Christmas is in less than two weeks, so all of your gifts should be organised, boxed and hidden. But if you are anything like me (or better yet, like my older sister), you might not be there yet. About this time, I usually find myself running around like crazy trying to find something, anything for those last minute gift, or just gifts in general. But don’t worry, we still have time. I’ve decided to be proactively thoughtful and have curated the last-minute Italy-themed gift guide. Let’s go!
Bring Italy to the Table
You’ve all heard of panettone, but have you had a truly great panettone? Probably not because usually those sold overseas are dry fruit cake, definitely not artisanal. Over the past few weeks, I’ve immersed myself in panettone research, in other words, uncovering the Christmas treat’s history as well as taste-testing the very best artisanal panettone that Italy has to offer. You can find out all about it on the Washington Post. In my research, I encountered a 6th generation baker who is using his bis-donna’s 130-year-old recipe to make incredible panettone, and better yet, they are overnight shipping them to the USA. Yes, international panettone in 24-48 hours. It doesn’t get anymore Italian than this….. By the way, don’t mention it but I’ve already ordered a few for my parents and aunt and uncle in Florida. Order at Olivieri 1882.
Hampers of Edibles and Drinkables
For the past few years, I’ve followed around the voracious wanderings of Coral Sisk of Curious Appetite. To get into the Curious Appetite mindset, Coral has curated a line up of gourmet food boxes – hampers of Italian delicacies like specialty cheese, cookies, confits and more- that make the perfect gift for your sister, your neighbour, or yourself. In fact, I’ve got my eye on the Negroni Club (click and scroll down the page) which includes: artisanal vermouth, Tuscan-made gin & a wholly craft made bitter liqueur (enough for 20 Negroni!), complimentary ticket for CA’s monthly virtual mixology classes, and other goodies. At checkout, use the code CIAOBELLA for a 5% reduction off entire order plus bonus surprise Italian treat! If you want to “meet” Coral and see a box in action, check out our virtual aperitivo.
Hungry? Pay it forward
Tortellini, preferably in brodo, is the Christmas day meal of choice. The very best are from Emilia Romagna region, and as much as I’d like to suggest some to buy, I thought I would suggest something more in the spirit of giving. Il Tortellante and Food for Soul – Massimo Bottura is a human hurricane, and his wife Lara Gilmore is a super savvy activist and all around great person. Together, they whipped up Il Tortellante, a hands on laboratory for autistic teenagers and adults in Modena, and Food For Soul, a global network (eight kitchens and social tables) that focuses on feeding and nourishing local communities and fighting food waste. I’ve spent a lot of time with Lara and Massimo, and I am constantly captivated by the incredible sense of community that both bring to the table. You can get involved by donating to Il Tortellante, and participating in any of Food for Soul’s campaigns from volunteering and donating to buying a work of art for a good cause.
Let’s Get Arty
Since we are talking about paying it forward, I’d like to give a shout out to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Like many private cultural organisations, the PGC was hit hard by the Covid lockdown. More importantly, PGC is very close to my heart as I spent a year in PGC fellowships back in the day where I learned the ins and outs of running a non-profit mini-museum, from cleaning the galleries and hanging art work to PR and presentations. I spent hours with Pollock, Magritte and Manzu, and I cherish those days. If you love Venice and art, please consider donating. To learn more, tune in to my podcast episode with Peggy Guggenheim Collection director Karole P.B. Vail.
Let’s Get Digital
The last thing you want to do is hook up to a computer for a few hours, but I know you really want to visit Italy and I want you to as well.
Grano e Farina– the only place you are going is to Julia’s and Pino’s laboratorio in Trastevere (Rome). Serious cooking classes for serious people, though she has allowed me to join twice. There is something about Julia that I love, and it’s probably her take-no-prisoners teaching style. She’s spent years learning about pasta making from sfogliatine all over Italy and can teach you how to do it. I suggest you give the gift of tortellini making for the holidays.
Context Travel Seminars to take you around Italy. They have a full calendar of great seminars that will take you to the very nitty gritty of so many places and topics. Lately I am thinking of going on the trail of Elsa Ferrante’s Naples. Full disclosure, I’ve worked with Context Travel, I know the founders, and my husband continues to give amazing seminars on Rome for Context.
Feature image: A panettone for Christmas. Photo credit: Aromi Creative