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  • Holiday Packages for Italian Family and Friends

    Find out what those in the Boot are hoping Santa brings them from the United States.
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Care packages are a wonderful way to stay connected to your relatives and friends in Italy. The holidays are the perfect time to send a little love in a box. But deciding exactly what to put in it can be a challenge. Lucky for you, I've been sending gifts to my family in Italy for as long as I can remember. In fact, I'm wrapping up gifts for a Christmas package for my Italian in-laws as I write this.

    Before you do any shopping, you should consider the weight and size of the box. The more stuff you send and the heavier the package, the more money you will spend on mailing it. Also, I've sent packages both via UPS and U.S. Post Office. You will get a much better deal with the post office, surprisingly. It's also more reliable. And I don't just send my packages to big Italian cities. Most of them arrive on the small island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples. The post office will tell you it takes at least 10 days for your package to arrive from the United States to Italy, but mine are usually there in seven. You can send a fairly sizable package of about 11 T-shirts, a sweatshirt, hat, and two treat bags for about $60. In fact, I just sent one with those items.

    You might even go to the post office to check out the available box sizes and prices. Or you can just use a box you have at home. I have used an empty box of diapers that I wrapped in brown paper. Be sure to use brown paper and clearly label the box with the address in Italy. Make sure you have all the details, including the full name of the person to whom you are sending (forget about using those nicknames in Italy because that can sometimes confuse the delivery people) and the zip code.

    Once you've completed your research and better understand the size and weight of items that are easily shipped, you can start shopping. Here are some suggestions that are usually winners with the Italians I know:

    A Piece of Americana

    T-shirts with the American flag, little flags, and souvenirs, such as little, lightweight replicas of famous sites (Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge, Vegas strip) are fun and appreciated. Some Italians collect American symbols. I have one friend, whose kids keep a collection of Statue of Liberty stuff. And another gathers all sorts of flags, including ones for each of the 50 states. Those kinds of collections make it easy to pick something. But even others will appreciate this one because it's something they couldn't just get in Italy. One thing to be mindful of is that many Italian fridges have a cabinet covering them, which means they don't have a place for magnets on them. So, those aren't the best kind of souvenirs to send.

    Something to Keep Warm

    Italian homes have heat, but they don't use it 24 hours like we do in the States. As a result, during the winter, you definitely feel a chill indoors, even down South. Lots of Italians appreciate fleece blankets, throws, scarves, hats and gloves or mittens, and flannel shirts. Many of the men in my family like to wear lined flannel shirts while working in the garden in Italy during the winter and early spring.

    Personalized Anything

    Like anyone else, Italians are suckers for customized or even DIY gifts. I have made scrapbooks, recipe books, photo albums, and other gifts with people's names and photos on them. I've purchased items, including pillowcases, pencils, and other home goods from Personalization Mall. But the biggest winners for me have always been the photo gifts from places, such as Shutterfly and Snapfish. I've bought runners, pillows, blankets, and boxes with family photos on them. They are usually touched by these gifts, and it's the kind of thing you rarely find in Italy. There's definitely a wow factor.

    Stocking Stuffers

    You could send small, lightweight items in a bunch. Key rings, Juicy Fruit gum, and Hershey's Kisses (as long as it's not the height of summer when it will melt), even maps of places they have visited or would like to are all welcome surprises. You could also make chocolate chip cookies (a big deal to Italians because they don't have brown sugar to make them in their neck of the woods) or crackers, which have a longer shelf life and don't require refrigeration. Just be mindful of the weight if you decide to send treats or a bunch of little things. You'd be surprised at how quickly you'll add on the pounds and increase the price.

    Di Meglio is the Newlyweds Expert for About.com, and you can follow her life and work on the Italian Mamma Web site.


    Article Published 11/15/2014

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