vary, so be sure to know the purpose of use (cooking, salad dressing, bread dipping, etc) before you buy it. If you want to splurge on something amazing, you can ask about small batch local producers, but be prepared to pay and know what to look for. Whatever you choose, it will be a great gift for almost anyone on your list. Enoteca Pontevecchio is a great place for tastings of oil, wine, and balsamic vinegar, and you can also buy the products here.
Something you don’t realise before shopping for balsamic vinegar (aceto di balsamico) is how many different types, flavours, and options there are. There’s a type for bread dipping, a type for salads (and different types for sweet or savoury salads), another type for desserts (like strawberries), and so on. It really is amazing how much there is to learn about something so seemingly basic. The balsamic vinegar’s city of origin also determines how much you should pay and the quality. If you want something basic, check the local grocery store, Conad, if not, go to Borgo Sapori Toscana where you can learn all about it and what is best for your (or the gift receiver’s) needs.
Tuscany is so famous for its leather, even Drake named a song after it. In all seriousness, there are pelleterias all over the city from generations of leather workers who sell amazing quality bags, jackets, belts and wallets but prices can definitely run high. If you want to stay within budget, opt for small leather goods such as wallets, belts, or even a nice leather keychain as a token of thought for co-workers or friends. Most of the time you can find things at the San Lorenzo leather market surrounding Mercato Centrale, or also in Mercato Porcellino. If you’re ready to splurge on an Italian leather souvenir for yourself that will last a lifetime, locals know where to go for the real deal. Try Benheart, Bemporad, or Giorgio 1966 (they also have a stand at Mercato Porcellino), for guaranteed, handmade, Italian quality.
A Taste of Italy
Small jars of Tuscan spreads and sauces make great gifts. Who wouldn’t want an authentic pesto or a taste of real Tuscan antipasti directly from Italy? Although pesto is not originally from Tuscany, it sure beats the stuff you can find back home. You can find such items at a grocery store or even an outdoor market where you know you’ll be getting good quality as well as supporting local farmers and businesses. SandwiChic is a small local sandwich shop that also sells their spreads as souvenirs. It makes for a great personalized story if you grab a sandwich there and try the spreads for yourself first so you know what you’re giving (hint: if you like truffle mushrooms, you’ll love their spread). Another idea is honey. There are organic honey jars sold at almost any market you go to, and they even have great options at grocery stores. You can’t go wrong with gifts like these.
Although Italy is not famous for its chocolate like Switzerland or Belgium, you can still impress people back home with real Italian chocolate. If you want to stick to finding great prices at the local grocery stores, Novi is a good brand that is made in Italy and will cost you under €2 per bar. If you want something more elegant, you can find amazing chocolates from small Florentine confectionaries such as Caffetteria La Loggia, Galleria, or Coccole Cioccolato. Venchi is a bigger Italian chocolatier, and they are also famous for their decadent gelato made with the same care and quality.
For the chefs in your life, give them something they will love. After all, Italy is known all around the world for its food, so you have quite a few options. Spices are a great place to start. Find herbs and spices at Mercato Centrale, as well as dried porcini mushrooms, garlic, peppers and truffle oil, but keep in mind your airline’s (and country of origin’s) border customs. Another idea is an olive wood cooking spoon or cutting board (although it can be heavy in your baggage). These are always a hit with people who love to cook, since it’s a gift that keeps on giving. They’ll think of you every time they use it and the olive wood only gets better with time. Search for the tiny store, La Bottega Del Chianti for olive wood and many more kitchen gifts. Another idea is an Italian cook book. You can find modern ones with classic recipes in English at RED Bookstore, or you can pick up one up with authentic Tuscan recipes (in many languages) at Trattoria Zaza.
Take home a charming piece of usable art in the form of a hand-painted, certified Made in Italy ceramic. Le Mie Ceramiche is a tiny family owned shop (it’s so small, it doesn’t even have a business title with the address on Google maps) where father and daughter work together painting and selling their work. Choose from plates, wine corks, butter dishes, salt and pepper shakers and much more at this adorable and colourful little store. The prices are great, too.