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  • An Italian Gift Guide: 8 Presents for Paesani
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Searching for the perfect gift for an Italophile (or, for that matter, anyone with sophisticated taste)? I've found something for just about everyone on your list, whether you want to spend thousands or next to nothing. The best part? There's a little bit of la nostra Italia in each suggestion. Here, my favorite ideas:

    Vroom, vroom: Once upon a time, motor-scooters were reserved for chic Europeans and a Roman Holiday Audrey Hepburn - but no more! In 2000, the Italian company Piaggio opened its first Vespa boutique in the United States, and between '98 and '02, motor scooter sales rose 360 percent, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council in a recent Newsweek article. Vespas, which were invented as an affordable alternative to cars after World War II, are fun and practical, especially for city dwellers, who have to worry about parking and traffic.

    You can give a classic-looking Vespa ET2 at $2,999 or splurge for the recently unveiled $4,899 Granturismo, which according to the company's Website, is "the biggest, fastest, most powerful and technologically advanced Vespa." These motorini have similar appeal to motorcycles but are far more elegant. Can't you just picture yourself squeezing a hot Italian man with your hair blowing in the breeze as you drive down the boulevard?

    A designer's touch: Nothing feels as good as silk - except, perhaps, silk with a Versace print. The fashionistas in your Rolodex will be forever grateful for a classic Versace bandana at $59.90. Visit Forzieri, an online shop that offers unique products direct from Florence, Italy, for this and other designer accessories under $100.

    For kids: Want to get an educational and entertaining gift for a child in your life? Head to the Italian site D-Mail for an album that educates children about the euro and allows them to collect the new money from the different European Union countries, including Italy. The pretty blue binder is 8.90 euros or roughly $9. (But if you are ordering from abroad, keep in mind that you'll have to pay for delivery.)

    Eros is the gift of love: The distinctive voice of Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti is a gift that keeps giving - every time you pump up the volume. After surviving a very public divorce and subsequent broken heart, Ramazzotti shares his deep pain, delicious nostalgia and genuine hope in 9, his latest CD. From "Un Attimo Di Pace" to "Ce Una Melodia," this extraordinary body of work delivers - and so will you if you give 9 as a gift. You can pick up a copy at Amazon for $13.99.

    Good as gold: Anyone reading this column already knows that Italians make the world go round. You can share this revelation with a friend or relative by giving him a copy of The Golden Milestone: Over 2500 Years of Italian Contributions to Civilization by Russell Esposito. Our very own editor Anthony Parente called this book "the bible of Italian culture and heritage." The Golden Milestone is available at NY Learning Library for $19.95.

    Sweet Italian kisses: Not what you're thinking! But your love might find your smooches just as delightful as Baci, Perugina's delicious hazelnut chocolate treat. With a variety of packages that often cost under $10, Baci make an excellent stocking stuffer. Now, that's a reason to pucker up!

    For more ideas, you can visit the ItaliansRus store, which features books, art posters and amusing novelty items, including "Kiss My Bocce Balls" T-shirts in various styles. If all else fails, you can always pick up a panettone, or Italian fruit cake, at an Italian specialty store in your area. People seem to like that better than the notorious American version. Of course, they do. Buon Natale!

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